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This is the second article in a trilogy devoted to inquiring about the historical meaning of the intimate link between a systems approach and world issues, so appropriate for Churchman's initial work on systems. After examining the logical relationship between modern systems thinking and world issues in the first article, in this second article the historical conditions for the formation of modern systems thinking are explored. It is shown how the intimate relationship between the will to systems and the notion of humanity gives full meaning, within the modern constellation, to Churchman's plea for a systems approach to world problems. However, in the light of this historical–ontological inquiry, systems thinking appears as both a propellant for the formation of the new constellation of modernity and a propellant for its destruction.