Paul Mawdsley

Another view of Leonard Peikoff

414 posts in this topic

Attacking Aristotle for not developing scientific methods is like attacking Newton for not developing the theory of relativity. You're reading history backwards. Aristotle did a tremendous amount. Criticising him for what he didn't do, or for mistakes made 2000 years before modern science began, is plainly unjust, and that's saying the bare minimum.

Aristotle had a very clear idea of the gradual growth of science: "While no one person can grasp truth adequately, we cannot all fail in the attempt. Each thinker makes some statement about nature, and as an individual contributes little or nothing to the inquiry. But the combination of all the conjectures results in something big. ... It is only fair to be grateful not only to those whose views we can share, but also to those who have gone pretty far wrong in their guesses. They too have contributed something: by their preliminary work they have helped to form our scientific way of thinking."

Earlier you attacked Aristotle's cosmology and linked him to the Inquisition. That is equally unjust. Galileo was up against the vast and cruel tyranny of the Roman Catholic Church, not against Aristotle. If Aristotle had had a telescope he'd have done Galileo's job for him. His curiosity was insatiable. [...]

For a third of a century I've been looking for a pithy reply, of about this length, to the simplistic Aristotle-bashers among us.

(By "us," I mean the philosophic communities I've been a part of more generally, in and out of college, and not just Objectivists. Though I've seen a surprising number of same among O's and hangers-on.)

You've provided this for me. Thank you! And from where are you quoting Aristotle, in what appears to be a livelier translation than I've ever seen?

Hail to thee, blythe Greybird! (Or, after that 1/3rd of a century, is it grey~beard~?!) I'm 66 today --2/3 of a century -- and my beard would be grey indeed if I didn't ruthlessly ride it down every morning with the triple scimitars of my Phillishave. I'm being silly, I know, but I've just had a wonderful birthday present -- a letter from John Hospers allowing me to quote his praise for my book ~Old Nick's Guide to Happiness~, so I'm a very happy birthday boy indeed.

The quote from the ~Metaphysics~ is in J.H. Randall ~Aristotle~ p.53. I'm afraid I don't know who translated it, perhaps Randall himself.

The worst of the 'simplistic Aristotle bashers' was of course Popper, who devoted the first 26 pages of ~Open Society~, Vol 2, to a disgraceful and ridiculous attack on The Philosopher. I take Popper roundly to task over this in my critique ~A Tangled Web of Guesses~. Popper's gratuitously wrong-headed attack so offended an American scholar to whom ~Open Society~ was sent for peer review that he dismissed the book as 'not fit for publication'. And it wasn't. At least not until it came into the hands of a less discerning British publisher after the Second World War.

All the best, Nicholas

Edited by Nicholas Dykes
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I think it's important to not use a 21st century perspective to judge someone's work in the past, especially the distant past, like Aristotle. It is my understanding that Aristotle is one of the founders of modern science and most of our science now was possible because of his work. That being said, I don't think we should continue to apply his work to modern society because we have evolved way past that now.

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Re: #172

Roger,

A force field can be the cause of an acceleration, yet the field be an attribute of its source. A bar magnet could be the source of the magnetic field surrounding it. That field could cause a flow of electrical current in a conducting wire moved through the field. Just because the field is a cause, we don’t need to regard it as an entity. It can be a concrete attribute requiring support of an entity.

(We could of course have other reasons for taking the field to be an entity, rather than an attribute.)

On the mind-brain relation, consistent with Rand’s thoughts on this topic so far as I have seen: http://www.objectivistliving.com/forums/in...amp;#entry14734

Stephen

Edited by Stephen Boydstun
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Kidney stones.

:)

Debatable. But you've done enough. You're off the hook. Don't you think, though, that the heart or lungs would have been better examples? At least we weren't talking about the liver. Thank God!

