The 3 Universal Laws of Holon/Partons

or – The Universal Etiology (i.e., causes) of Creativity 

by JT Velikovsky PhD

(2015, 2016, and updated to include Harari, in May 2017)

Q: What causes creativity? 

A: Creativity is an inevitable side-effect of evolution. Evolution itself, is the cause of creativity…(!!!)

The evolutionary algorithm (i.e., selection, variation and transmission) is what causes (or – enables, or allows) creativity to occur, or to: happen.

This is the case in both biology, and, in culture. (See: The [evolutionary] Sociocultural Systems Model of Creativity).

The evolutionary algorithm (selection, variation, transmission) is in operation on both biology and culture. Alla time. Never stops.

Importantly, this particular universe appears to be governed by:

The 3 Universal Laws of Holon/partons.

Which – are actually, just: three laws of evolution.

For details, see also:

StoryAlity #144 – The structure of the meme, the unit of culture (in: The Encyclopedia of Information Science & Technology, 2017)

(Wow, I really came out swingin’, there.)

And so – I say, The Next Question is, How do we predict, and control it?

How do we “science” it-?

(Did you see THE MARTIAN, with Matt Damon? I loved that line – “I’m gonna have to science the shit out of this!”) When he gets stuck on mars and has to survive. Science is just a survivial tool. If you wanna survive, you’re gonna have to do: Science.

Science is just a survival (and reproduction) tool. If you wanna survive (and maybe even reproduce), then, you’re gonna have to do: Science.

For details, see: StoryAlity #143 – All of life is doing science (!)

(So – my current understanding is: Science is how you can predict, and control things. Otherwise, you usually have random stuff happening, like chaos and unpredictability, and that way, pretty much, madness lies.)

I mean, don’t get me wrong. A balance (a nice blend of both) is actually, usually the most fun. A bit of order, and a bit of randomness (ie `chaos’, unpredictability) is: great.

Life apparently only emerges, and exists, and is happy, on the edge (the middle ground / overlap) of order and randomness. And, that lovely (and smart!) man Charles Darwin (1871) noted, we humanimals tend to like small, gradual changes in all things… Keeps it all kinda-fresh, but also, not too wild-and-crazy/whacky… Stability, and also some small, nice surprises, now and then. (The surprises should be irregularly timed, though, LOL. Otherwise their timing is: predictable. And that can get: kinda boring. We adapt. We want to be stretched/surprised/challenged, a little bit… But that’s kinda relative, too. A big surprise for one person – may well be a same-old same-old for another. Depends.)

ie – You (generally speaking – there are exceptions!) want something a bit new, but also a bit traditional and unexpected.

New and appropriate and left-field. Original and useful and surprising. These are all the same thing: the standard definition of creativity (2012).

For more detail on that, maybe see:

  1. StoryAlity #6 – What is Creativity and How Does It Work?
  2. StoryAlity #6B – Flow Theory, Creativity and Happiness

But hey guess what – even the standard definition of creativity – slowly – has evolved !!!

First it was “original and adaptive”, or new and useful, or novel and appropriate, but then “surprising” got added, and – EUREKA, it seems that it works, even better!

So: creativity. A creative idea, process, or product.

New – and it works – and it surprises you (…a bit*).

*if you get surprised too much, you can go into shock – and that’s not so good (I know this from: firefighting 🙂

i.e., So anyway – How can we humans, each do: creativity? (And, Better.)

How can we predict (aim for) it, and do it? (ie Have a “Theory/Expectation” [a cause-and-effect model in our heads] and then, when we take action, it also works in Practice?)

So that we can do the cause – and then happily watch the effect…?

Well, here is a recipe [an: algorithm] for that.

Step One: Wait, let’s understand better what creativity is – and why it occurs. 

So first up, we’re going to back up, and, try and get “the long view” of: Everything. (We may need to take it slow so we don’t get info overload – and go into shock 🙂

Let’s start off with, a cool quote from Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (Harari 2015). Just because we can.

`Today almost all humans share the same geopolitical system (the entire planet is divided into internationally recognised states); the same economic system (capitalist market forces shape even the remotest corners of the globe); the same legal system (human rights and international law are valid everywhere, at least theoretically); and the same scientific system (experts in Iran, Israel, Australia and Argentina have exactly the same views about the structure of atoms or the treatment of tuberculosis).

The single global culture is not homogeneous. Just as a single organic body contains many different kinds of organs and cells, so our single global culture contains many different types of lifestyles and people, from New York stockbrokers to Afghan shepherds.

