The philosophy of holism was created by Jan Smuts. The holists think that nature consists of a variety of wholes that can be broken down into smaller parts.
The holists view the historical process of evolution as an interaction between and creation of
wholes. Though drawing greatly from science, holism also has an unscientific side as well.
One of the most important aspects of holism is its view that wholes in nature cannot be understood if they are reduced to their components. In trying to examine parts of a whole, people lose their understanding of the essence of the thing.
Holists view the environment as a system of interconnected features. They believe that to understand any one specific question, one needs an
understanding of other aspects of the environment as well.
Holism has been of use to government decision makers as well as holist philosophers. The United States Forest Service seeks to comprehend the entire forest ecosystem prior to stepping in to solve an environmental problem.
In opposition to holism, reductionism perceives the world by looking at its smaller individual parts. Reductionism favors individualism, materialism, atomization, and a mechanistic outlook, all of
which the holists counter with highly differing views. The holists instead believe in community, networks, systems, and interdependence.
"Ecology must combine holism with reductionism if applications are to benefit society," says ecologist Eugene Odum. Many share this view, stressing a need to understand the environment at both an elemental and an aggregate level.
Philosophical papers on holismPragmatic holism