--Brant

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I think it's important to not use a 21st century perspective to judge someone's work in the past, especially the distant past, like Aristotle. It is my understanding that Aristotle is one of the founders of modern science and most of our science now was possible because of his work. That being said, I don't think we should continue to apply his work to modern society because we have evolved way past that now.

Yes, especially his logical and epistemological work.

I mean, just look at the world around you. It's ~obvious~ that the world is run by subjective, illogical premises of all sorts. Clinging to Aristotle's laws of logic and rules of definition as we Objectivists do only makes us look all the more foolish and...unevolved. :poke:

REB

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Re: #172

Roger,

A force field can be the cause of an acceleration, yet the field be an attribute of its source. A bar magnet could be the source of the magnetic field surrounding it. That field could cause a flow of electrical current in a conducting wire moved through the field. Just because the field is a cause, we don’t need to regard it as an entity. It can be a concrete attribute requiring support of an entity.

(We could of course have other reasons for taking the field to be an entity, rather than an attribute.)

On the mind-brain relation, consistent with Rand’s thoughts on this topic so far as I have seen: http://www.objectivistliving.com/forums/in...amp;#entry14734

Stephen

Stephen, I like the material in the link. I agree with it.

As for a force being a cause, well, certainly it can, but only insofar as it is an entity -- or a congeries of entities.

We sometimes regard an apple as causing our perceptual awareness of it, yet we also know that the apple reflects a group of light rays from it toward our sense organs, and the physical interaction of that light stream with our retinas causes our visual perception of the apple.

Question: could the light waves cause ~anything~ if they were just energy and not also ~composed of~ tiny particles (entities) that have causal powers? I don't think so. And wouldn't the same be true of magnetic fields? Aren't these populated with subatomic particles that cause the actual physical effects?

The remaining mystery that I am aware of is gravity. It ~looks~ like spooky action-at-a-distance, with no intermediary particles to do the causal work whereby one object attracts another. Yet, aren't physical theorists still entertaining the possibility of "gravitons" that function analogously to photons, electrons, etc.?

So far, science has done quite well with the research and explanatory model that when one entity causes a physical effect in another entity, and they aren't touching, then there are intermediary entities that carry the physical energy from the one entity to the other that cause the physical effect without their actually touching.

What do you think, Stephen? Are there phenomena that will ultimately ~not~ be explained by this model?

REB

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The worst of the 'simplistic Aristotle bashers' was of course Popper, who devoted the first 26 pages of ~Open Society~, Vol 2, to a disgraceful and ridiculous attack on The Philosopher. I take Popper roundly to task over this in my critique ~A Tangled Web of Guesses~. Popper's gratuitously wrong-headed attack so offended an American scholar to whom ~Open Society~ was sent for peer review that he dismissed the book as 'not fit for publication'. And it wasn't. At least not until it came into the hands of a less discerning British publisher after the Second World War.

Hi Nick,

I am a Popperian, and as I have previously noted, familiar with your "A Tangled Web of Guesses." In that essay, you supply a 15 point defence(p18) of Aristotle against Popper's critique. But I must point out that not one of your 15 points address the central point of Popper's essay on Aristotle, which is the logical defects of Aristotle's theory of definitions, and the consequences of these defects that are still visible in philosophy today. Further, I would think that as a Rand fan this point would be especially important for you, because Rand imported Aristotle's methodology almost wholesale into Objectivism with these major defects included. (For example, her claim that "The truth or falsehood of all of man’s conclusions, inferences, thought and knowledge rests on the truth or falsehood of his definitions" is a simple fallacy. There is no way of logically deciding a definition is true or false).

Is this major omission because you consider Popper's logical critique of Aristotle's theory is in fact correct? If not, can you explain how it is mistaken? Or, if this criticism of Aristotle is old hat, do you know who Popper got it from?

Edited by Daniel Barnes
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We sometimes regard an apple as causing our perceptual awareness of it, yet we also know that the apple reflects a group of light rays from it toward our sense organs, and the physical interaction of that light stream with our retinas causes our visual perception of the apple.

