User Tools

Site Tools


The Whole, the Parts,

and the Holes

by: Andreas Goppold

Projekt Leonardo-Leibniz

I want to thank Heiner Benking who brought this discussion to my attention. I have read most of the papers and I believe I can give useful comments to some, as well add a few vistas of my own which will augment the whole of the seminar.

Peiron and A-Peiron

(Comment to: Tom Mandel: History and Systems;, and Wilber: No Boundary).

The logical origin of Wholeness Absolute is this: The greek philosophers noted that all things in this world are bounded, or defined. (Greek: pera, borders). Therefore the universal determinant of all being things is peiron. The world can be defined as the set of all bounded things. Now it was discovered that by the very act of thinking the peiron, the opposite was also possible. The indogermanic negation operator “a-” (which the greek language shares with Sanskrit) easily allows to form the concept of a-peiron, or the un-bounded.

This discovery is attributed to Anaximandros. The only surviving fragments of his discovery are these:

archaen … eiraeke ton onton to apeiron

The Beginning and The Origin of all Being Things (of the all-there-is) is the Apeiron.

ex on de he genesis esti tois ousi

and therefrom is the emergence (waxing) of the being things

kai taen phthoran eis tauta ginesthai kata to chreon thereinto is also their waning (destruction, annihilation) according to their fate (chreon).

didonai gar auta dikaen kai tisin allaelois taes adikias kata taen tou chronou taxin

and they pay each other their justified debt and penance for their injustice

(adikia) according to the law ot the Time (chronos).

Spatiality and temporality are the prime realms of boundedness. By this feat of indirect reasoning did the concept of the Whole Absolute enter the philosophical pantheon of mankind. This may be called its logical genesis, but it had been around in different forms in various religious concepts for a while, most notably in the Jewish high God JHVH. The dramatic description in the Bible of this god's jealousness and possessiveness is a folkloristic rendering of a logical statement, the hierarchical precedence of the Whole above the parts. God has created the world out of HIS will, HIS word, and HIS substance, depending on different versions of the creation mythology. The Platonic and Neo- Platonic formulation of the principle of the Whole was later called the hen (the ONE). Religions, as opposed to philosophies, are created to generate effects in the real world of human lives. Thus the principle of the high God has affected humanity deeply, as we all know. Its most sophisticated application was in the version called Islam. Islam means complete and unquestioning submission of the creature under God, of the part under the Whole (or rather, those elected to express the will of the Whole). And in this application of a purely logical principle to social affairs, Islam has been a complete success story, for 1400 years now. Therefore we need to search no further for a succesful application of the principles of the Whole: The Mullahs already have it. This must not, I emphasize, be construed as a statement against the religion of Islam, for which I have deep respect. But we must realize that Islam is a religion as well as as a social power principle, the latter working to its own aims. With the infallibility of Papism, Christianity has its own version of the political application of the hierarchical Wholeness dominance.

Overcoming Dualism

(For the following discussion, see Wilber: No Boundary,

Milton Dawes: General-Semantics, the work of Korzybski).

Wherever we draw a boundary, we mark the two states: “so” and “not so”, which is logically called the Tertium non Datur. This is the essential dualism in our lives whose problematics are adequately described in the excerpt of Wilber's book. The way out for many people seems to be towards the “All is One” aka the return to the Monism of the Whole Absolute. This surely overcomes the problematics of Dualism, but as I mentioned above, there is a price to pay for it. And not everyone wants this. The logical structure of Wholism is Monism, and the execution of this structure is Hierarchy (and by the same token in social applications, Patriarchy). Gotthard Guenther has shown that Hierarchy and Patriarchy are both necessary logical consequences of a dual logic which cannot conceive of the “You” or the “We” as independent metaphysical instance. As exemplified by the secondary and subordinate creation of Eve in the Genesis and the consequent and consecutive suppression of women in societies influenced by the monotheistic religions. And because this is logical, there is no clever way of engineering around it. Monism and Hierarchy are just ever-present attractors always forcing the whole system into this stable state.

The Holes of the Whole

Why should it be that the Whole is more than the sum of its parts? If this is so, then there must be a systematic hole in our cognitive system, a blind spot that makes us overlook a decisive aspect of the part-whole relation. I call this “the missing ontology of relation”.

What I propose is that the Whole is not Monistic but Pluralistic. In the language of formal logics used by Gotthard Guenther, a similar principle is called Poly-Contexturality. True metaphysical equiposition of the “You” and the “We” can only be achieved with a multi-valued ontology, and consequently a multi-valued post-aristotelian logics.

As said above, Monism implies Hierarchy, and the alternative to this is Heterarchy. And to give credit whom credit is due, the Christian Trinity is already a good first start into a true heterarchy, if we correct the small construction flaw that it was all-male. The concept of Heterarchy would necessitate a longer discussion, especially in the light of what Ken Wilber has said about it in “Sex, Ecology, Spirituality”. The original Greek meaning of Archae very different from that of Kratein, i.e. the Archae is a logical originator principle, and not merely a principle of dominance. Heterarchy means that there always exist different (hierarchical) logical sub-trees of origination, each of which is reigned by a principle (=archae) that cannot be subsumed under the guiding principles of the other trees. This is another wording of Poly-Contexturality. If this purely logical non- convertibility criterion is omitted, then the whole concept of Heterarchy would make no sense, as Wilber concludes.

Now we do have a few suitable candidates for such non-convertible archai, or guiding principles of our cognitive system. And they are hidden from our view through a flaw of our language system, much as Korzybski indicates. I mention one basic triad: Object/Entity, Process, and Relation. Indo-European language structure has the word type noun for entities, and verb for processes, but relations are somewhat undefined either disguised as nouns (entities) or as adjectives (or mostly spatial and temporal flavor). Consequently, Indo- European common-sense ontology is mostly object/entity driven. The duality of Object and Process is well known and is best exemplified in the Zeno paradoxes where it was argued that motion was impossible. In modern Physics, there is a shift from the entity view to the process view going on which has been discussed in the contributions. But we are seriously hindered by our language to think of Relation as ontological principle, and not just an attribute of entities. If we promote Relation to its own ontological place, we can understand why the Whole is more than the sum of its parts, and we can then construct a true ontological heterarchy which would fill the holes in our Whole. For it is the Relations which create the entities in the first place.

In Hermeneutics this is already clear. The context generates the meaning of the words, similarly in the Radical Constructivism of Watzlawick. The Buddhist principle of Pratitya Samutpada is analogously a formulation of a world view that is completely relation-process driven. The world of relations is the world of society and communications, and I refer here to Boyd's “Communicamus ergo sumus”. We would have to remember Korzybski's statement that the important aspect of concept systems is their structure, not their names. To give names to these elements is at the present stage, very difficult, because they are simply logical places, inherently empty. Gotthard Guenther coined the term “Morphogrammatics” or “Kenograms” for this essential emptiness. In the Buddhist usage, this is called “Shunyata”. For convention, we could name a heterarchical ontological trinity by their poles: “Subjective”, “Objective”, and “Social”.

We would come to understand the Whole as the result of a heterarchical dynamic function consisting of these three vectors, or tripolar active components, which may still have different names in different contexts, The fundamental mechanism by which we cognize our world is based on the tripolar Object/Entity, Process, and Relation scheme.


Andreas Goppold

Projekt Leonardo-Leibniz

FAW Ulm, Postf. 2060, 89010 Ulm, Germany

Tel. ++49 +731 501-8757 / -915

Fax: (Goppold:) +731 501-929


the_whole_the_parts_and_the_holes.txt · Last modified: 2015/01/31 23:55 (external edit)