Arthur Koestler was a big concept thinker and former Marxist. One of his great ideas was a metaphysics of holarchy, which is an actual order of holons, entities that paradoxically are at the same time wholes in themselves, prior to and greater than the sum of their parts, and also actual parts of other wholes, which in turn are also holons. A holon then is an alternative concept to the traditional concept of substance or “thinghood”. As you can see, all things can be ordered hierarchally with each holon subordinated below the holon of which it is a part and yet superior to the holons which are it’s parts. The resulting “holarchy” crosses over the various ways things can be, from physical, to chemical, to biological, to social and political. Another feature of his account is that higher order holons can have features that it’s part holons do not have, a kind of “emergent property” view except holons are each in their place basic.

While perhaps this view comes too easily to mind, I appreciate that it tries to deal with the puzzles about part/whole relations. The view I keep coming back to is the Aristotelian/Lockean view that some substances are actual wholes but also virtual parts and that some actual parts are virtual substances, the same ones. Koestler solves the puzzle by universalizing it and making it part of the metaphysical bedrock. While not wholey agreeing or disagreeing with this, I want to go ahead and muck around with it a bit.

One of the imports of this view is that, on the social level, each individual person is a holon and a part of some social holon. As a holon, each person seeks to affirm their communal partcipation in some social holon or another. However, a distinct possibility as well as a historical reality is that a social holon can be evil, even when all the persons which make it are good. Consequently, even though it is necessary for each person to be part of a whole, it is not sufficient to justify belonging to any whole per se. However, the theory suggests that there must eventually be an all embracing whole. If that whole is evil, the dilemma faced by consciencious subordinate holon, whether an individual or group, is to either realize it’s end by joining the corrupt whole or experience the rejection of the larger whole and being an outsider to the ideals of the larger society. This can be terrible if we consider that this as a kind of what the great sociologist Emil Durkheim called anomie, the sense of being outside of the law created when an individual is alienated from any kind of society, to which Durkheim attributed suicidal tendencies in persons. But we may consider that a holon larger than persons may (but not must) experience alienation from being out of step with the world. This is what makes the demma a genuine one.

It seems to me that one of the ways a social holon partcipates in a larger social holon is by accepting the worldview and plausibility structure of the larger holon. Also, one of the sources of alienation from a larger holon is by embracing a worldview contrary to the larger holon, which justifies to the larger holon the use of a gatekeeper function(s) to push away the lower holon. It is also the worldview that captures the measure of what is good or evil to holon that embraces it. But it also measures what is taken to be good or evil in other holons.

One could imagine having a “Vicar of Smythe” principle that says one should avoid anomie by embracing whatever is most likely to be the worldview of the global holon. This need not be a dogmatic position. Deconstruction, the view that all worldviews are equivalent anyway, is a worldview that makes this move reasonable. We can expect that postmodernism will be a feature of the worldview of the global holon. I suspect that this is the deep position of the Obama administration as a holon. But this view is thus intrinsically indifferent to good and evil so even if it becomes part of the global holon it will not be morally consciencous about it’s conduct. Violence will be understood to be freedom, just like Rouseau’s “forced freedom”.

The church which once seemed to be the keeper of the worldview of the would-be global holon of the West is now the alienated holon from the new progressive would-be global holon that is getting ready to intervene in Libya now. Though ostensible tolerant of worldview diversity per se, this global worldview is gearing up to regard the rationality of Christianity to be necessarily immoral, thus putting the church in an anomic condition. However, part of the good news of the Kingdom of Heaven is that there is a larger holon that includes all of history as well as this moment and is greater than any global holon of the present, a holon secured not only by reason but also special revelation and which has an eternal head that is the principal of incorporation of all lesser holons both in nature and society. Such incorporation in free agent holons is instilled by faith in revelation and the worldview provided in it, as well as in the divine Whole-That-Is-Never-Part. Since this transcends the temporal order it remains able to guide and judge the conduct of subordinate holons including the Church as a Holon.

This participation by faith helps give the strength to resist the alienation from the temporized global holons. The anniversary of the birth of Modern Italy this year illustrates how even while the church had it’s time of secular rule, it happily gave it up to secular forces, because that position was only historically adventitous and necessary to the Church’s existence.

Finally, we have another application of Pascal’s Wager, not just as a way of dealing with anxieties of the afterlife, which always seem to appear to non-believers like an argument ad intimadatum, it also provides a reason to resolving the dilemma of choosing between anomie or complicity in evil in the now, which perhaps will seem like a blessing rather than a threat.

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