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1. any doctrine that a system may have properties over and above those of its parts and their organization
2. the treatment of any subject as a whole integrated system, esp, in medicine, the consideration of the complete person, physically and psychologically, in the treatment of a disease
3. Philosophy one of a number of methodological theses holding that the significance of the parts can only be understood in terms of their contribution to the significance of the whole and that the latter must therefore be epistemologically prior


  1. any form of sociological theory which emphasizes the primacy of ‘social structure’, ‘social system’, etc., in determining social outcomes, and in sociological explanations. The opposite position is METHODOLOGICAL INDIVIDUALISM. As used by POPPER (1957), the term is mainly a pejorative one. see also SITUATIONAL LOGIC.
  2. in a more neutral sense, the tendency of sociology, in contrast with other more specialized social sciences, to maintain an all-inclusive view of social phenomena.



an idealist philosophy of “wholes.” The term was introduced by J. Smuts in his Holism and Evolution (1926).

According to holism, the world is governed by a process of creative evolution, or the process of creating new “wholes.” In the course of evolution, the forms of matter are transformed and renewed, never remaining constant; the holistic process rejects the law of conservation of matter. An unperceived, nonmaterial field, similar to Leibnitz’ monad, which remains constant throughout all of an organism’s changes, is considered to be the bearer of all organic attributes. The “whole” is interpreted in holism as the highest philosophical concept, which synthesizes in itself the objective and the subjective; it is considered to be the “last reality of the universe.” According to holism, the highest concrete form of organic “whole” is the human personality. Imparting a mystical character to the “factor of wholeness,” holism considers it to be nonmaterial and unknowable.

Holistic ideas have been developed by A. Meyer-Abich in Germany and A. Leman in France. In modern Western literature the term is sometimes used to designate the principle of integrity.


Bogomolov, A. S. Ideia razvitiia v burzhuaznoi filosofii 19 i 20 vekov. Moscow, 1962.
Kremianskii, V. I. Strukturnye urovni zhivoi materii. Moscow, 1969.
Haldane, J. S. The Philosophical Basis of Biology. London, 1931.



The view that the whole of a complex system, such as a cell or organism, is functionally greater than the sum of its parts. Also known as organicism.
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