Yet they are all closely connected and they influence one another in myriad ways. They still argue and fight, but they argue using the same concepts and fight using the same weapons.’ (Harari 2015, pp. 168-9 – bold emphasis mine)

So – now let’s unify: physics, chemistry, biology, psychology, sociology, and culturology (including: humans’, and other lifeforms’ history)…

Vertical integration of Disciplines (Velikovsky 2014)

Let’s “start big”, with our universe. And then, let’s jump to back to human history (eg Sapiens, Harari 2015)

First, see the 3 mins 20 secs mark to 3 mins 45 secs mark below, on: What Probably Caused The Big Bang.

i.e. Note – creativity – which is a side-effect of evolution – is just: combining things.

(Including, apparently, universes. Or, universii.)

e.g.: As legendary creativity researcher Colin Martindale noted:

`Ultimately, all creative products have this quality: old ideas or elements are combined in new ways.

This is the case for all domains of creativity.’ (Martindale, 1989, p. 212).

Also – if you’re new to Systems Theory, maybe read these 3 x short posts, first…(?) [The below post will then make much more sense!]

On Systems Theory – and Evolution

  1. StoryAlity #70 – Key Concepts in Systems Theory, Cybernetics & Evolution
  2. StoryAlity #70B – The Systems View of Life: A Unifying Vision (Capra & Luisi 2014)
  3. StoryAlity #70C – Systems Philosophy (Laszlo 1972)

So – (as noted above) this particular universe appears to be governed by: the three universal laws of holon/partons:

The 3 Laws of Holon-Partons - Velikovsky 2015

The 3 Laws of Holon-Partons (Velikovsky 2015)

Or, in other words:

The 3 Laws of Holon-Partons - Velikovsky 2015

The 3 Laws of Holon-Partons (Velikovsky 2015)

See also: StoryAlity #144 – The structure of the meme, the unit of culture (in: The Encyclopedia of Information Science & Technology, 2017)

Consider: subatomic particles, now also atoms, now also molecules, also cells, and organisms, and social groups, and social organizations, and communities [and institutions], and, society en masse [i.e., nations], and also consider supranational [world] systems (like – a whole planet).

These are each units – on, the levels – of: systems.

What is a holon/parton?

A holon/parton is a unit, that is a whole, and also a part of a bigger whole (which is also, thus, a unit)!

The three laws of holon/partons:

1. Compete, and/or co-operate, and/or engage in co-opetition – with units on the same level.

2. Integrate (and, take instructions from and give feedback to) the bigger unit, above (of which they are a part).

3. Command and control units on the level below (units on the level below are: their own component-parts).

The 3 Laws of Holon-Partons - Velikovsky 2015

The 3 Laws of Holon-Partons – Velikovsky 2015

A system’s environment is all units (and systems) on the same level, and all levels above it, in the holarchy. (As noted above – more on Systems Theory, here.)

In a hierarchy, holon/partons are called holarchies, as named by Arthur Koestler (1967).

In a diagrammatical form, a holon/parton can be represented as so:

The holon-parton structure of the meme - the unit of culture (Velikovsky 2013, 2014)

The holon-parton structure of the meme – the unit of culture (Velikovsky 2013, 2014)

Now for some more specific definitional detail on holons (and, thus: holon/partons) [which, is a crucial part of: Systems Theory]

In The Ghost in the Machine (Koestler 1967), Koestler coined the term holon:

A holon … is something that is simultaneously a whole and a part’

(Koestler 1967, p. 48).

And – also, in the book Photon Hadron Interactions (Feynman 1972) Nobel prize-winning physicist Richard P Feynman discusses “partons” (1972, pp. 160, 163, 254, et al).

This `partons’ concept of Feynman’s is the same concept as Koestler’s `holons’.

I have combined both terms into a new whole, to produce the term `holon/parton’, as it reflects more accurately the concept of: physical objects – or, artifacts (e.g., universes, galaxies, solar systems, planets, atoms, hadrons, quarks, animals, plants, cells, molecules, atoms, subatomic particles) and – also cultural objects or artifacts (memes: ideas, processes, products) that are simultaneously a part, and also a whole, at the same time.

Koestler also defines a holarchy as a hierarchy of self-regulating holons. (Koestler 1989, p. 103) See also: (Koestler 19641967).

So – those are the 3 Laws:

The 3 Laws of Holon-Partons - Velikovsky 2015

The 3 Laws of Holon-Partons (Velikovsky 2015)

Now I am going to cite Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (2015); I am a huge admirer of his work.