Right, the physical interaction is the cause of our perception, a perfect example of an event being the cause of another event.

Question: could the light waves cause ~anything~ if they were just energy and not also ~composed of~ tiny particles (entities) that have causal powers?

We now know that all fields are quantized, so it's not really possible to answer a counterfactual question, supposing that the laws of physics were not what they are. We can only consider the classical theory of light, in which light consists of continuous waves which can exert a certain pressure on a surface and heat it up.

But in fact this is all irrelevant. There is nothing wrong with stating that a process can cause a certain event. A computer program can cause the display of text or pictures on a screen or print text or detonate a bomb. You may claim that it is the computer that causes these events, but that is quite uninformative, we get much more information if we consider the quite specific process of that particular program that causes that specific effect.

Another example: suppose someone throws a stone through a window, so that the window breaks. What is the cause of the window breaking? Saying that it is the stone ("it's in the nature of the stone to break windows") doesn't tell us much. The stone could have remained on the ground for years without breaking that window, it could even exist for billions of years without ever breaking a window. No, it's that particular event of the stone moving with a certain speed in a certain direction, which was caused by the event of that particular person throwing that particular stone (or by interaction with an event like a tornado, if you want to avoid complications with conscious agents). By considering events we get relevant information about causal chains, not by looking at entities and sweeping all the zillions of possible interactions into the garbage bin of "the nature of that entity".

I don't think so. And wouldn't the same be true of magnetic fields? Aren't these populated with subatomic particles that cause the actual physical effects?

Electromagnetic fields are also photons.

The remaining mystery that I am aware of is gravity. It ~looks~ like spooky action-at-a-distance, with no intermediary particles to do the causal work whereby one object attracts another. Yet, aren't physical theorists still entertaining the possibility of "gravitons" that function analogously to photons, electrons, etc.?

Yup. There still isn't a working quantum theory of gravity, but gravitons must be spin-2 bosons with zero rest mass.

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Altering a line in the text quoted from my essay, one could say simply: "The mind is real, and that means that the mind, including the conscious mind, is concrete." Rand should surely go for that formula because she takes all existents to be concretes. Rafael and I are asserting that all concretes are physical.

Stephen,

I don't know how I missed this (probably time constraints when you posted it, since your stuff usually requires some heavy mulling), but it reflects my own view perfectly.

The only thing I add is that life forms develop sense organs to become aware of specific concretes and that maybe man has not stopped evolving.

Michael

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We sometimes regard an apple as causing our perceptual awareness of it, yet we also know that the apple reflects a group of light rays from it toward our sense organs, and the physical interaction of that light stream with our retinas causes our visual perception of the apple.

I don't think it makes sense to discuss apples reflecting lightwaves. What you mean is that the atoms or electrons reflect the lightwaves and it is our nervous system that manufactures the image in our visual cortex that we call 'an apple'.

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The only thing I add is that life forms develop sense organs to become aware of specific concretes and that maybe man has not stopped evolving.

Michael

What the hell is 'a concrete'? I know what 'concrete' is but I don't know what a concrete is. It can't simply be that you mean a solid piece of matter or something, is it?

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The only thing I add is that life forms develop sense organs to become aware of specific concretes and that maybe man has not stopped evolving.

Michael

What the hell is 'a concrete'? I know what 'concrete' is but I don't know what a concrete is. It can't simply be that you mean a solid piece of matter or something, is it?

Something specific, particular and unique. Opposite of generic.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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The only thing I add is that life forms develop sense organs to become aware of specific concretes and that maybe man has not stopped evolving.

Michael

What the hell is 'a concrete'? I know what 'concrete' is but I don't know what a concrete is. It can't simply be that you mean a solid piece of matter or something, is it?

Something specific, particular and unique. Opposite of generic.

