Development through Alternation

7.1 General systems and holonomy

Anthony Judge

The most deliberate effort to clarify the nature and possibilities of integration has been made through general systems research (84, 85). This has of necessity involved the perspectives of many disciplines. Efforts, such as those of J G Miller (86), have brought a very extensive range of phenomena within the same framework. General systems has not however been very successful in bringing its insights to bear upon the world problematique, despite deliberate efforts to do so (87, 88). Part of the problem seems to lie in the esentially left-hemisphere approach to describing, explaining, and classifying systems. This has not met the needs of those participating in systems, however valuable it has been to those observing such systems.

It is therefore interesting to note the recent effort by J S Stamps to "marry" the insights of general systems research with those of humanistic psychology, as an "integration of conscious systems with concrete systems", in which mind and system are perceived as complementary (89). Stamps interrelates general systems taxonomies of recent decades to provide a "multi-dimensional elaboration of the fundamental principles of complementary process and level structure" which indicates the "limits of integration and transformation" at each level. The final design of Stamps heuristic taxonomy arises from the combination of two ideas which he believes have not previously been related:

"Namely, that the complementarity between awareness and organization can be applied to the distinction between abstracted and concrete systems and theories. A taxonomy with this feature becomes a potential "Rosetta stone" for translating abstracted scientific language into conrete scientific language...(And secondly) is the suggestion that the form and processes of both individuality and collectivity evolve. To the conventional notion that phylogeny evolves and ontogeny develops, I have added the idea that phylogeny also develops and ontogeny also evolves. The importance of being able to make an argument such as this is enormous, for it places the human individual into a context of onthological equality with the many layers and types of human and social organization." (89, p.204)

Stamps makes a deliberate attempt to move beyond Cartesian dualism, especially in the light of research on the bicameral mind. The limitation of this approach, as discussed elsewhere (26) lies in his implication that a heuristic taxonomy does not contain inherent limitations in a society which is increasingly resistant to such hierarchical orderings, whether conceptual or otherwise. Some of these limitations emerge in the work of Rescher, discussed in the next section, where such orderings are contrasted with a "network" organization of knowledge. Ironically, Stamps subsequently co-authored a book on "networking" for practitioners, which emphasizes this other perspective (1).

Stamps uses Arthur Koestler's term "holon" as referring to complex entities, particularly organisms and people, which are simultaneously whole individuals and participating parts of more encompassing wholes (90). From it he names his approach "holonomy" as being a systems theory which acknowledges the place of the human individual. This new term has also been recently used by Bohm in a rather different sense, as noted below.