Sapiens by Harari - cover

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (Harari 2015)

Harari (2015) writes (in typically, brilliantly-readable style, and by the way please also note how different this consilient writing is to “Postmodernist / Literary Grand Theory” writing style):

`Human cultures are in constant flux. Is this flux completely random, or does it have some overall pattern?

In other words, does history have a direction? The answer is yes.

Over the millennia, small, simple cultures gradually coalesce into bigger and more complex civilisations, so that the world contains fewer and fewer mega-cultures, each of which is bigger and more complex.

This is of course a very crude generalisation, true only at the macro level.

At the micro level, it seems that for every group of cultures that coalesces into a mega-culture, there’s a megaculture that breaks up into pieces.

[Yes, precisely – see: The 3 Universal Laws of Holon/Partons – JTV – now back to Harari]

The Mongol Empire expanded to dominate a huge swathe of Asia and even parts of Europe, only to shatter into fragments. Christianity converted hundreds of millions of people at the same time that it splintered into innumerable sects.

[Yes, that is: the 3 Universal Laws of Holon-Partons, in operation – JTV] 

The Latin language spread through western and central Europe, then split into local dialects that themselves eventually became national languages. But these break-ups are temporary reversals in an inexorable trend towards unity.

Perceiving the direction of history is really a question of vantage point. When we adopt the proverbial bird’s-eye view of history, which examines developments in terms of decades or centuries, it’s hard to say whether history moves in the direction of unity or of diversity.

[JTV – It actually does both at once; see, The 3 Universal Laws of Holon/Partons, e.g.read more here in this free chapter – and also, in this Encyclopedia (2017), here

However, to understand long-term processes the bird’s-eye view is too myopic. We would do better to adopt instead the viewpoint of a cosmic spy satellite, which scans millennia rather than centuries.

From such a vantage point it becomes crystal clear that history is moving relentlessly towards unity.

[JTV – It does both at once. It’s evolution.]

The sectioning of Christianity and the collapse of the Mongol Empire are just speed bumps on history’s highway.’ (Harari 2015, p. 166)

[JTV – Not quite just “speed bumps” – as both things happen at once, unification into a whole at the top (ie upwards) and divergence downwards (at the bottom) – but nonetheless: amazing work by Harari, spotting the pattern! …History shows (via Harari’s examples), evolution means, it – the whole system – actually does both, at once. Evolution – It’s a beautiful thing. Also horrifying, sometimes.]

Now, I would like to cite Sampson:

I need to refer to part of an essay in the book This Will Change Everything: Ideas That Will Shape the Future (2010)

`Evolution Changes Everything – Scott Sampson

Scott Sampson is adjunct professor of geology and geophysics at the university of Utah.

Evolution is the scientific idea that will change everything within the next several decades…

Today the commonly accepted concept of evolution is extremely narrow, confined largely to the realm of biology and a longstanding emphasis on mutation and natural selection.

In recent decades, this limited perspective has become further entrenched by the dominance of molecular biology and its “promise” of human-engineered cells and lifeforms. Emphasis has been placed almost entirely on generating diversity, a process referred to as `complexification’, reflecting the reductionist worldview that has driven science for four centuries.

Yet science has also begun to explore another key element of evolution: unification, which transcends the biological to encompass the evolution of physical matter.

The numerous and dramatic increases in complexity, it turns out, have been achieved largely through a process of integration, with smaller wholes becoming parts of larger wholes.

Note – What Sampson is referring to here, has a name: The 3 Laws of Holon-Partons.

Still quoting Sampson (from, This Will Change Everything):

`Again and again, we see the progressive development of multipart individuals from simpler forms. Thus, for example, atoms become integrated into molecules, molecules into cells, and cells into organisms.’

Remember Harari (above) on the direction of history?

This means: not just biology but also culture follows the Laws of Evolution.

Still quoting Sampson (in, This Will Change Everything, 2010)::

`At each higher, emergent stage, older forms are enveloped and incorporated into newer forms, with the end result being a nested, multilevel hierarchy.

At first glance, the process of unification appears to contravene the second law of thermodynamics, by increasing order over entropy.

Again and again during the past fourteen billion years, concentrations of energy have emerged and self-organized as islands of order amid a sea of chaos, taking the guise of stars, galaxies, bacteria, gray whales and (on at least one planet) a biosphere.

Although the process of emergence remains somewhat of a mystery, we can now state with confidence that the epic of evolution has been guided by counterbalancing trends of complexification and unification.

