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According to Systems Philosophy, there are no "systems" in nature. The universe—the world—nature, has no ability to describe itself. That which is, is. With respect to nature, systems are merely models that humans create in an attempt to understand the environment in which they live.
Because systems are models created only for understanding, the most fundamental property of any system is that a system has an arbitrary boundary. Humans create the boundaries to suit their own purposes of analysis, discussion and understanding. This is true of every model that exists through which humans try to understand the universe or human actions.
What are system elements? Elements might be tangible or intangible, real or imaginary. Fundamentally, elements are merely terms and definitions. For example, in the system or model of measurement, the arbitrary terms of height, width, and length describe the three dimensions of physical space. Additional elements of that system describe those three fundamental elements: inches, feet, meters, kilometers, etc. However, those elements are meaningless without definitions. Definitions are necessary for all terms, whether or not those terms represent tangible or intangible elements. Definitions and terms are added as necessary help understand any model.
A rule is anything describing how the elements are related or behave dynamically. Rules describe how a system functions. Rules describe how system elements interact, and those original arbitrary boundaries establish finite limits of how the rules affect the elements. Inches and feet, or meters and kilometers, are elements of the system of measurement, but the relationship of those elements are rules. There are twelve inches in a foot, 1,000 meters in a kilometer, etc.
A system with no elements and no rules—boundaries only—is called a null system.
Change any boundary, element, or rule in any system and a completely new system appears. Observations made in one system might, or might not, hold true for a different system.
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