A concrete is a concrete block falling on your head, which is also a concrete.

--Brant

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GS,

That form of usage is a manner of shorthand. The true phrase should be "concrete thing" with concrete meaning real.

This term is used to indicate a thing in itself, irrespective of man's perception, not an abstraction to represent it.

Like in Brant's example, many concretes (i.e., concrete things) can fall on your head regardless of your perception of them or any abstraction you may have to represent them.

Michael

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One definition I found;

capable of being perceived by the senses; not abstract or imaginary; "concrete objects such as trees"

So is a virus a concrete? No, because we cannot sense it right? What about when I see it in a microscope? Now is it a concrete? Or should the definition read "capable of being perceived by the unaided senses". In that case the world of "concretes" is quite limited indeed and not very useful.

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GS,

A ghost is not a concrete.

A concept (so far) is not a concrete.

A brain is. One point in the present discussion is about whether the mind is or not.

I have been speculating about another sense organ in development or evolving and, if true, something that sense organ detects will be called a concrete. If not, such information as is present will be called an abstraction or fantasy.

btw - Size doesn't matter when we have instruments to extend our sense organs.

Does that help?

Michael

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Holon seems simply to be a neologism for entity. A kidney is an entity. It has a function, a form, it can be transplanted. A kidney cannot continue to exist as a living organ without a body, (or an analog thereof) but a body cannot continue to exist as a living body without food, air and water. If one wants to distinguish between entities and holons, then that should be done explicitly. MSK, can you differentiate between the two for us? I wonder if Koestler used the term simply to avoid sounding like a Scholastic?

"Holon" is, indeed, a neologism, coined by Arthur Koestler (see his book The Act of Creation, which was favorably reviewed by Nathaniel Branden elsewhere on this website), but it is not synonymous with "entity."

[....]

What I ~would~ like to suggest/urge is that all the skeptics, scoffers, head-scratchers, etc., in the current discussion invest a few bucks in one of the absolute best books of the 20th century, and (for my money) the best book ever recommended by Nathaniel Branden -- and that is Koestler's The Act of Creation. IMO, it has the best unified theory explaining humor, artistic inspiration, and scientific discovery that I have ever read. It is ~not~ mystical, but is thoroughly empirical ~and~ rational.

I'd like to strongly second Roger's recommendation of The Act of Creation -- with this caveat, that I haven't re-read the book in quite a few years; I expect I'd find more to question in it today than I did when last I read it, but I'd also expect still to love it for its imaginativeness and provocativeness, and for Koestler's erudition and, imo, superb writing.

I will point out, however, that the term "holon" was not used in The Act of Creation (1964). Koestler coined the term "holon" in a subsequent book, The Ghost in the Machine (1967). Tomorrow or Thursday I'll type in the passage in which Koestler introduces the term, plus some of his summary of his thesis. I second Roger's recommendation not to be put off from reading Koestler by the uses to which Wilber has put the term "holon."

Ellen

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We sometimes regard an apple as causing our perceptual awareness of it, yet we also know that the apple reflects a group of light rays from it toward our sense organs, and the physical interaction of that light stream with our retinas causes our visual perception of the apple.

I don't think it makes sense to discuss apples reflecting lightwaves. What you mean is that the atoms or electrons reflect the lightwaves and it is our nervous system that manufactures the image in our visual cortex that we call 'an apple'.

And then how do we see that image? (Good luck. ;-))

Ellen

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I second Roger's recommendation not to be put off from reading Koestler by the uses to which Wilber has put the term "holon."

Ellen,

If it is not too much trouble, I would be very interested if you include the point or points where you think Wilber got the concept of holon wrong, or whether you think he got it right, but developed his ideas from it in a non sequitur kind of manner.

Michael

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I second Roger's recommendation not to be put off from reading Koestler by the uses to which Wilber has put the term "holon."

