What are some strong arguments for logical holism? The idea that the world operates in such a way that no part can be known without the whole being known first seems extremely foreign to me. This is because most phenomena seems to be explained by examining what exist at the smallest scale like modern physics seems to show us. Is there any strong case for it? Any strong argument, especially one that recently came about?

  • This is usually called methodological holism, the opposite of reductionism. I am not sure where Wikipedia got "logical holism" but it uses it inconsistently. In another place it means "that a theory can only be understood in its entirety" which can be confirmational holism or meaning holism, all different things.
    – Conifold
    Jul 13, 2021 at 10:14

2 Answers 2


I haven't read through it but this book Interpreting Bodies: Classical and Quantum Objects in Modern Physics (hopefully you can check it out online) has a lot of essays on holism, especially Ch. 3 by Tim Maudlin Part and Whole in Quantum Mechanics

How Einstein presents the clearest view of a certain kind of reductionism in a letter, how Einstein presumably worried a radical Holism would make science near impossible, and how if we take quantum formalism seriously, Einstein's picture cannot be maintained.

Here is the ending of his essay: "The world is not just a set of separately existing localized objects, externally related only by space and time. Something deeper, and more mysterious, knits together the fabric of the world. We have only just come to the moment in the development of physics that can begin to contemplate what that might be."


Physics is mostly reductionistic. But how can you know its parts without the whole they are submerged in? If there was not a bigger whole to gain knowledge with (instruments, including human beings) with there could be no knowledge at all.

But physics is not reductionistic only. There are a lot of examples (the majority in fact) where knowledge of the parts is not necessary to understand the whole. The weather, hadron physics (though the quark model comes in handy), geology, gasses in classical thermodynamics (considered as continuous media), classical EM, biological systems, etc. They all function well without reference to a smaller unit. Even the quark and lepton model can be considered as such.

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