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a system acts according to its own nature and for the purpose defined by that nature. A child is playing: he attempts to poke scissors into the electric power points; he makes interesting ink-patterns on the carpet; he attempts to drink from the liquid detergent container. All of these activities arise directly from the nature of the system: child - exploration -environment. Fortunately there is another system which lies outside the child system. This outside or meta-system operates according to its own nature which is child care. Primitive tribes quickly establish a system of beliefs, taboos and laws. Without this meta-system everyone would act according to their own individual systems which might be based on immediate gratification, self-indulgence and impulse. The meta- system lies outside these individual systems and overrides them in favor of society and a longer time base. For example, an individual may only collect enough food for his immediate needs but the meta-system may require him to collect enough to store for the winter as well. To some extent, the success of societies has depended on the strength, and the nature, of the meta-systems they have set up. An individual goes to see a psychoanalyst and is told that his troubles arise from the way his mother treated him when he was young. This explanation or 'story' becomes a meta-system for the individual and can explain or guide his actions independently of his mood of the moment. Religion is the prime example of a meta-system that has served to override man's small view of himself and given him aims and values he might not otherwise have developed. The internal logic of the religious meta-system is based on its own nature,and not on the needs of man. Outside religions, strictly so called ideologies, philosophies and moral concepts have also served as meta-systems. (De Bono)
A system or a logical type higher (see theory of logical types) than a given system. A metasystem can consider criteria or decide on propositions the system of lower ordinality may not be able to reflect or decide upon. So, a thermostat for the regulation of the room temperature is embedded in a metasystem involving humans being able to set a preferred temperature. The explanation of why chess players obey the rules of chess is not contained in the rules of chess, and requires the construction of a metasystem involving human motivations, social controls and incentives. (Krippendorff)
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