Holism conference – Call for Papers: 31st Mar 2017


Holism: possibilities and problems


An international interdisciplinary conference

Part of ‘“One world”: logical and ethical implications of holism’, a project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, UK

Centre for Psychoanalytic Studies, University of Essex, UK

8 – 10 September 2017

Venue: Essex Business School, the University of Essex

Call for papers


We invite contributions from both established and emerging scholars and practitioners in a wide range of disciplines, including psychoanalysis, philosophy, politics, psychology, history, the arts, science, education, health care, architecture, and spirituality.

Submitting an abstract

  • Please submit abstracts of up to 250 words to ckhmcm@essex.ac.uk by Friday 31 March 2017.

  • On one page please include title and abstract but no author details; on another page (of the same file) please include full name, title, address, email, and institutional or professional affiliation.

  • Standard paper presentations will be for 20 minutes plus 10 minutes for discussion.

  • Proposals for other formats such as panels, workshops, performances, and posters will also be considered.

  • Decisions of acceptance will be communicated by Friday 14 April 2017

Confirmed speakers include:

George Hogenson, Christian Kerslake, Harald Atmanspacher, Inna Semetsky, Joe Cambray, Joshua Ramey, Paul Bishop, Christina Sjöström, Megumi Yama

This international, interdisciplinary conference will explore the possibilities and problems to which the concept of holism gives rise, both academically and in practice. 

Across many areas of contemporary culture we hear the concept of holism being invoked, as in holistic science, holistic spirituality, holistic healthcare, and holistic education. While there are different varieties of holism, each case implies a perspective in which the whole of a system is considered to be more important than the sum of its parts. Advocates of holism associate it with desirable qualities such as inclusion, integration, balance, and wider vision and champion it as a remedy for the fragmentation that is considered to beset the modern world. Critics argue that holism is vague, erases differences, and, by subordinating individual elements to a superior whole, ultimately leads to totalitarianism.

Key questions:

  • What are the varieties of holism?
  • What is the ‘whole’ to which holism refers?
  • Why does holism have such cultural salience at the present time?
  • Why does holism attract such strong positive and negative valuations?
  • How can we study holism at a requisite depth to determine its nature and ethical implications?
  • Where does a ‘whole’ begin and end?
  • What conceptions of difference are evident in the play between a whole and its elements?
  • What presuppositions about unity and identity may be implicit or explicit in holistic thought?
  • What processes, synthetic or otherwise, might be involved in the production of ‘wholes’?
  • What problems might the ‘balance’ of a ‘whole’ entail?

‘One World’: Logical and Ethical implications of Holism: An exploration through the thought of C.G. Jung and Gilles Deleuze

EHP logo 1a

Two major twentieth-century thinkers, each of whose work is a productive site for in-depth exploration of concepts of the whole, are the Swiss depth psychologist C. G. Jung (1875-1961) and the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze (1925-1995), and important strands of the conference will engage with their work, individually and in comparison.  However, other approaches to the possibilities and problems of holism are equally welcome.

Jung’s Analytical Psychology and Deleuze philosophy of ‘difference’ may resonate around the following key concepts; desire and libido (psychic energy), archetype, symbol and Idea-Problem, and individuation as an immanent ethics. The idea of the ‘whole’ takes many forms in the thought of Jung and Deleuze. Arguably Jung’s notion of the Unus Mundus – an alchemical term meaning ‘one unitary world’, (Jung 1955-56, 533-543) – is a conception of the ‘whole’ which affirms a monism of psyche and matter in their undifferentiated state.

Deleuze’s apparent affirmation of a ‘monism of Time’ privileges a notion of time as ‘a single time or duration in which everything participates, including our consciousness, living beings and the whole material world’ (Ansell-Pearson, 2002, 36-7). How Deleuze’s Virtual ‘whole’ can account for the genesis of actualised and individuated structures can be favourably compared with Jung’s account of the genesis of psychic experience in terms of the resonances that may exist between Deleuze’s novel interpretation of Kant’s Problematic Ideas and an interpretation of Jung’s model of the unconscious as ‘an unconscious of Problems’ (Deleuze, 2004, 161). Indeed, ‘Jung may have been the only psychologist to set about constructing a “transcendental” theory of the unconscious’ (Kerslake, 2007, 92). Explication of the similarities and differences between Jung and Deleuze on the role of the ‘transcendent’ the ‘transcendental’, ‘transcendence’ and ‘immanence’ in their respective accounts of the production of experience, psychic experience and reality, invariably contain within them contrasting ethical inferences gesturing towards more general reflection on the question of the ethical implications of holism. This will result in a more grounded sense of how the whole is being conceived in a practical field (psychotherapy).

Given the common sources of intellectual influence on the thought of Jung and Deleuze, notably Henri Bergson (1859-1941), and given that limited albeit serious scholarship has been produced with respect to the ‘influence’ of Jung on Deleuze (See Kerslake, 2007) and the core concepts of Deleuze’s joint work with Félix Guattari on Schizoanalysis in their criticisms of Freudian psychoanalysis (See Holland, 2012), this conference offer a unique opportunity for critical dialogue and reflection on historical, cultural, spiritual, philosophical, religious and clinical themes which resonate in the thought of Deleuze and Jung.

Thinkers influential on the thought of Jung’s and/or Deleuze’s concepts of the whole include:

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), Brauch Spinoza (1632-1677), Gottfried Leibniz (1646-1716), Jackob Boehme (1572-1624), Nicholas of Cusa (1401-1464), Giordiano Bruno (1548-1600), Henri Bergson (1859-1941),

Traditions of thought influential on Jung and/or Deleuze’s concepts of the whole include:

Western esotericism, Neo-Platonism, Hermeticism, Christian Scholasticism, German Idealism (Post-Kantian and Romanticism), Romantic Science and Naturphilosophie.

Organizing committee

Professor Roderick Main

Dr David Henderson

Dr Christian McMillan



For enquiries contact Christian McMillan at ckhmcm@essex.ac.uk