This journey has not been an inevitable, deterministic march, but a quixotic, creative unfolding in which the future could not be predicted.’

(Sampson in Brockman 2010: 1-2)

Now keeping in mind both Harari (above) and Sampson (above) – please:

Consider the universe, as one single unit…

i.e. as a single system, made up of smaller systems.

i.e. As, nested hierarchical systems, ie – as holarchies of holon/partons.

Vertical integration of Disciplines (Velikovsky 2014)

Vertical integration of Disciplines (Velikovsky 2014)

Now, consider Comte’s `hierarchy of the sciences’ (which I have adapted and extended here – by adding `Culturology‘, at the end,

ie at the far-right-hand-side of the diagram below).

Hierarchy of the Sciences - Velikovsky 2015

The Hierarchy of the Sciences (Velikovsky 2015, adapted from Comte)

Namely this hierarchy of science is: Mathematics, Astronomy, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Psychology, Sociology, Anthropology, and, let us add Culturology (or, the study of symbolic systems – which of course includes Mathematics, and so – we are back in a loop!)

And, Culture also includes all: ideas, processes and products than are non-biological.

So (systems) complexity increases, moving rightwards in the diagram.

This is also one reason that Science gets harder (less exact) to do, the more `rightward’ we move in the above diagram. See also, this excellent diagram from Simonton (2012):

Figure 3 - Hierarchy of the sciences based on objective characteristics of both field and domain. (D. K. Simonton, 2012, p. 74)

Figure 3 – Hierarchy of the sciences based on objective characteristics of both field and domain. (D. K. Simonton, 2012, p. 74)

So, complex systems obtain in any human individual, given a psychology, a sociology, an anthropology and culture(s), let alone, interacting and evolutionary systems of these systems, all with multiple causes, effects, and variables. (By the way, in systems, `effects’ then become new `causes’ – as it is iterative – where the outputs of some systems become new inputs for some systems).

We might therefore assume it is probably impossible to predict anything in culture, as a result of this overwhelming complexity.

But – maybe not.

Maybe we can now have, a true Science of Culturology (aka Memetics).

See this (2016) book chapter for more.

On whether the methods of the Natural Sciences can be applied to the Human Sciences:

While Comte, Durkheim and other researchers aimed to `positively’ determine, study, predict (and ideally therefore, control) social phenomena in the social sciences using methods of the natural sciences (Crotty 1998, p. 24; Blaikie 2007, p. 111; Grix 2004, p. 80), Blaikie writes that:

`During the past twenty-five years, Positivism has been the subject of much criticism within sociology (see, e.g., Giddens 1974, Fay 1975, Keat and Urry 1975, 1982, Adorno et al 1976, Benton 1977, Hindess 1977, Halfpenny 1982, Bryant 1985)’

(Blaikie 2007, p. 112).

In The Sciences of the Artificial (Simon 1996b, p. 5) it is suggested that natural (or, biological) and artificial (or, cultural) artifacts differ in at least four potentially-important ways.[1] In his autobiography, the same polymath Herbert A. Simon states:

`The true line is not between “hard” natural science and “soft” social sciences, but between precise science limited to highly abstract and simple phenomena in the laboratory and inexact science and technology dealing with complex problems in the real world.’

(Simon 1996a, p. 304)

In the Systems (and therefore, the Complexity) worldview, the problem is complexity, or that precision in measurement of a phenomena is inverse to its complexity.

Ward comments on Comte’s hierarchical taxonomy of the sciences, which was arrived at:

`by taking as the criterion of the position of each the degree of what he called “positivity,” which is simply the degree to which the phenomena can be exactly determined. This, as may be readily ‘seen, is also a measure of their relative complexity, since the exactness of a science is in inverse proportion to its complexity.’

(Ward [1898] 1913, p. 7 – bold emphasis mine)

All I mean to show here is that: the behaviour of complex systems (and creative artifacts that are outputs of those systems) might be predictable, and that they are subject to evolution, as is everything.

I suggest, these 3 laws of holarchies (and holon/partons) really are `universal’… as per:

So, that would be two units (i.e. – universes) combining to create a new universe (i.e. this one, for example). This is just `combinatorial creativity’ (Boden 2004).

This all is also not to say that, everything is determined, nor to remove free will, nor to ignore agency-and-structure. Probability comes into play.

I would now like to quote from: Gunaratne, SA (2010), ‘Determining the Scope of “International” Communication: A (Living) Systems Approach’, in GJ Golan, T Johnson & W Wanta (eds), International Media Communication in a Global Age, Routledge, New York, pp. 36-70.

