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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.
References in periodicals archive ?
Along with the advance of the plot, the story describes Nick's understanding of ecological holism by his treatment to other creatures in nature.
So, noticing that causal-explanatory holism involves no mysterious operation with metaphysical entities, the authors formulate three necessary and sufficient conditions for its use: 1) there are multiple levels of description, or in other words, properties of an individual level and properties of aggregate level; 2) high-level properties are determined by the properties of the individual level, but can be realized through many different configurations (multiple realizability); 3) causal relationships between some high-level properties of the system can be identified in some observable variations in the micro-level.
Perls was an admirer of Smuts and Clarkson, stated that even though Perls met Smuts only once, he was deeply influenced by Smuts's Holism and evolution and that a large number of his later ideas could be traced to it (Perls, 1947).
In this issue we see pioneers bringing their holism into their practice.
Absolutism is highly influenced by the idea of certainty and holism of traditional epistemology.
He claims that such an approach "limits the (practitioner's) intelligence" and at its worst negates the essential holism and individual-centredness of true Bowen therapy.
Strong power holism imagines that a single large system of powers exists, where each power is connected with every other, all of them collectively determining each other's abilities.
Nominalism and holism, Beiser tells us, provide the philosophical underpinnings for this historicist tradition nominalism, because of its emphasis on the individual and its rejection of universal essences and concepts as artificial constructions of the intellect, and holism, because it stresses the need to study the whole structure in relation to each of its individual parts.
I am specifically interested in how previous research investigated the role that behaviorism plays in Quine's philosophy of language, Quine's empiricist rejection of the analytic-synthetic distinction, his naturalized epistemology, and his meaning holism in the form of the indeterminacy of translation.
The notion that holism in public policy is dangerously lacking in perspective permeates through the whole set of essays.
The motivation for considering these two apparently disparate subjects resides in the concept of holism.