Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Comparative Literature


Andre Aciman

Committee Members

Vincent Crapanzano

Peter Simpson

Subject Categories

Biology | Philosophy


Relational system theory is the science of organization and function. It is the study of how systems are organized which is based on their functions and the relations between their functions. The science was originally developed by Nicolas Rashevsky, and further developed by Rashevsky’s student Robert Rosen, and continues to be developed by Rosen’s student A. H. Louie amongst others. Due to its revolutionary character, it is often misunderstood, and to some, controversial. We will mainly be focusing on Rosen’s contributions to this science. The formal and conceptual setting for Rosen’s relational system theory is category theory. Rosen was the first to apply category theory to scientific problems, outside of pure mathematics, and the first to think about science from the point of view of category theory. We will provide an overview of Rosen’s theory of modeling, complexity, anticipation, and organism. We will present the foundations of this science and the philosophical motivations behind it along with conceptual clarification and historical context. The purpose of this dissertation is to present Rosen’s ideas to a wider audience.