Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Thinking: More than the sum of the parts

The same ideas come up in science and philosophy over and over again. One of the big battles is between the reductionist/atomists and the holists (which has a concealed dualism).

Reductionists believe that everything can be reduced to atomic parts that can be studied individually so that you can put the entire back together from these component parts. Holists believe that the whole is more than the sum of the parts and so you cannot study the parts in isolation - it only has reality as a complete object. So there is something added that comes from the whole - the vagueness of the what is the dualistic nature of the viewpoint.

For me both are wrong. We can study the components but the important part that means the whole is more than the sum of the parts is how the parts are arranged. They are arranged heterogeneously, they are not randomly mixed and so there is some part we get from the view of the whole but we also get a lot from the view of the parts. What is important is the system the relationship between parts and whole. So Systems Theory is very important.

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