The holon


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The word 'Holon' comes from the greek holos, which means whole, entire, complete in all its parts' and the suffix -on which is its neuter form, cf. proton, neutron and electron.

It was introduced in systems theory discussions by the hungarian author Arthur Koestler in the book Ghost in the Machine (1967).

A 'holon', in Arthur koestlers discussions, is something that has integrity and identity at the same time as it is a part of a larger system, it is a subsystem of the larger system.

"A holon, according to Koestler is a model-component with a "Janus-face" - one side looking "down" and acting as an autonomous system giving directions to "lower" components and the other side looking "up" and serving as a part of a "higher" holon."
Read the interesting article by Franz Pichler of the systems theoretical implications!

The term holarchy comes from the word holon, Biological systems are constructed in such a way:

Basic unit: Biomonomer
(e.g. amino acids, nucleotid bases, fatty acids)
Cell Organism Ecosystem
Polymers: Bioploymers
(e.g. proteins, DNA, membranes)
Tissues Populations 'Trophotypes'
(similar ecosystems in the same area)
Aggregates of polymers: Organelles (e.g.nucleus, mitocondrias, ribosomes) Organ Society Biome
Holon:  Cell (eucaryote) Organism Ecosystem Ecosphere (Gaia)

Apart from hierarcic systems (as in business or military organisations), the different holarcic system levels consists of each other, they are subsystems (or supersystems) to each other. When the subsystems join in a supersystem, new characteristics emerge that can't be deduced from the qualities of the subsystems (emergence). In the same way as you can't descibe a human as a 'supercell', you can not describe an ecosystem as a 'superorganism' or the ecosphere as a 'superecosystem'. They are different objects with some characteristics that not can be derived from the characteristics of the subsystems.

A presentation on complex systems and thermodynamics!



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Updated:
2013-01-06