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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 ?
Using the writings of Theodore Roosevelt, Aldo Leopold, Holmes Rolston III, and Warwick Fox as representative, Kheel (visiting scholar at the Graduate Theological Union) criticizes holist nature philosophy as being concerned with "species," "the ecosystem," or "the biotic community" while neglecting individual beings.
In the social sciences, complexity theory replaces the determinism of systems theory (and its focus on the unfolding of predictable outcomes of social evolution) with holist models that focus on social evolution as a non-linear process of adaptation to change and the emergence of unanticipated patterns of human interaction (Nowotny 2005; Capra 2005).
Such a holist postulate appears more in keeping with actual conceptions of space, time, and energy/matter than the dualist postulate.
The project will adopt a systemic and holist approach to its
This dependence must be the case if social welfare is built from individual utilities; as a science, economics cannot consider society in a holist manner, as a superindividual with its own preferences distinct from those of its members.
holist or analyst, meaning that to the analyst the entire content is presented consequently in contrast to the presentation of the content to the holist, where an overview of chapters and subchapters along with summaries is optionally offered.
This is the central question: whether economics today is monist in its hard core (axiological) or holist (management, for instance, includes a variety of values).
In the absence of a decisive argument showing why substantive moral considerations should not be taken into account in assessing competing explanations, it seems odd that a pragmatic holist would wish to role them out in advance.
We were always nervous of those Richard Rogers ideas on glass and transparency, the Holist spokesman went on.
One could be a holist about the reason-giving force of considerations and yet believe moral concepts capable of nontrivial exhaustive definitions.
On the other hand the holist, or 'social realist', approaches within the same domain tends to emphasize ways in which individual behavior is shaped by the wider collectiveness or normative frameworks within which individuals are situated.
The differences identified by Pask include tendencies to adopt what he termed holist and serialist approaches to learning.