This paper was submitted to INCOSE's Systems Engineering Journal in 2012, and was rejected—twice. Which is not surprising, since it presents a view of systems engineering as it was in the second half of the 20th Century, but not as INCOSE currently envisages and promulgates it—which is much more akin to multi-disciplinary engineering, i.e., engineering.
Those of us who have stuck with systems engineering since the 1950s—a diminishing band, I must concede—are aware that systems engineering is concerned with addressing complex problematic situations and creating often-necessarily complex solutions to solve them. Moreover, systems engineering is capable of addressing the largest, most complex problems facing mankind, and it is potentially able to address people problems, ecological issues, medical problems and many, many more—even exobiological issues! it would be a great loss to the world, then, if systems engineering were lost, which is currently a serious risk…
So, it is not engineering, which is about making artefacts to order. Not that engineering cannot be highly sophisticated and demanding—it can, but it is not systems engineering, they are not the same thing. Inter alia, systems engineering is about the management of complexity—not, as some Journal referees thought, about complexity science—different subject, interesting, but different!
But, enough already—if you are interested, read the paper! Systems Engineering Philosophy