Holism vs. reductionism
Posted: Dec 29, 2017
Holism refers to the entire view based on the knowledge of the system, functions, and the properties of the components, their relationships, and interactions to the whole. Reductionism refers to the view where the complex system is broken into conceptual chunks enough to be measured and analyzed. Reductionism and holism help in understanding the system's nature and they improve system thinking. System thinking can be applied in information technology, sociology, physiology, and biology. The perspective of reductionism is that when the parts are assumed, the dynamics for the entire system can be derived. When using the holistic approach, it is possible for each component of the system to be analyzed and the system as the whole may be understood in a better way. System thinking is argued as the best way for understanding why the problem occurs and persists.
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Holism refers to an approach that emphasizes on the whole system instead of the parts. On the other hand, reductionism requires that the system is broken down into simplest parts and then the parts are analyzed (Jackson 2000). When considering the holism perspective, breaking down the system to parts is just a step; however, it is not a process in understanding how the system functions. Holism states that piecing the parts and studying the interrelations is essential in understanding the system (Verschuren 2001). Reductionism normally helps in detecting parts, identifying working conditions, and helping in understanding the interconnection of the system networks. Reductionism and holism help in understanding the system's nature and they improve system thinking. System thinking can be applied in information technology, sociology, physiology, and biology. This paper aims at examining and understanding the concept of reductionism and holism and how they relate to system dynamics.
Holism is derived from the word holos that means whole. Holism is based on the assumption of checking and understanding the object as a whole. Holistic approach normally helps in examining the processes and the finding the conclusion on the complex information such as patterns, processes, and configuration. Holistic approach also helps in understanding the system in a collective way such as group culture, team spirit, and the working of the organization as a whole. The holistic observation normally helps in understanding the verbal and physical behavior and the standpoint of holistic observation uses non-stimuli verbal instead of stimuli verbal (Verschuren 2001). Holistic approach also helps in understanding an object in terms of the pictures and it also helps in the parallel viewing of the objects in reality.
Holism normally focuses on the relationship between the parts and the system to being more symmetric than in reductionism. In holism, the natural system and its properties are normally viewed as being whole instead of as a collection of parts. The perception of holism is that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. According to Jackson (2000), breaking a system into individual parts through reductionism is just a method of approximation of the truth. Thus, in order to obtain the complete knowledge about the system, it is essential to connect the pieces again through the means of holism. Holism helps through the involvement in learning cycles that empowers our knowledge through introducing interdisciplinary similarities that takes into consideration methodology and structure (Verschuren 2001).
Reductionism is defined as the fragmentation of events or objects from a complex issue to small divisions so as to be solved individually. Thus, to reduce the stress of complex issues, each problem division in the project is handled predominantly. Sometimes, the strategy may fail when the individual areas are linked. The problem in each level is solved using different methodologies that do not fulfill as a solution when the whole issue is concerned. According to Verschuren (2001), reductionism methodology normally treats the characteristics of the whole as derived from the characteristics of its components. The knowledge of every part is enough and necessary in understanding the whole system. The perspective of reductionism is that when the parts are assumed, the dynamics for the entire system can be derived. Thus, reductionism explores the phenomena and the functioning of the system through the analytic and decomposition approach (Jackson 2000). It is claimed that knowing and understanding the connections between elements must be provided greater concern that the qualities of the elements.
Holism and reductionism
The main goal of reductionism is to establish a reference where a complex system is understood through acquiring knowledge of the components and their properties. Reductionism helps in reducing the complexity of the complex system through breaking the system down into fragments. The fragments are then subjected to different sub-disciplinary techniques. When using reductionism, it helps in finding the details and openings of the respective frameworks; thus, it tends to make it easy to find the path. Contrary, holism refers to the entire system as being a unique component that has been formed through aggregation of the parts (Sjostedt & Olsson 2004). Holism claims that the whole system is more and unique in relation to the aggregates of the system parts. Thus, separating the system into individual sections of the framework through reductionism is just the first step in the estimation of reality.
Holism tends to have many advantages over reductionism. In order to understand the entire system, it is essential to use the holistic approach. The approach does not divide the interconnection of the system components, but it helps in understanding the entire system. When using holism approach, it helps in pointing the behavior of the whole structure and also in explaining the principles. Reductionism also has some benefits. Reductionism normally helps in explaining the system in relation to data; however, it lacks the ability of finding the necessary principles (Sjostedt & Olsson 2004). A negative aspect of reductionism approach is that it does not offer philosophical basis of the study purpose. However, holism approach offers a good explanation when there is sufficient data and if the interaction between the components is present.
Because of the nature, complexity, and the interconnection of system, holism tends to be better than reductionism. Today, most organizations are facing a lot of setbacks in growth and progress. However, with the help of holism, necessary adjustments can be done to help in running the organization successfully (Sjostedt & Olsson 2004). When organizations use the holistic approach, it is easy for each system's components to be analyzed, and the system as the whole may be understood in a better way. Reductionism is not the appropriate approach to use because it does not offer sufficient information for understanding the whole system.
Systems thinking refer to the process of understanding how things may influence one another. System thinking is the answer to the increasing environmental complexity in which an individual lives and function. System approach is for identifying the system and then explaining the behavior of the properties of the entire system. System thinking helps in understanding the social system behavior and applying engineering principles to the system through understanding the mechanical system thinking (Jackson 2003). In system thinking, the attention is normally focused on the interrelations or interdependence of between the parts and the environment. It also considers how the properties emerge that defines the entire system. The aim of system thinking is for designing integrated frameworks that have the ability of solving complex issues and also allowing the exchange and the communication with relevant disciplines.
According to Wang (2008), the approach of system thinking in technology and management is proven to be well accepted and fruitful. System thinking normally encourages creativity through examining the problem while focusing on different viewpoints. This approach can be used in organizations as it allows managers to arrange and also rearrange units in a variety of ways; thus, allowing for flexibility. An area where system thinking has proved as being accurate is in recurring issues that happened in previous activities, and the fixing of the issues should be frequent. System thinking is also accurate in issues where resolving the factors are not explicit.
Holism refers to the entire view based on the knowledge of the system, functions, and the properties of the components, their relationships, and interactions to the whole. Reductionism refers to the view where the complex system is broken into conceptual chunks enough to be measured and analyzed. System thinking is an approach for solving the problem through viewing the problem as part of the whole system instead of reacting to a specific part, events, or outcomes. Based on the understanding of holism and reductionism, system thinking is argued as the best way for understanding why the problem occurs and persists. It is because it helps in understanding the parts in relation to the entire system. The application of system thinking has caused a range of human interests. This paper has provided a basic understanding of holism and reductionism. With the discussion, it is easy to understand how reductionism differential individual components and how holism plays a role in understanding the whole system.
Jackson, C (2003). Systems thinking England John Wiley & Sons
Jackson, M (2000). Systems approaches to management New York Springer Science & Business Media
Sjostedt, G & Olsson, M (2004). Systems approaches and their applications New York Springer Science & Business Media
Verschuren, M (2001). Holism versus Reductionism in Modern Social Science Research Quality and Quantity, 35 (4) 389-405
Wang, Y. (2008). Software Engineering Foundations Boca Raton, Taylor & Francis
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