Ellen,

If it is not too much trouble, I would be very interested if you include the point or points where you think Wilber got the concept of holon wrong, or whether you think he got it right, but developed his ideas from it in a non sequitur kind of manner.

Michael

Wilber is putting a mystical spin on the idea, and also using it fuzzily so that it loses its original helpfulness in clarifying issues; it becomes a way of casting an imprecise mist which might give people a feeling of understanding but is of no use for scientific investigation. I don't have a quote to hand where Wilber defines his meaning of the term. Possibly you do.

Haven't time to type in Koestler's own definition (and summary discussion) till tomorrow or, more likely, Thursday.

Ellen

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Wilber is putting a mystical spin on the idea, and also using it fuzzily so that it loses its original helpfulness in clarifying issues; it becomes a way of casting an imprecise mist which might give people a feeling of understanding but is of no use for scientific investigation. I don't have a quote to hand where Wilber defines his meaning of the term. Possibly you do.

Ellen,

I understand this to be your opinion, but I do not know what you mean with respect to Wilber's alleged fuzziness with holon. Actually I don't have Wilber's definition at hand, but I do have a passage from Wikipedia that represents what I have understood Wilber to mean:

Ken Wilber comments that the test of holon hierarchy (e.g. holarchy) is that if a type of holon is removed from existence, then all other holons of which it formed a part must necessarily cease to exist too. Thus an atom is of a lower standing in the hierarchy than a molecule, because if you removed all molecules, atoms could still exist, whereas if you removed all atoms, molecules, in a strict sense would cease to exist. Wilber's concept is known as the doctrine of the fundamental and the significant. A hydrogen atom is more fundamental than an ant, but an ant is more significant.

I cannot find any fault with that concept. And I can see this as a very good use as a framework for science. In fact, that is the way I see applied science operate.

Michael

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I second Roger's recommendation not to be put off from reading Koestler by the uses to which Wilber has put the term "holon."

Thank god. I like Koestler, particularly "The Sleepwalkers". I thought I didn't remember "holon" in "The Act of Creation."

Apropos of the usefulness of Wilber's usage at least, I suppose the question is: what isn't a "holon"?

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Ellen,

In the Wikipedia article Holon, there are some links on holons.

Here is one by a Wilber fan: A Brief History of Holons by Mark Edwards.

Here is a a really brief one: History of 'Holons'

Here is a Koestler work on holons from a book of the acts of the Alpbach Symposium he co-edited with J. R. Smythies called Beyond Reductionism (this part apparently was written by Koestler himself): SOME GENERAL PROPERTIES OF SELF-REGULATING OPEN HIERARCHIC ORDER (SOHO)

I am taking the liberty of presenting that text here:

1. The holon

1.1 The organism in its structural aspect is not an aggregation of elementary parts, and in its functional aspects not a chain of elementary units of behaviour.

1.2 The organism is to be regarded as a multi-levelled hierarchy of semi-autonomous sub-wholes, branching into sub-wholes of a lower order, and so on. Sub-wholes on any level of the hierarchy are referred to as holons.

1.3 Parts and wholes in an absolute sense do not exist in the domains of life. The concept of the holon is intended to reconcile the atomistic and holistic approaches.

1.4 Biological holons are self-regulating open systems which display both the autonomous properties of wholes and the dependent properties of parts. This dichotomy is present on every level of every type of hierarchic organization, and is referred to as the "Janus phenomenon".

1.5 More generally, the term "holon" may be applied to any stable biological or social sub-whole which displays rule-governed behaviour and/or structural Gestalt-constancy. Thus organelles and homologous organs are evolutionary holons; morphogenetic fields are ontogenetic holons; the ethologist's "fixed action-patterns" and the sub-routines of acquired skills are behavioural holons; phonemes, morphemes, words, phrases are linguistic holons; individuals, families, tribes, nations are social holons.

2. Dissectibility

2.1 Hierarchies are "dissectible" into their constituent branches, on which the holons form the nodes; the branching lines represent the channels of communication and control.