`This chapter asserts that theoretical biologist J. G. Miller’s living systems theory (LST) can guide the determination of the scope of what constitutes the subject matter and the research frame of international communication, as argued later, a field that should be called cosmopolitan communication.

Miller identified complex structures that can carry out living processes at eight nested hierarchical levels ranging from the smallest to the largest – cell, organism, group, organization, community [institution], society [nation], and supranational [world] system [Fig. 2.1].

Gunaratne (2010 p.39)

The Living Systems Approach (Gunaratne 2010 p.39)

Each system, irrespective of its hierarchical level in space-time, is an open system composed of 20 critical subsystems, which process inputs, throughputs, and outputs of various forms of matter-energy and information (Table 2.1).

Gunaratne (2010 p.40)

The Living Systems Approach (Gunaratne 2010 p.40)

Together they make up a living system. Notwithstanding the evolutionary process (`shred out’ or `fray out’), each system at each level retains the same 20 subsystems although the properties of each subsystem become more complex because of “transformational emergence” (Bailey 1994, p. 193) at each upward level.

Thus it is possible to observe, measure and compare variables constituting a subsystem at each of the levels and across the levels. It is this feature that makes LST a general theory, which attempts to integrate applicable social, biological and physical sciences. International communication scholars can focus on the communication dimension of the information-processing subsystems of LST – information transducer, internal transducer, channel and net, timer, decoder, associator, memory, decider, coder and output transducer, as well as the reproducer and boundary, which both information processing and matter-energy processing share.’ (Gunaratne 2010, pp. 38-41)

The point here is that: part of evolution is holon/partons. When systems exist, they exist in an environment. That environment can create selective pressure. When that happens, evolution can happen. When evolution happens, some units are more `novel and appropriate’ (newer and better adapted to their environment) than others.

This is called `creativity’.

The 3 Laws of Holon-Partons - Velikovsky 2015

The 3 Laws of Holon-Partons (Velikovsky 2015)

Now I would like to talk about: units, levels and mechanisms of evolutionary selection in systems.

(This is called Applied Evolutionary Epistemology.)

Mechanisms of selection can include: natural, artificial, unconscious and `combinatorial attraction’ (aka sexual) selection. Some or all of these are in operation on units and levels in systems; at least always Natural. In humans, artificial selection is obviously more prevalent as we deliberately breed animals for certain traits (Darwin starts On The Origin of Species [1859] with this point).

One point to note about creativity is that when you combine two units – to get a new unit, and if the result is well adapted, (not falsified i.e. eliminated) in its environment, that new unit is `novel [new and different] and appropriate’ (which is the Standard Definition of Creativity in the domain of Psychology).

Now, I have a question. (Please Comment, below)

Question – Who is right, EO Wilson, or Richard Dawkins? (about: Kin, and thus, Group, Selection)


(I get stressed when two authority figures disagree; I’m a child of divorce).

This is my own view on the controversy:

– I side with Wilson, and I may be naive, but I find it confounding that, Dawkins doesn’t seem to know about James Grier Miller’s `Living Systems Theory’ (1978)…?
(It’s also over 1,000 pages long, and thus, also very hard to miss.)

– In that schema (Miller’s), there are 7 systems levels (cell, organism, group, organization, community [institution], society [nation], and supranational [world] system).

If Systems Theory is right, then the Environment of each individual Unit, is, all the local components of all the Levels above (eg the Environment of a cell is its organism, plus, all of the `higher’ levels as well.)

– If that’s all true, and some Units (eg a specific cell, a specific organism, a specific group, etc) are better- (and, others, worse-) adapted to their Environment (which includes the other local units of the same type), and, as units they can be falsified (i.e. can: stop existing), then: Natural Selection can take place on all 7 system levels.

Now, add in the genome (ie `Selfish, or rather, also-sometimes-Altruistic, Gene’ theory), and there’s 8 system-levels of units, for Selection to operate on.

Now in thinking about Groups:

The 3 Laws of Holon-Partons - Velikovsky 2015

The 3 Laws of Holon-Partons (Velikovsky 2015)

Other things being roughly equal, the better-organized (clean lines of communication, etc), and also, larger a group, the more likely they are (in probability) to crush (or, defeat) the opposition (group) in a conflict – if it comes to that. Consider a pride of lions, and how organized they are, in cooperating, in stalking/hunting their prey. Now consider when a (probably, larger) pack of hyenas drives a pride of lions away from their kill, and scavenges it.

