Holism versus “Stand-Back-a-Little-ism”… Nomenclature and the Fetishism of Detail and Exactitude.
[It’s usually at this point in similar discussion that science fetishists will flag up there favourite science-less “pilloried fool”, homeopathy. But, unlike holism (here for the sake of redefinition, with a little “h”), homeopathy IS flawed, as even a partial sum of its flawed parts do not add up to its claimed totality]
…Imagine if you will a reclamation warehouse filled with furniture from every age of the last century, hundreds of dressers, tables and chairs, hatstands with cane racks and writing desks.A person walks in never having seen this type of building before and says:
“My, look at all those chairs.”
A scientist might then count the chairs and suggest that only seventeen percent of the furniture is in fact made up of chairs and though they aren’t yet sure if the chaise-longue even qualify under that heading, this could reduce the percentage drastically.
That given percentage being true does not make the holistic overview spoken aloud by the none scientist false.
“They’re not even all the same height or material”, says the scientist under his breath, sulking a little. ∞
Holism’s pedantic and reductionist critics fail to see that a hyper-intellectualised “playground umbridge”-borne logic proves little; but instead further highlights a sense of a disciplines overarching fear over loss of control regarding the micro-management of smaller, neater logical inferences and repeatable data implication (occasionally cited as “empiricist proof”), but really no more proof of a logical core at the heart of these flawed anthropo-centric “exact” sciences than the interpretive theological texts of complex faiths prove the existence of their pantheons; or, any more than a pedantic repetition of paradoxes and flawed set theory can make actual catalogues of actual books, that may or may not contain lists containing themselves, disappear into logical air (did Bertrand Russell come to accept this in part?).
Holism in its often simple arrival as a intuited solution or useful model in any given situation really only suggests the identification of an unfixed/unbounded set theory, a fuzzy edged Venn diagram with elements of non-empirical data as an accepted condition of its integral rationalist holism.
It suggests a stepping back to see the pattern in the wallpaper in order to NOT misconstrue parts or details as fixed and distinct wholes.
Pattern Loss can be experienced at various points due to proximity to detail, making a singular and so interpretable feature of such detail (The inset image seems to have no repetition when isolated and so seems to be unpredictable, yet stepping back reveals an overall pattern to be used as a guide for further prediction of (at least local) eventualities).
It is as this, that I find holism useful in the exploitation of our innate evolutionary bias towards pattern recognition, especially in a teaching and learning scenario, and again in particular, in the initial introduction of subjects that require progressive/constructivist delivery in order to allow students to get a feel for their probable journey through the more specific material to be covered, and even perhaps a stronger sense of value for the individual parts of the whole program.
For example this overview (a work in progress) of the appropriate scope of work to be evidenced by students as part of a module hand-in.
Though not exact by number, nor precise to one particular eventuality, this gives a general feel or overview of the idea, allowing students to re-evaluate their process/methodology and general output, whereas in isolation, the discussion of evidencing failure may become problematic, here it might show the value of those failures as further evidence of process, progression and development.
Of course going back to the wallpaper analogy, this “pattern” whether actual or simply fractal patternicity could be still be (and in most cases is) a partial reveal, a phenomenon of inferred or local pattern that if viewed from even “further away” might reveal its presumed importance to be less so, a local “truth” if you will
Like the seeming importance of ellipses and circles in the discussion of models of the known universe (still yet fully unrevealed in its totality).
a. any of a number of theories that hold that some objects or phenomena can be explained as constructed out of a small number of distinct types of simple indivisible entities.
b. any theory that holds that an understanding of the parts is logically prior to an understanding of the whole.
* – yes, this does need to be reinforced – see the arguments over “semantic holism“; all rooted in micro-empirical dogmatic analysis.
∞ – Another analogy might be that to teach a student Football, who had never heard or seen the game, you could begin by showing them how to run and stop, swerve and run in the opposite direction (without using a ball), and then, in a separate session show them how, when punted (by a device/machine and not a foot), a ball reacts differently depending where or how squarely it is hit. All useful information and knowledge based training in the broader scheme.
However, starting by showing the student an actual game of football, might possibly be a better opening gambit, even if that game is not the best example of the game, nor clearly the exact and/or perfectly didactic model of any game they might play in future.