2.2 The number of levels which a hierarchy comprises is a measure of its "depth", and the number of holons on any given level is called its "span" (Herbert Simon).

3. Rules and strategies

3.1 Functional holons are governed by fixed sets of rules and display more or less flexible strategies.

3.2 The rules - referred to as the system's canon - determine its invariant properties, its structural configuration and/or functional pattern.

3.3 While the canon defines the permissible steps in the holon's activity, the strategic selection of the actual step among permissible choices is guided by the contingencies of the environment.

3.4 The canon determines the rules of the game, strategy decides the course of the game.

3.5 The evolutionary process plays variations on a limited number of canonical themes. The constraints imposed by the evolutionary canon are illustrated by the phenomena of homology, homeoplasy, parallelism, convergence and the loi du balancement (Geoffroy de St. Hilaire).

3.6 In ontogeny, the holons at successive levels represent successive stages in the development of tissues. At each step in the process of differentiation, the genetic canon imposes further constraints on the holon's developmental potentials, but it retains sufficient flexibility to follow one or another alternative developmental pathway, within the range of its competence, guided by the contingencies of the environment.

3.7 Structurally, the mature organism is a hierarchy of parts within parts. Its "dissectibility" and the relative autonomy of its constituent holons are demonstrated by transplant surgery.

3.8 Functionally, the behaviour of organisms is governed by "rules of the game" which account for its coherence, stability and specific pattern.

3.9 Skills, whether inborn or acquired, are functional hierarchies, with sub-skills as holons, governed by sub-rules.

4. Integration and self-assertion

4. 1 Every holon has the dual tendency to preserve and assert its individuality as a quasi-autonomous whole; and to function as an integrated part of an (existing or evolving) larger whole. This polarity between the Self-Assertive (S-A) and Integrative (INT) tendencies is inherent in the concept of hierarchic order; and a universal characteristic of life.

The S-A tendencies are the dynamic expression of the holon's wholeness, the INT tendencies of its partness.

4.2 An analogous polarity is found in the interplay of cohesive and separative forces in stable inorganic systems, from atoms to galaxies.

4.3 The most general manifestation of the INT tendencies is the reversal of the Second Law of Thermodynamics in open systems feeding on negative entropy (Erwin Schrödinger), and the evolutionary trend towards "spontaneously developing states of greater heterogeneity and complexity" (C. J. Herrick).

4.4 Its specific manifestations on different levels range from the symbiosis of organelles and colonial animals, through the cohesive forces in herds and flocks, to the integrative bonds in insect states and Primate societies. The complementary manifestations of the S-A tendencies are competition, individualism, and the separative forces of tribalism, nationalism, etc.

4.5 In ontogeny, the polarity is reflected in the docility and determination of growing tissues.

4.6 In adult behaviour, the self-assertive tendency of functional holons is reflected in the stubbornness of instinct rituals (fixed action-patterns), of acquired habits (handwriting, spoken accent), and in the stereotyped routines of thought; the integrative tendency is reflected in flexible adaptations, improvisations, and creative acts which initiate new forms of behaviour.

4.7 Under conditions of stress, the S-A tendency is manifested in the aggressive-defensive, adrenergic type of emotions, the INT tendency in the self-transcending (participatory, identificatory) type of emotions.

4.8 In social behaviour, the canon of a social holon represents not only constraints imposed on its actions, but also embodies maxims of conduct, moral imperatives and systems of value.

5. Triggers and scanners

5.1 Output hierarchies generally operate on the trigger-release principle, where a relatively simple, implicit or coded signal releases complex, preset mechanisms.

5.2 In phylogeny, a favourable gene-mutation may, through homeorhesis (Conrad Waddington) affect the development of a whole organ in a harmonious way.

5.3 In ontogeny, chemical triggers (enzymes, inducers, hormones) release the genetic potentials of differentiating tissues.

