MODERN TRENDS IN HOLISTIC PHILOSOPHY

The 20th century gradually saw emergence of a variety of new paradigms simultaneously in various scientific fields that forced philosophy to re-examine the reductionist approach resulting in the emergence of holistic thinking in philosophy. In the scientific field, some new paradigms have been major influences in emergence of holistic thinking. Important amongst these are Relatively Theory, Quantum Mechanics, Big-Bang theory of the origin and evolution of Universe, General Systems Theory, non-equilibrium thermodynamics, mathematics of chaos and fractals, Gaia-hypothesis etc. In primary healthcare, the term ‘holistic’ has been used to describe approaches that take into account social considerations and other intuitive judgements. The term holism, and so called approaches, appeared in psychosomatic medicine in the 1970s (Lipowski, Z. j), when they were considered one possible way to conceptualize psychosomatic phenomena. Instead of charting one-way causal links from psyche to soma, or vice-versa, it aimed at a systemic model, where multiple biological, psychological and social factors were seen as interlinked. Other, alternative approaches in the 1970s were psychosomatic and somatopsychic approaches, which concentrated on causal links only from psyche to soma, or from soma to psyche, respectively. At present it is commonplace in psychosomatic medicine to state that psyche and soma cannot really be separated for practical or theoretical purposes. A disturbance on any level – somatic, psychic, or social – will radiate to all the other levels, too. In this sense, psychosomatic thinking is similar to the biopsychosocial model of medicine. Many alternative medicine practitioners adopt a holistic approach to healing. The new approaches in philosophy together with new paradigms in various scientific and other fields have provided the basis of modern holistic philosophy.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin has introduced the concept of noosphere. It has been introduced within the broader evolutionary conceptual framework. The life is explained in terms of natural evolution of self-organizing matter. The evolution, however, is viewed as purposive, leading via man to an eventual ‘Omega point’, a sort of convergence between mankind, the noosphere, and God. John Smuts (1926) had given an evolutionary and spiritual approach to holism having links with such concept of ‘noosphere’.
A.N. Whitehead, in his book SCIENCE AND MODERN WORLD (1925) developed the theory of Organic Mechanism and proposed that the human life history is a part within the life history of some larger, deeper, more complete pattern (p. 109). In his book ADVENTURES OF IDEAS (1933), he developed integrated philosophical apparoach and pioneered a move towards systems thinking which views science and philosophy as different aspects of the human mind.
J.G. Bennett in his four-volume book THE DREAM UNIVERSE (1956-1966) attempted to bring all scientific knowledge within the scope of one comprehensive theory of existence. Dealing with all branches of science, the theory shows the relations between them in terms of a set of fundamental categories derived from empirical observation, a geometry of six dimensions and a set of existential hypotheses defining the subject matter of the chief scientific disciplines.
Oliver Reiser in the book THE INTEGRATION OF HUMAN KNOWLEDGE (1958) sought techniques for the integration of all human knowledge and offered a basis for both individual philosophy and a world philosophy. He advocated a synthesis of science and philosophy, and a re-evaluation of man’s knowledge of himself and of the sciences to develop a system of thought linking man to the universe. In COSMIC HUMANISM (1966), he presented a theory of an eight-dimensional cosmos, based on integrative principles from science, religion and art. In COSMIC HUMANISM AND WORLD UNITY (1975) he further developed the concepts of cosmic humanism stating that it “is a complete world view, a theory of knowledge, a cosmology and a possible universal religion”
Ludvig von Bertalanffy, the founder of General Systems Theory, in his book PROFILES OF LIFE (1952) proposed an organic theory of life. He expressed the view that the phenomenon of life can not be resolved into elementary units, but depends upon interactions, organization and dynamic order.
Arthur Koestler in rejecting the reductionist philosophy developed the concept of ‘HOLON’ as a system consisting of subsystems, which is also a subsystem of some supersystem. He further developed the concept of SOHO (Self-regulating Open Heirarchic Order), which is an explanation of a form of dynamic equilibrium (‘homeostasis’) that will occur only if the self-assertive and integrative tendencies of the components of holons counterbalance each other. If this does not happen, there will be disorder and chaos. His theory has profound implications for society and for understanding the human health in totality.
The shift from reductionist to holistic thinking is obvious in various fields of knowledge but what about the consequent social change? Social change is usually evolutionary, but occasionally it is revolutionary and is accompanied by a social paradigm shift. A social paradigm is a constellation of attitudes, beliefs, values and experiences, shared by most of the members of a society and enabling them to communicate successfully and effectively with one another (Kirk McNulty, 1989). The last shift of social paradigm in Europe, from the ‘Medieval Paradigm’ to the ‘Industrial Paradigm’ started during Renaissance. The next shift seems to be a ‘Consciousness Paradigm’ that is underway now (Willis Harman, 1988). The direct observation of a variety of new paradigms provides an evidence for this paradigm shift. In addition, evidence for such shift is also provided by sample survey data about people’s attitudes and attitude shifts. The ‘Consciousness Paradigm’ seems to be very like the new holistic paradigm.

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