Holistic Thought in Social Science by Denis C. Phillips

By Denis C. Phillips

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By contrast, Holism 2 maintains that the properties of organic wholes or systems, after they have been found, cannot be explained in terms of the properties of the parts. This is analogous to arguing (although holists would not use this example) that when the properties of water have been ascertained, they cannot then be accounted for in terms of the properties and "summation" of hydrogen and oxygen. It will be shown in some detail later on that Holism 2 has had a prominent position in the social sciences; it is sufficient at this stage to illustrate Paul Weiss's adherence to the thesis: "So, here I have at last put my finger on the sore spot, the touching of which has for ages hurt the protagonists of analytical-reductionist orthodoxythe concept of wholeness.

Individualism fails because society is not "merely an ex- Reductionism, Individuals, and Systems tension of the individual being" ;12 society exerts "pressure" on individuals, thereby showing that it has powers not possessed by the individual. " His next words give a clear statement of several organismic theses: "But, it will be said that, since the only elements making up society are individuals, the first origins of sociological phenomena cannot but be psychological. In reasoning thus, it can be established just as easily that organic phenomena may be explained by inorganic phenomena.

But from about 1930 biological organicism began to take on new dimensions, and became something beyond a mere group of five interrelated holistic theses set in opposition to the analytic method. 3 Reductionism, Individuals, and Systems D 192o's and 193o's, two young Conti~ nental biologists, Paul Weiss and Ludwig von Ber~ talanffy, were thinking along similar lines; and their later careers in some ways continued on parallel courses. Both reached eminence in their respective fields, both became professors in North America, and both main~ tained a common core of ideas related to holism.

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