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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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.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 ?
at 500 (discussing "wholism" as a "theory of radical individualism" that "asserts that there are no intersections").
This relationship, in keeping with the epistemological precepts of a human and global "materialist wholism," could be termed social globality.
The presentation and exploration of the genesis and relationships of the global security regime's components has been, hopefully, multi-faceted and dynamic in the tradition of "materialist wholism." The perspective elaborated to treat the conjunctural, immanent, structural, and emergent components of the global security regime combined traditions from the analysis of international relations with others from political science and social science in general: critical realism, critical and materialist international political economy.
This natural revelation is evident in the wholism, spiritual realism and communalism of the African culture and its people.
We need to return home to the bosom of "Mama Africa" and affirm God's "natural revelation" gifts of wholism, spirituality and communality by faith that have made our African majority a resilient people.
Dodds considers the concept of "holistic dog care" as wholism, "the original, traditional form of health care that encompasses the whole body and the ambient environment." In wholism, the sum of the body is more than the sum of its constituent parts, so any treatment that addresses a sole aspect of the dog's body would be considered incomplete and inadequate.
From its very historical and cultural context, it is family-centered, not female-centered, and it is first and foremost concerned with race empowerment rather than female empowerment, which, in reality, is a part of, not separate from, the wholism of Africana life.
Moving between a "the accused speaks" model and evidentiary realism--suggested by the law--and a transcendent wholism that provides an omniscient eye--suggested by Scripture--the novel defines for itself an arena in which it must negotiate too loose and too strict an adherence to fact, relying on the mystery of fiction and its natural confessionary attributes.
The Challenge of Wholism Nursing practice, as it is taught today, is based on the assumption that it is best to treat the "whole" client.
I believe that the idea of wholism, which Henderson sees in Afrocentricity (or is this Africanity?), is a key reason he argues for a new paradigm in politics.
Africans know through symbolic imagery and rhythm, while Europeans know through counting and measuring." (49) Nichols' explanation of symbolic imagery and rhythm is focused on knowledge through wholism and constituent parts versus knowledge through the parts leading to the whole.
This is further evidence of the wholism that undergirds the African existence.