5.4 In instinctive behaviour, sign-releasers of a simple kind trigger off Innate Releasive Mechanisms (Lorenz).

5.5 In the performance of learnt skills, including verbal skills, a generalized implicit command is spelled out in explicit terms on successive lower echelons which, once triggered into action, activate their sub-units in the appropriate strategic order, guided by feedbacks.

5.6 A holon on the n level of an output-hierarchy is represented on the (n + l) level as a unit, and triggered into action as a unit. A holon, in other words, is a system of relata which is represented on the next higher level as a relatum.

5.7 In social hierarchies (military, administrative), the same principles apply.

5.8 Input hierarchies operate on the reverse principle; instead of triggers, they are equipped with "filter"-type devices (scanners, "resonators", classifiers) which strip the input of noise, abstract and digest its relevant contents, according to that particular hierarchy's criteria of relevance. "Filters" operate on every echelon through which the flow of information must pass on its ascent from periphery to centre, in social hierarchies and in the nervous system.

5.9 Triggers convert coded signals into complex output patterns. Filters convert complex input patterns into coded signals. The former may be compared to digital-to-analogue converters, the latter to analogue-to-digital converters (Miller, G. A., Galanter, E. and Pribram, K. H., Plans and the Structure of Behaviour, 1960).

5.10 In perceptual hierarchies, filtering devices range from habituation and the efferent control of receptors, through the constancy phenomena, to pattern-recognition in space or time, and to the decoding of linguistic and other forms of meaning.

5.11 Output hierarchies spell, concretize, particularize. Input hierarchies digest, abstract, generalize.

6. Arborization and reticulation

6.1 Hierarchies can be regarded as "vertically" arborizing structures whose branches interlock with those of other hierarchies at a multiplicity of levels and form "horizontal" networks: arborization and reticulation are complementary principles in the architecture of organisms and societies.

6.2 Conscious experience is enriched by the cooperation of several perceptual hierarchies in different sense-modalities, and within the same sense-modality.

6.3 Abstractive memories are stored in skeletonized form, stripped of irrelevant detail, according to the criteria of relevance of each perceptual hierarchy.

6.4 Vivid details of quasi-eidetic clarity are stored owing to their emotive relevance.

6. S The impoverishment of experience in memory is counteracted to some extent by the cooperation in recall of different perceptual hierarchies with different criteria of relevance.

6.6 In sensory-motor coordination, local reflexes are short-cuts on the lowest level, like loops connecting traffic streams moving in opposite directions on a highway.

6,7 Skilled sensory-motor routines operate on higher levels through networks of proprioceptive and exteroceptive feedback loops within loops, which function as servo-mechanisms and keep the rider on his bicycle in a state of self-regulating, kinetic homeostasis.

6.8 While in S-R theory the contingencies of environment determine behaviour, in O.H.S. theory they merely guide, correct and stabilize pre-existing patterns of behaviour (P. Weiss).

6.9 While sensory feedbacks guide motor activities, perception in its turn is dependent on these activities, such as the various scanning motions of the eye, or the humming of a tune in aid of its auditory recall. The perceptual and motor hierarchies are so intimately co-operating on every level that to draw a categorical distinction between "stimuli" and "responses" becomes meaningless; they have become "aspects of feed-back loops" (Miller et al.).

6.10 Organisms and societies operate in a hierarchy of environments, from the local environment of each holon to the "total field", which may include imaginary environments derived from extrapolation in space and time.

7. Regulation channels

7.1 The higher echelons in a hierarchy are not normally in direct communication with lowly ones, and vice versa; signals are transmitted through "regulation channels", one step at a time.

7.2 The pseudo-explanations of verbal behaviour and other human skills as the manipulation of words, or the chaining of operants, leaves a void between the apex of the hierarchy and its terminal branches, between thinking and spelling.

