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  Holism (from Greek holos, ‘whole’), in medical practice, refers to intentions or procedures which relate to body-mind-spirit, rather than to the post-Cartesian divided parts. It must also be the opposite of reductionist, and therefore be incompatible with any procedure which follows the rules of Western science. A scientific proposal must be reduced in size to enable it it relate to the body of preceding knowledge, and be testable by available techniques. Although a holistic procedure cannot be explained in scientific terms, the effectiveness of any procedure, holistic or otherwise, used for the treatment or aleviation of illness can be tested in clinical trials and shown to be useful or not.

The first use of the word is attributed to the South African politician J.C. Smuts in his book Holism and Evolution (1926). However, it is one of many attempts to resolve the problem of dualism in science and philosophy, which has been under active consideration by more serious thinkers since the dawn of time.

Holism, in sociology, is the belief that societies should be seen as wholes, or as systems of interrelated components. Societies are believed to have properties which cannot be deduced from the characteristics of individuals; proponents argue that analysis should thus start with large-scale social institutions. Social structure is given primacy in explaining social outcomes. DA TG

See also action perspective; evolutionism; functionalism; individualism; structuralism; structure-agency debate; system; systems theory.Further reading A.O. Lovejoy, The Revolt Against Dualism; , René Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy.



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