Two observations impelled Koestler to propose the word holon. The first comes from Herbert Simon, a Nobel prize winner, and is based on his 'parable of the two watchmakers' , [Simon] . From this parable, Simon concludes that complex systems will evolve from simple systems much more rapidly if there are stable intermediate forms than if there are not; the resulting complex systems in the former case will be hierarchic.
The second observation, made by Koestler while analysing hierarchies and stable intermediate forms in living organisms and social organisation, is thatłalthough it is easy to identify sub-wholes or partsł'wholes' and 'parts' in an absolute sense do not exist anywhere. This made Koestler propose the word holon to describe the hybrid nature of sub- wholes/parts in real-life systems; holons simultaneously are self-contained wholes to their subordinated parts, and dependent parts when seen from the inverse direction.
Koestler also establishes the link between holons and the watchmakers' parable from professor Simon. He points out that the sub-wholes/holons are autonomous self-reliant units, which have a degree of independence and handle contingencies without asking higher authorities for instructions. Simultaneously, holons are subject to control from (multiple) higher authorities. The first property ensures that holons are stable forms, which survive disturbances. The latter property signifies that they are intermediate forms, which provide the proper functionality for the bigger whole.
Finally, Koestler defines a holarchy as a hierarchy of self-regulating holons which function (a) as autonomous wholes in supra-ordination to their parts, (b) as dependent parts in sub- ordination to controls on higher levels, (c) in co-ordination with their local environment
This file is maintained by
Created : Aug, 1994
Last update: Jan 5, 1995