Also obviously, mother mammals protect-and-defend their young (offspring) in their care from predators.

Consider also, altruistic group behaviour, like when meerkats, birds, squirrels and many other social animals make distress-calls to alert the rest of the group of the proximity of predators, this risking their own necks by attracting (unwanted) attention.

So, kin = a group.

As an aside, when you get married, that’s coopetition. As you’re combining forces. This makes you and your partner a group, of sorts. Then if reproduction (combinatorial attraction) is involved, there’s a larger kin group (you almost certainly already have – or had: parents).

I do see how, if a Group-trait survives (across generations), then, it’s because those group-trait instructions were copied, in the DNA…

But – that doesn’t clash with the idea that: at the Group level, Natural Selection (pressure-dependent on the conditions) is still operating. Groups can still be falsified by their environment, as the environment includes other groups and also, groups of predators.

So I think Wilson is right.

And I greatly admire so much of Dawkins’ work, but on this, I think maybe I have to go with Wilson. Also Wilson (1998) `invented’ consilience and it’s an awesome advance in the unity of knowledge. Transdisciplinarity is the same thing.

(Or – what am I missing?)

– Comments always welcome.

Also, if you are wondering where all this is coming from:

See: Consilience.

And see The Complexity Turn in Communication Studies, and The Arts/Humanities. As Blaikie (2007) notes in Approaches to Social Enquiry:

`Since the publication for the first version of this book (1993), a major development in the social sciences has been the advent of complexity theory. The ideas behind complexity theory can be traced back to early last century, in attempts to apply systems thinking to the understanding of living systems.

Systems thinking is about relationships, patterns, processes and context (Capra 2005: 33).

Of course, such ideas are not new in the social sciences, but complexity theory has given them a radical new twist. In the process, it `now offers the exciting possibility of developing a unified view of life by integrating life’s biological, cognitive and social dimensions’ (Capra 2005: 33). In fact, complexity theory is seen as providing a way of transcending the outdated divisions between the physical and the social sciences (Urry 2003: 18).

It seems that the idea of complexity is now everywhere in the field of knowledge; perhaps it is an idea whose time has come (Byrne 2005: 97, 98). Complexity theory has found its way into a wide range of academic subjects, such as economics, town planning, architecture, literary theory, history, anthropology and sociology (Thrift 1999: 39). The term `complexity’ is `doing `metaphorical, theoretical and empirical work within many social and intellectual discourses and practices besides “science”’ (Urry 2005a: 2). It refocuses our attention on system analysis, something that much of social science has either rejected or ignored since the demise of Parsonian structural functionalism in the 1970s, and it does this by overcoming earlier deficiencies and, at the same time, taking account of developments in the philosophies of science and social science over the last fifty or so years.

While complexity theory is primarily concerned with presenting a new scientific ontology, it also rejects the epistemology of traditional science based on notions of universal knowledge, experimental control, determinism and a linear logic of causal explanation. It offers instead explanatory accounts based on limited and contextual knowledge, open and unpredictable systems, and complex, non-linear interaction between elements that leads to emergent properties and self-organizing structures and processes. Complexity theory has been defined as `the interdisciplinary understanding of reality as composed of complex open systems with emergent [end of p. 206] properties and transformational potential’ (Byrne 2005: 97).’

(Blaikie 2007, pp. 206-7 – bold emphasis mine)

As for the history of the Complexity `movement’, or, intellectual tradition:

`The complexity turn in the social sciences took off in the late 1990s, stimulated by the report of the Gulbenkian Commission on the Restructuring of the Social Sciences (Wallerstein 1996). This commission included the Russian-born chemist [end of p207] and Nobel Laureate Ilya Prigogine, who, in the late 1960s, developed many of the ideas that are now part of complexity theory.’ (Blaikie 2007, pp. 207-8)

This part is very important:

`It is a common misconception that complexity theory represents some kind of postmodern science. However Price (1997: 3-4) considers this notion a contradiction in terms.

As postmodernism is against traditional notions of science, the complexity paradigm is incompatible with the postmodern project.

(Blaikie 2007, p. 211 – bold emphasis mine)

Blaikie notes – Nature and society- both are hierarchically-structured and nested (Blaikie 2007, pp 210-1) 

(N.B. Yes. see: holarchies.)

`Byrne regards cases as complex systems that are themselves `nested in, have nested within them, and intersect with other complex systems.

