Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber


A core concept in Wilber's philosophy is the concept of the holon, which he borrowed from Arthur Koestler. The idea is that everything is not only a whole, but also part of a larger whole, so a "part/whole" or "hol-on".

That is true for atoms, molecules, organisms, human being, but also for letters in a word, words in a sentence, sentences on a page, pages in a book, etc. -- as the familiar holistic sequence goes.

As Wilber has demonstrated in Sex, Ecology, Spirituality, human consciousness can be seen as a holon, with four aspects or quadrants:

  1. inner-individual: introspective consciousness
  2. outer-individual: observable behavior
  3. inner-collective: our cultural beliefs
  4. outer-collective: the society we live in

But do all holons have four quadrants? Does a word in a book, for example, have a type of inner life? And can we reasonably speak of indvidual and social holons? Or does that lead us into an infinite regression (for what is the social aspect of the social holon?)

In the Reading Room of this website, the concept of the holon is the subject of many essays. This relates to questions such as: do all holons have consciousness, or only some? And if some, what principle is responsible for that? And how are we to understand society: as a kind of super-organism above the individual, or simply as a group of like minded individuals?

Back to the Core Concepts page.

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