Friday, September 14, 2012

Of holons and substances

Continuing from my last post, in trying to relate the notions of holons (Wilber) and substances (Bryant), I post some of the comments below to the ongoing IPS discussion of OOO.

theurj: Now one question I have--I have several but for now this one--can the elements of a suobject's substance, which themselves do not have substance, be considered holons? If we define something as an autonomous suobject, whether sentient or insentient, whether individual or social, and elements as defined by Bryant are without such autonomous substance, can they nevertheless be holons? In a way it seems Bryant is also distinguishing between legitimate and illegitimate singularities based on their powers of organization. Edwards sees these organizational powers as the defining characteristic of holons. Bryant see substanceless elements as the organizational structure of endo-relations.

Balder: I was asking myself a similar question.  Regarding a human suobject, I am not clear what Bryant means by insubstantial elements -- do you think he means something like thoughts?  At first, I thought not, since I seemed to recall him mentioning thoughts as objects, but in this chapter (4), he does discuss Harman's imaginary "Monster X" as an internal system state that is not withdrawn.  I'm curious about this latter claim (that a thought is not withdrawn, and the related claims that it doesn't exist when we aren't thinking it, and that it isn't an object that can be affected by other objects in the world)...this seems off to me.  More later.

theurj: I'm not sure yet what exactly he means by elements. Since both Bryant and Wilber use Luhmann as a source I figure why not go to the horse's mouth? I just started Luhmann's article "The autopoeisis of social systems," with this opening paragraph:

"The term 'autopoiesis' has been invented to define life; its origin is clearly biological. Its extension to other fields has been discussed, but rather unsuccessfully and on the wrong premises. The problem may well be that we use a questionable approach to the issue, 'tangling' our 'hierarchies' of investigation."

Of interest in the opening paragraphs is the distinction between living and non-living systems, or as Wilber puts it, sentient and insentient. Luhmann thinks autopoeisis can be extended to non-living systems and therefore seeks to find general characteristics common to both, while also acknowledging that they have differences as well. Hence not to confuse or conflate their different 'hierarchies.' Understandably this is where Wilber makes the distinction as well, noting the different ways they are structured while both containing 'holons' of a sort.

Balder: Reading Edwards' Through AQAL Eyes again, where he argues that holon is an epistemological category, I am entertaining the idea of an approach which uses the word, 'holon,' in the epistemological way that Edwards argues, and 'object' in the ontological way that OOO folks argue.  In other words, rather than reifying 'holon' to make it an Integral synonym of 'object' (we've discussed before how that is problematic in various ways), it might be useful to reserve 'object' (or some other word, such as entity or body or being) for speculative ontology mode, and to use it in parallel with 'holon' in integral epistemological mode.  Playful ways of framing this:  holons and objectons; holons and black-holons (the latter referring to objects with withdrawn cores)...

theurj: Hmm, it seems for Luhmann that indeed thoughts are the basic elements in conscious systems, as communications are for social systems. And he means basic elements, not holons, for such elements are undecomposable.

"Conscious systems and social systems have to produce their own...basic elements, that is, thoughts and communications...which vanish as soon as they appear" (9).

Hence Bryant's monster X reference as disappearing when no longer being thought of. More to come.

I also like on pp. 9-10 that elements must be ephemeral, for a system cannot store and maintain them all. They must be disintegrated and reintegrated on a continual basis, very much akin to my de-re process. Also his discussion of time and  renouncing "a stable and enduring presence" echo Bryant's use of Derrida.

I'm still wondering about elements within a suobject. They are obviously not fundamental particles as in metaphysics, since they are specific and particular to a unique and autonomous suobject. Yet lacking a withdrawn substance of their own they cannot be considered holons, since they are undecomposable into smaller parts. This would apply even if we consider holons epistemological categories, given the nature of whole-part all the way up/down. So how then do we square them with holonics?

Also, if a suobject has undecomposable elements does it also have unsubstantive, undecomposable generalities or matrices? Even though a suobject's elements are in need on continual renewal there remains the organizational endo-structural relations within which the elements participate.  That remains as a sort of enduring matrix until the suobject is destroyed. And yet it seems this is defined as the suobject's substance on the top end? And which also, by the way, is not a part of a  larger object, given Bryant's definition of strange mereology. Substantive suobjects are in the environment of larger or more inclusive suobjects, yet are not parts, so are also not holons?

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