What is Holism?

An Wikipedia definition is:

Holism (from ὅλος holos, a Greek word meaning all, entire, total) is the idea that all the properties of a given system (biological, chemical, social, economic, mental, linguistic, etc.) cannot be determined or explained by its component parts alone. Instead, the system as a whole determines in an important way how the parts behave.


In other words, Holism is a property of any System. But what is Systems? Wikipedia says:

System is a set of interacting or interdependent entities, real or abstract, forming an integrated whole.

Solar System

Then, Holism could be used as an approach to understand the reality or abstraction. No?. Yes!.

A map-printed is a system, in this case it represents a specific geography/location (reality). Its elements or parts are: paths, orientation, size/scale, blocks, streets, traffic signs, etc.
Commonly, this map-printed is called model.

Older map of Tawaintisuyu

A PC is other example of system. In Software Engineering a Database Server is a set of elements as PC-server, DDBB engine, tables, rows, columns, metadata, data, constrains, etc. A representation of the Database Server could be a Entity-Relation model.

ER diagram

The Global warming Problem is other kind of System and it is possible to get a model too . It is a complex problem because is a big-System with many element and unknow relationships beetwen its parts. There is not enough paper for drawing this model.

Causes and effects

Well, Holism is an approach that help us to interpret a System.

Here a table that summarize all that a bit more clearly.

Holism versus Reductionism




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