So, for example, a city-region is nested within global and national systems and has nested within it neighbourhoods, households and individuals’ (Byrne 2005: 105). Different methods of research and analysis may be required for each level in such a set of complex systems.’

(Blaikie 2007, p. 213)

Blaikie notes that Systems/Complexity Theory is a way out of `the troubling anti-scientific doctrines of postmodernism’ (Blaikie 2007 p. 213).

So, that’s where my research is situated. (It’s kind of: complex.)

But the holon/parton is very simple. It just has three rules: (1) Co-operation, competition and co-opetition sideways; (2) integrate upwards, and (3) control downwards.

Then, there is the Extended Evolutionary Synthesis:

(Pigliucci and Müller 2010, p.11)

(Pigliucci and Müller 2010, p.11)

But that’s a whole other story.

But – holon/partons are right in the middle of it all.

i.e., Units, levels and mechanisms of evolution, in (complex) systems.

Finally, a quote from the Introduction to The Master and his Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World (McGilchrist 2009):

Although the brain is extraordinarily densely interconnected within itself – it has
been estimated that there are more connections within the human brain than
there are particles in the known universe – it is none the less true, as might be
imagined, that the closest and densest interconnections are formed within localities,
between immediately adjacent structures.

Thus the brain can be seen as something like a huge country: as a nested structure, of villages and towns, then districts, gathered into counties, regions and even partly autonomous states or lands – a conglomeration of nuclei and ganglia at one level, organisational foci and broader functional regions within specific gyri or sulci (the folds of the cortex) at another, these then forming lobes, and those lobes ultimately forming part of one or other cerebral hemisphere.

If it is true that consciousness arises from, or at any rate is mediated by, the sheer density and complexity of neuronal interconnections within the brain, this structure has some important consequences for the nature of that consciousness.

The brain should not be thought of as an indiscriminate mass of neurones: the structure of that mass matters. In particular it has to be relevant that at the highest level of organisation the brain, whether mediator or originator of consciousness, is divided in two.’

(McGilchrist 2009, p. 9 – bold emphasis mine)

If we look at how holarchies are structured, it seems to be what McGilchrist is referring to here, as the structure of the brain.

And – for more detail on the evolutionary systems (or, complexity) view of narrative and bioculture in general, see, this book chapter:

StoryAlity #132The holon/parton structure of the Meme, the unit of culture – and the narreme, or unit of story – book chapter (Velikovsky 2016)

And for a great consilience & creativity & evolution reading list, see:

StoryAlity #71On Consilience in the Arts / Humanities / Communication

One more quote from Sapiens (Harari 2014):

`In fact, no social animal is ever guided by the interests of the entire species to which it belongs. No chimpanzee cares about the interests of the chimpanzee species, no snail will lift a tentacle for the global snail community, no lion alpha male makes a bid for becoming the king of all lions, and at the entrance of no beehive can one find the slogan: ‘Worker bees of the world – unite! 

But beginning with the Cognitive Revolution, Homo sapiens became more and more exceptional in this respect. People began to cooperate on a regular basis with complete strangers, whom they imagined as ‘brothers’ or ‘friends…

…The first universal order to appear was economic: the monetary order. The second universal order was political: the imperial order. The third universal order was religious: the order of universal religions such as Buddhism, Christianity and Islam.

Merchants, conquerors and prophets were the first people who managed to transcend the binary evolutionary division, ‘us vs them’, and to foresee the potential unity of humankind.’ (Harari 2015, pp. 171-2)

So – there we have it. The 3 Laws of Holon/Partons.

And how evolution itself causes creativity.

See also:

On Creativity:

  1. StoryAlity #6 – What is Creativity and How Does It Work?
  2. StoryAlity #6B – Flow Theory, Creativity and Happiness
  3. StoryAlity #7 – On “the 10-Year Rule” and Creativity
  4. StoryAlity #8 – More on the 10-Year Rule” and Creativity
  5. StoryAlity #8B – On the 10-year-rule and creativity in Standup Comedy
  6. StoryAlity #9 – How To Be More Creative
  7. StoryAlity #9B – Creativity in Science (and – The Arts, and Film)
  8. StoryAlity #10 – About The Creative Personality
  9. StoryAlity #11 – Wallas and the Creative Process
  10. StoryAlity #12 – Combining Practice Theory – and the Systems Model of Creativity
  11. StoryAlity #13- Creativity and Solved Domain Problems
  12. StoryAlity #14 – On some Romantic myths of Creativity
  13. StoryAlity #14B – Creativity – the missing link between “The Two Cultures”
  14. StoryAlity #14C – Two Crucial American Psychological Association speeches: J P Guilford (1950) and D T Campbell (1975).

