Holarchy

Ken Wilber's 20 tenets

What seems impossible to understand has been explained by Ken Wilber (Sex, Ecology, Spirituality: The Spirit of Evolution 1995) in the 20 tenets, extending on Arthur Koestler's work (The Ghost in the Machine 1967) . In summary these 20 tenets are:

20 Tenets of Holons

  1. Reality as a whole is not composed of things or processes, but of holons, i.e. wholes that are parts of other wholes, indefinitely.

  2. Holons display four fundamental capacities:
    i) self-preservation - principle of autonomy or agency.
    ii) self-adaptation - principle of communion.
    iii) self-transcendence - ability to go beyond the given, i.e. creativity.
    iv) self-dissolution - ability to break down to its sub-holons.

  3. Holons emerge - new holons/entities/patterns come into being.

  4. Holons emerge holarchically - i.e. hierarchically; go beyond their predecessors.

  5. Each emergent holon transcends and includes its predecessor(s); - preserves their being but negates their exclusiveness.

  6. The lower sets the possibilities of the higher; the higher sets the probabilities of the lower.

  7. The number of levels which a hierarchy comprises determines whether it is 'shallow' or 'deep'; the number of holons on any given level we shall call its 'span'.

  8. Each successive level of evolution produces greater depth and less span.

Addition I. The greater the depth of a holon, the greater its degree of consciousness. [9]

  1. Destroy any type of holon, and you will destroy all of the holons above it and none of the holons below it;

- less depth = less significance to the Kosmos, i.e. more of the Kosmos is external to the holon; it is more fundamental.
- more depth = more significance = less fundamental. [10]

  1. Holarchies co-evolve, i.e. interrelatedness of holon (micro) and its environment (macro). [11]

  2. The micro is in relational exchange with the macro at all levels of its depth; - each layer of a holon's depth continues to exist in (and depend upon) a network of relationships with other holons at the same level of structural organisation. [12]

  3. Evolution has directionality: [13]

a) increasing complexity; [14]
b) increasing differentiation/integration [15]
- differentiation produces partness, a new 'manyness'
- integration produces wholeness, a new 'oneness';
c) increasing organisation/structuration; [16]
d) increasing relative autonomy; [17]
e) increasing telos; - deep structure of a holon acts as an attractor/magnet for the actualisation of it in time and space. [18]

Addition II. Every holon issues an IOU to the Kosmos; - IOU = Incomplete Or Uncertain - constant tension between consistency and completeness, between agency and communion. [19]

Addition III. All IOUs are redeemed in Emptiness; - holons are conventional truths - Emptiness/Spirit is ultimate truth. [20]

Holarchies by Flemming Funch

A Holon is a node in a Holarchy. A Holon looks up for what it needs to cooperate with and integrate with. It looks sideways for what it needs to compete with. It looks down for what it wants to command. Each holon can not be fully explained by or predicted by a study of its parts. It is something more. A Holon is also part of something bigger that it is being affected by. But at the same time it has a high degree of autonomy, it has a life of its own.

To sort out a conflict between Holons, one needs to take a step up to the next higher whole and to establish more integration and cooperation among its parts. For example, to sort out a conflict between two people, we can't resolve it just by looking into their individual minds. But if we take a step up and examine what kind of relationship they have, or what kind of group they are both part of, we can then work to establish cooperation.

It becomes obvious that we can optimize a certain whole by re-aligning its parts. And just as obvious that if we want to handle higher level wholes we would move up in the holarchy. We can make one individual more integrated by working with her parts. But if we want to make the group she is part of work better, then we need to move up further. We would have to get the attention of and interact with the actual group, not just one of its parts, one individual.

Likewise, if several parts of a person are in conflict with each other, we don't get much resolution from examining just those parts in themselves. We need to take a step up and examine what the whole person is about. Only then can we align the parts with the whole and make them more integrated.

Now, life isn't really a nicely organized hierarchy. Charts like these are in themselves gross over-simplifications. A clean model is a useful tool to work with in making sense out of things. However reality consist just as much of cross-associations. Parts of wholes might associate with parts of other wholes, thereby creating new wholes that can again be split into parts, and so forth ad infinitum. That is what makes life a challenging puzzle. But the tool of looking at one holarchy or one holon at a time can be valuable in figuring things out. Each Holon can be considered an integral entity. It connects upwards towards bigger wholes and downwards towards smaller parts.

Management in a Holarchic Organisation

In the context of organisations, the idea of holarchic organisation is a different form of management. Instead of imposing roles and rules from above, the holarchic organisation suggests that organisations ‘build’ themselves from the bottom upwards. This may entail giving increased responsibility to employees by allowing them to define the ongoing formation of the organisation through their constant feedback interactions with one another. This type of reformulation can potentially benefit organisations by allowing them to maintain a much higher degree of flexibility and adaptability. As Fell and Dimitrov suggest when they discuss autopoiesis in organisations, the emphasis becomes “understanding the process whereby a multitude of factors influence organisational dynamics” (Fell and Dimitrov, 1997: 1).

Posted on Tuesday, August 21, 2012 at 09:02:49 AM in Nemetics
Dan RD

By Dan RD

Yo! I'm mulling the future of everything.  My interests are so diverse I've decided to collapse them into the study of Nemetics -- an ongoing collaborative inquiry.

Add comment

Signin or Signup to comment