7.3 The short-circuiting of intermediary levels by directing conscious attention at processes which otherwise function automatically, tends to cause disturbances ranging from awkwardness to psychosomatic disorders.

8. Mechanization and freedom

8.1 Holons on successively higher levels of the hierarchy show increasingly complex, more flexible and less predictable patterns of activity, while on successive lower levels we find increasingly mechanized, stereotyped and predictable patterns.

8.2 All skills, whether innate or acquired, tend with increasing practice to become automatized routines. This process can be described as the continual transformation of "mental" into "mechanical" activities.

8.3 Other things being equal, a monotonous environment facilitates mechanization.

8.4 Conversely, new or unexpected contingencies require decisions to be referred to higher levels of the hierarchy, an upward shift of controls from "mechanical" to "mindful" activities.

8.5 Each upward shift is reflected by a more vivid and precise consciousness of the ongoing activity; and, since the variety of alternative choices increases with the increasing complexity on higher levels, each upward shift is accompanied by the subjective experience of freedom of decision.

8.6 The hierarchic approach replaces dualistic theories by a serialistic hypothesis in which "mental" and "mechanical" appear as relative attributes of a unitary process, the dominance of one or the other depending on changes in the level of control of ongoing operations.

8.7 Consciousness appears as an emergent quality in phylogeny and ontogeny, which, from primitive beginnings, evolves towards more complex and precise states. It is the highest manifestation of the Integrative Tendency (4.3) to extract order out of disorder, and information out of noise.

8.8 The self can never be completely represented in its own awareness, nor can its actions be completely predicted by any conceivable information-processing device. Both attempts lead to infinite regress.

9. Equilibrium and disorder

9. 1 An organism or society is said to be in dynamic equilibrium if the S.A. and INT tendencies of its holons counter-balance each other.

9.2 The term "equilibrium" in a hierarchic system does not refer to relations between parts on the same level, but to the relation between part and whole (the whole being represented by the agency which controls the part from the next higher level).

9.3 Organisms live by transactions with their environment. Under normal conditions, the stresses set up in the holons involved in the transaction are of a transitory nature, and equilibrium will be restored on its completion.

9.4 If the challenge to the organism exceeds a critical limit, the balance may be upset, the over-excited holon may tend to get out of control, and to assert itself to the detriment of the whole, or monopolize its functions - whether the holon be an organ, a cognitive structure (idée fixe), an individual, or a social group. The same may happen if the coordinate powers of the whole are so weakened that it is no longer able to control its parts (C. M. Child).

9.5 The opposite type of disorder occurs when the power of the whole over its parts erodes their autonomy and individuality. This may lead to a regression of the INT tendencies from mature forms of social integration to primitive forms of identification and to the quasi-hypnotic phenomena of group psychology.

9.6 The process of identification may arouse vicarious emotions of the aggressive type.

9.7 The rules of conduct of a social holon are not reducible to the rules of conduct of its members.

9.8 The egotism of the social holon feeds on the altruism of its members.

10. Regeneration

10.1 Critical challenges to an organism or society can produce degenerative or regenerative effects.

10.2 The regenerative potential of organisms and societies manifests itself in fluctuations from the highest level of integration down to earlier, more primitive levels, and up again to a new, modified pattern. Processes of this type seem to play a major part in biological and mental evolution, and are symbolized in the universal death-and-rebirth motive in mythology.

I have skimmed some parts of this material (especially the first article by Edwards) and read other parts, so I will need more time to read it all properly to make any fuller observations. At least it is here in one place for reference.

I will be interested to see if the part from The Ghost in the Machine is different from what Koestler wrote above.

Michael

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Apropos of the usefulness of Wilber's usage at least, I suppose the question is: what isn't a "holon"?

Daniel,

That is questioning the top-down part. The question for the bottom-up part is:

What isn't made from "subatomic particles"?

How's that for the same kind of usefulness?

:)

Michael

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