What is Holism? Proposal for a General Conception
- 187 Downloads
What sort of dependence subsists among the parts of a holistic system? The suggestion set out in this chapter is that generic ontological dependence is the way in which the parts of a holistic system depend on each other. Having a general conception of holism in view, I formulate generic ontological dependence in such a way that it does not refer to the existence of the parts as such, but to the parts insofar as they have certain properties.
Which properties? I introduce the notion of parts by which a system of the kind S is constituted, i.e., constituent parts, or constituents for short. For every constituent of an S, there is a family of properties that make something a constituent of an S provided that there is a suitable arrangement with other things. Generic ontological dependence among the constituents of a holistic system relates to things insofar as they have some of the properties that belong to such a family of properties.
These two steps yield the following proposal for a general conception of holism: Consider a system of the kind S and its constituent parts. For every constituent of an S, there is a family of qualitative properties that make something a constituent of an S provided that there is a suitable arrangement. An S is holistic if and only if the following condition is satisfied by all the things which are its constituents: with respect to the instantiation of some of the properties that belong to such a family of properties, a thing is ontologically dependent in a generic way on there actually being other things together with which it is arranged in such a way that there is an S [1.2]. Discussing the application of this proposal to candidates for holistic systems, it is shown that it contains a general and substantial criterion for holism which excludes trivial cases. In particular, it is argued that functional definitions of parts are not sufficient to make a case for holism [1 3] Finally, two types of holism within this general conception are introduced: a bottom-up conceptualization of holism that begins with the constituents and their properties, and a top-down conceptualizations that begins with the properties of the whole. It is shown that the proposed general view of holism covers both these conceptualizations [1.4].
KeywordsGeneral Conception Social Community Constituent Part Downward Causation Suitable Arrangement
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.