A wide-reaching term, designating views in which the individual
elements of a system are determined by their relations to all
other elements of that system. Being highly relational, holistic
theories do not see the sum of the parts as adding up to the whole.
In addition to the individual parts of a system, there are "emergent,"
or "arising," properties that add to or transform the
individual parts. As such, holistic theories claim that no element
of a system can exist apart from the system in which it is a part.
Holistic theories can be found in philosophical, religious, social,
or scientific doctrines. An example of a holistic scientific theory
is Gaia, in which the earth and all of its life processes are
seen as self-regulating and interdependent components of a much
larger cosmic system. An example of a holistic theological doctrine
is panentheism ("everything in God"), in which every
part of the universe, including human and nonhuman life, is seen
as a part of God. Contrast with atomism.
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