Triholonics is a systems science based on the study of holons.

The holon

The term holon is a combination of the word Holos-, which means whole and the suffix -on, which means particle or part. Thus a holon is a whole, that is simultaneously a part of a larger whole. In the diagram below the darker dotted lines represent a holon; it is both contained as well as containing. An atom is an example of a holon as it is both a whole to other parts like protons, electrons, neutrons, quarks, etc, as well as being a part of a molecule. It’s nothing but holon turtles all the way down baby!


Systems science

Systems science is an interdisciplinary field that studies the properties and dynamics of systems in the natural world. The purpose of systems science is to understand different phenomenon through the lens of systems. All of the sciences; physics, chemistry, biology, sociology, psychology etc; can be explored through the lens of systems science. A system is just a hierarchy of holons.

Holons with 2 terms

To date the holon has been exclusively explored through the lens of the reigning Cartesian dualism, or dyadicism (A dyad is a system with 2 terms). This is the unquestioned view of the world conceived and experienced through the lens of a dyad; a world made up of polar parts. The duality of mind and matter is Descartes original example of a dyad. Subject and object, true and false, right and wrong, and good and bad are other examples of unquestioned distinctions of a dyadic worldview.

Holons with 3 terms

The holon is an interesting concept that has been explored by many people over the years, although its utility so far has been relatively insignificant, as evidenced by the fact that few people even know the term. I believe however that most people have missed the most radical aspect of a holon which is this; a holon is itself a holon! A holon is a whole that contains two other holon parts; a holon-whole and a holon-part; thus a holon is a 3-term system. Now let me tell you why that is significant.


Static systems are 2 term holons; Living systems are 3 term holons

Whilst the concept of a holon is a constructed distinction I believe this triadic pattern is inherent in the architecture of living systems. Purpose, choice, and agency as well as self-referentiality and cognition are all examples of 3-term systems. None of these are possible within a dyadic system as 2-term causality (ie. simple stimulus-response pairings) is not capable of choice or novelty.

The 3 term holon integrates all

This also sheds light onto the essential relationship between 2-term static systems and 3-term dynamic ones. An example of this is an explanation of the relationship between entropy and negentropy. Both entropy and negentropy (sometimes also called syntropy) are interdependent parts of the creative and expansive phenomenon of the universe. The dyadic system is fundamentally static and habitual in nature, whereas the triadic system is dynamic and creative. Without one another, the essential ratcheting mechanism of the increasing complexity and capability of evolution would not be possible.

It is only through the transformation of creativity into habituality that nature is able to stand on the shoulders of yesterdays innovations to reach even further.

From or to and

Looking at the holon through a triadic lens generates an avalanche of insights. Another small glimpse of the fundamentally creative nature of 3-term systems comes from comparing the “conjunctions” of the dyadic and triadic worldviews. The dyadic conjunction is “or” and mutual exclusivity, whilst the triadic conjunction is “and” and integration. A triadic holon is able to provide understanding of how apparently polar distinctions are able to be reconciled and integrated into a larger inclusive holon. The movement from the dyadic perspective (”or”) to the triadic (”and”) is the fundamental dynamic of all forms of growth and development from physics to biology to cognition.

Introducing the triholon

I refer to the traditional understanding of holons as “dyadic holons”, and this new understanding I am proposing as “triadic holons”. To clarify this distinction I am using the term “triholon” instead of holon to mark it as the same concept, but viewed from a triadic rather than dyadic perspective. I believe that systems science to date has not uncovered its potential to unify and amplify understanding across different domains. But with insights gained from the study of triholons I believe this can change.

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