Any view which emphasizes the whole of something as distinct from its parts.

In particular, this doctrine says that the whole in question cannot be predicted from or explained in terms of its parts (also see emergence theories); or else that the whole is more important than its parts (as in, for example, collectivist political theories which say that the interests of the individual must be subordinated to those of the state).

In philosophy of science, holism says that empirical statements cannot be conclusively verified individually, but ‘our statements about the external world face the tribunal of sense experience not individually but only as a corporate body’ (W. V. O. Quine).

Holism contrasts with individualism and reductionism.

Also see: methodological theories, vitalism, organicism

W V O Quine, ‘Two Dogmas of Empiricism’, Philosophical Review (1951), 41; reprinted with revisions in W V O Quine’s From a Logical Point of View (1953)


The exact meaning of “holism” depends on context. Smuts originally used “holism” to refer to the tendency in nature to produce wholes from the ordered grouping of unit structures.[3] However, in common usage, “holism” usually refers to the idea that a whole is greater than the sum of its parts.[4] In this sense, “holism” may also be spelled “wholism“, and it may be contrasted with reductionism or atomism.[5]

Diet and health

The term holistic when applied to diet or medical health refers to intuitive approach to food, eating, or lifestyle.[6] One example is in the context of holistic medicine, “holism” refers to treating all aspects of a person’s health, including psychological and societal factors, rather than only his/her physical conditions or symptoms.[7] In this sense, holism may also be called “holiatry“.[8] Several approaches are used by medical doctors, dietitians, and religious institutions, usually recommended based on an individual basis.[9][10][11] Adherents of religious institutions that practice a holistic dietary and health approach have been shown have longer lifespans than those of surrounding populations, including Hinduism,[9] Shinto,[12] and the Seventh-Day Adventist Church

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