Frontpage Summary Full Text (free) Audiobook (free) Where to buy (optional) Video clips Podcasts

11.5. Holism and emergence

It is common to set up holism as the counterpart to reductionism. A reductionist takes a human being (or anything), breaks it down into its parts and tries to explain the whole through atoms, elementary particles, the fundamental forces of nature and a series of mysterious quantum phenomena with a significant element of chance.

Even Einstein was not happy with the latter; he believed that coincidences could not possibly be the truth about quantum phenomena.

On the other hand, holism goes the opposite way and says that the whole is more than the included parts. A human being is something more than the atoms that constitute the body.

Holism means that when we combine things, something new often arises, something more and different than the parts themselves. Emerging phenomena occur.

Things «grow into existence», which is a simple way of explaining emergence. You should get used to the word emergence first and last because this is the central mechanism in the universe – in my theory.

The term emergence is traditionally used when explaining how consciousness – that is, something mental, emotional and subjective – can arise from something physical and material. No such emergence mechanism has ever been found, yet this is a common notion.

When we now study how «the world» and «experience» are connected, we are in a mental, non-material landscape, i.e. idealism. We regard our ability to experience as fundamental, while everything else can be induced from this state and capacity.

The causal relationship is thus reversed.

In materialism, consciousness is emergent; in idealism, on the other hand, the notion of the world and the universe is emergent.

Therefore, we must put aside materialism and instead use emergence and holism to see how it can explain the world.

To our aid, we have the psychological and social sciences. Still, we must not forget that also many other disciplines deal with purely abstract phenomena, such as mathematics, logic, linguistics, cultural studies, etc.

All sciences have an abstract, mental side.