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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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.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 ?
Recall that the instrumentalist accepts the explanatory critique and endorses the skepticism about social purposes and moral principles it seems to imply, whereas the quietist treats the explanatory critique as normatively inert, and then goes on to assert moral principles as part of something like Dworkin's "constructive interpretation." The holist, though, treats both normative and historical or explanatory argument as relevant to the ultimate practical assessment of a legal doctrine or regime.
Overall, the book offers a dense but systematic analysis of the transition from social to stakeholder citizenship and illuminates the deep challenges progressive greens face in articulating claims to justice within the contemporary holist culture that normative greens have sought to advance.
He says that holists not only plan to study the whole society by an impossible method but also plan to control and reconstruct it as a whole.
Pierce ve Reus-Smit ise, modernist ve postmodernist insacilik olarak iki kategori sunmakta, modernist insaciligi da, sistemik ve butuncu (holist) olarak iki kategoriye ayirmaktadir.
Property theorists can typically be described as either reductionists or holists. Reductionists, including those in law and economics, want to reduce property to something smaller or make property reflect directly the purposes it serves--be they efficiency, fairness, or even, in a way, human flourishing.
Van den Brink is aware of the recent writing of Alasdair MacIntyre, and includes his account of tradition-constituted rationality in his overview of the development of holist epistemology.
As a holist, he asks us to be open not only to unfamiliar perspectives but also to the possibility that they will force us to reformulate our precepts.
Rawls refuses the holist and collectivist interpretation of the general will and maintains that Rousseau never envisioned it as the will of the supra-individual collectivity.
Mihaela Frunza's preferences go to Goran Lantz, with his applied holist ethics.
"A Pilot Study of Healing Touch and Progressive Relaxation for Chronic Neuropathic Pain in Persons with Spinal Cord Injury." J Holist Nurs 2006; 24(4): 231-240.