Discipline: Philosophy

Any view which emphasizes the whole of something as distinct from its parts.

In particular, this doctrine says that the whole in question cannot be predicted from or explained in terms of its parts (also see emergence theories); or else that the whole is more important than its parts (as in, for example, collectivist political theories which say that the interests of the individual must be subordinated to those of the state).

In philosophy of science, holism says that empirical statements cannot be conclusively verified individually, but 'our statements about the external world face the tribunal of sense experience not individually but only as a corporate body' (W. V. O. Quine).

Holism contrasts with individualism and reductionism.

Also see: methodological theories, organicism, vitalism

W V O Quine, 'Two Dogmas of Empiricism', Philosophical Review (1951), 41; reprinted with revisions in W V O Quine's From a Logical Point of View (1953)


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