Comments, always welcome.


JT Velikovsky

High-RoI Story/Screenplay/Movie and Transmedia Researcher

& Evolutionary Systems Theorist (i.e. Creativity Scholar)

The above is (mostly) an adapted excerpt, from my doctoral thesis: Communication, Creativity and Consilience in Cinema (2016).

It is presented here for the benefit of fellow screenwriting, filmmaking and creativity researchers. For more, see https://aftrs.academia.edu/JTVelikovsky

JT Velikovsky is also a produced feature film screenwriter and million-selling transmedia writer-director-producer.

He has been a professional story analyst for major film studios, film funding organizations, and for the national writer’s guild. For more see: http://on-writering.blogspot.com/



[1] Yet Herbert Simon (1996) also notes as one of the four indices of artificial things: `3. Artificial things can be characterized in terms of functions, goals, adaptation’ (Simon 1996b, p. 5). This specific criteria does not create a boundary between natural and artificial things – suggesting that Applied Evolutionary Epistemology (Gontier 2012) in aiming to identify the units, levels and mechanisms of selection – i.e. evolution – in both biology and culture – is a worthwhile pursuit. (In fact, I suggest: we pretty much have to do it, if we ever want to understand – and thus control and predict – our creativity…)

Also, I admire Gunaratne (2010) but am not so sure about the metaphysics in that same article (the Buddhism, etc), as I note Popper’s demarcation criteria for science. Harari (2015) also notes that Buddhism is not really a religion, as such.


Blaikie, NWH 2007, Approaches to Social Enquiry, 2nd edn, Polity Press, Cambridge.

Boden, MA 2004, The Creative Mind: Myths and Mechanisms, 2nd edn, Routledge, London; New York.

Gunaratne, SA 2010, ‘Determining the Scope of “International” Communication: A (Living) Systems Approach’, in GJ Golan, T Johnson & W Wanta (eds), International Media Communication in a Global Age, Routledge, New York, pp. 36-70.

Harari, Y. N. (2015). Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (First U.S. edition. ed.). New York: HarperCollins.

Koestler, A 1967, The Ghost In The Machine, Hutchinson, London.

Koestler, A 1964, The Act of Creation, Hutchinson, London.

Koestler, A 1978, Janus: A Summing Up, Hutchinson, London.

McGilchrist, I. 2009. The Master and his Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Simon, HA 1996, The Sciences of the Artificial, 3rd edn, MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.

Simonton, DK 2012, ‘Fields, Domains, and Individuals (Chapter)’, in MD Mumford (ed.), Handbook of Organizational Creativity, Elsevier Science, Oxford, UK, pp. 67-86.

Wilson, EO 1998, Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge, 1st edn, Knopf: Distributed by Random House, New York.

Suggested citation for this post:  

Velikovsky, JT (2015), `StoryAlity #100A – The 3 Universal Laws of Holon/Partons’, The StoryAlity weblog, https://storyality.wordpress.com/, StoryAlity, Sydney.

I also published academic papers with many of these ideas in them, e.g.: see

StoryAlity #122The IE2014 International Interactive Entertainment Conference

and see:

Flow Theory, Evolution & Creativity: or, ‘Fun & Games’ (Velikovsky 2014)

If you liked this post, you might also like:

  1. StoryAlity #100 – The Holon-Parton Structure of the Meme – the Unit of Culture (Velikovsky 2013, 2014)
  2. StoryAlity #101 – A Science of Memetic Culturology (Velikovsky 2013)
  3. and
  4. StoryAlity #14B – Creativity – the missing link between “The Two Cultures”
  5. and
  6. StoryAlity #71On Consilience in the Arts / Humanities
  7. and
  8. StoryAlity #70C – Systems Philosophy (Laszlo 1972)

and, most of all:

  1. StoryAlity #64 – Why Transmedia Is Destiny


4 thoughts on “StoryAlity #100A – The 3 Universal Laws of Holon/Partons

  1. Pingback: StoryAlity#132 – The holon/parton structure of the Meme, the unit of culture | StoryAlity

  2. Pingback: StoryAlity#137 – Culturology & the CES (Cultural Evolution Society) | StoryAlity

  3. Pingback: StoryAlity#143 – All of life is doing science | StoryAlity

  4. Pingback: StoryAlity#144 – The structure of the meme, the unit of culture (Encyc of InfoSci & Tech 2017) | StoryAlity

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