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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
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


  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.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



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 Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


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.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
References in periodicals archive ?
Anti-reductionists argue that intentions are "not reducible to complexes of beliefs and desires" (Mere 1992a: 300) but are "on a par with desires and beliefs" (Bratman 1987: 22).
In making his blankly truistic responses to the sceptic the anti-reductionist is within his rights: what he says is sanctioned by our practice with these concepts.
As an alternative to the impasse, Wright proposes that we relax Wittgenstein's strictures against systematicity to construct an answer to the question, "What kind of thing could have the grammatical features of meaning and intention?", and thereby give substance to the anti-reductionist's response to Kripke's sceptic.
These conditions severally articulate features of the "grammar" of intention acknowledged as part of the anti-reductionist's case in [sections]II.
Here the anti-reductionist can only confess to an inability to cope with two future selves...
I offer here an anti-reductionist solution to the fission puzzle which leaves pretheoretical moral and prudential intuitions intact.
231-243)--also have anti-reductionist solutions, but I will not attempt those solutions here.
The upshot of this is that I do not find in this essay a persuasive argument that there is any basic defect in the traditional debate between reductionists and anti-reductionists. Mechanism, if it is to be conceived as an ongoing metaphysical project rather than a historical curiosity should be conceived as embracing the most sophisticated contemporary versions of reductionism, and Brandon's own account strikes me as a plausible version of anti-reductionism.
Now the anti-reductionists are on the counterattack.

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