Janus: A Summing Up
Janus: A Summing Up is a book by Arthur Koestler
Arthur Koestler
Arthur Koestler CBE was a Hungarian author and journalist. Koestler was born in Budapest and, apart from his early school years, was educated in Austria...

, in which he develops his philosophical
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

 idea of the holarchy
A holarchy, in the terminology of Arthur Koestler, is a connection between holons – where a holon is both a part and a whole. The term was coined in Koestler's 1967 book The Ghost in the Machine...

 introduced in his 1967 book, The Ghost in the Machine
The Ghost in the Machine
The Ghost in the Machine is Arthur Koestler's, 1967, non-fiction polemic against any such ghost. The phrase of the title was coined by Gilbert Ryle, with whom he shares the concept that the mind of a person is not an independent entity, temporarily inhabiting and governing the body...

. The holarchy
A holarchy, in the terminology of Arthur Koestler, is a connection between holons – where a holon is both a part and a whole. The term was coined in Koestler's 1967 book The Ghost in the Machine...

 provides a coherent way of organizing knowledge
Knowledge is a familiarity with someone or something unknown, which can include information, facts, descriptions, or skills acquired through experience or education. It can refer to the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject...

 and nature
Nature, in the broadest sense, is equivalent to the natural world, physical world, or material world. "Nature" refers to the phenomena of the physical world, and also to life in general...

 all together. The idea of the holarchy is that everything we can think of is composed of holon
Holon (philosophy)
A holon is something that is simultaneously a whole and a part. The word was coined by Arthur Koestler in his book The Ghost in the Machine . Koestler was compelled by two observations in proposing the notion of the holon...

s (simultaneously both part and whole), so that each holon is always a constituent of a larger one and yet also contains other holons that are constituents of a lower level system within. Every holon is like a two-faced Janus
Janus (mythology)
In ancient Roman religion and mythology, Janus is the god of beginnings and transitions, thence also of gates, doors, doorways, endings and time. He is usually a two-faced god since he looks to the future and the past...

, the Roman god
Roman mythology
Roman mythology is the body of traditional stories pertaining to ancient Rome's legendary origins and religious system, as represented in the literature and visual arts of the Romans...

: one side (the whole) looks down (or inward); the other side (the part) looks up (or outward). Each whole is a part of something greater, and each part is in turn an organizing whole to the elements that constitute it. Koestler believed that everything in a healthy system is organized this way, from the human body
Human anatomy
Human anatomy is primarily the scientific study of the morphology of the human body. Anatomy is subdivided into gross anatomy and microscopic anatomy. Gross anatomy is the study of anatomical structures that can be seen by the naked eye...

, to chemistry
Chemistry is the science of matter, especially its chemical reactions, but also its composition, structure and properties. Chemistry is concerned with atoms and their interactions with other atoms, and particularly with the properties of chemical bonds....

 to the history of philosophy.

The concept of holon, however, is closely integrated in "Janus" with the theory of complex systems as was developed by Ludwig von Bertalanffy and Herbert Simon, both well known investigators and friends of Koestler. "Janus" put together one of the first broad based arguments for incorporating the theory of complex systems into the philosophy of science and epistemology. Koestler can be said to have been well ahead of his time. Systems dynamics, as developed in parallel by Jay Forrester's group at MIT, eventually became merged with the concepts of Koestler's west coast group and gave birth to the modern methodology of computer modeling of complex systems. The current achievements of outstanding practitioners such as Denis Noble, whose model known as the virtual heart is a landmark success, have a certain "·deja vu" quality reminiscent of Koestler as when Noble writes, as he recently did, on the "Ten Commandments of Systems Biology".

Koestler said he adapted his neologism "holon" from the concept of holism
Holism is the idea that all the properties of a given system cannot be determined or explained by its component parts alone...

, which was introduced by South African statesman Jan Smuts
Jan Smuts
Jan Christiaan Smuts, OM, CH, ED, KC, FRS, PC was a prominent South African and British Commonwealth statesman, military leader and philosopher. In addition to holding various cabinet posts, he served as Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa from 1919 until 1924 and from 1939 until 1948...

 in his 1926 book, Holism and Evolution. The concept, however, appears to be very similar to that of Rupert Riedl's hierarchy of biology as developed in his "Biologie der Erkenntnis" (1981) which in turn was a development from earlier thinking about evolutionary biology on the part of Erhard Oeser and Konrad Lorenz
Konrad Lorenz
Konrad Zacharias Lorenz was an Austrian zoologist, ethologist, and ornithologist. He shared the 1973 Nobel Prize with Nikolaas Tinbergen and Karl von Frisch...

and even earlier Austrian thinkers known to von Bertalanffy before he was displaced to Canada by the second world war.


  • Hutchinson, 1978, U.K, hardcover edition ISBN 0-09-132100-X
  • Random House, 1978, U.S. hardcover edition ISBN 0-394-50052-0
  • Picador, 1979, or Pan Macmillan, 1983 UK paperback editions ISBN 0-330-25842-7
  • Vintage Books, 1979, U.S. paperback edition ISBN 0-394-72886-6

External links

Read excerpts at tamilnation.org
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