Stage 1: Introductory comments on holism

This stage involves a survey of selected work on, or informed by, holistic thought. The two documents attached comprise Part I of Stage 1 and Part II.

This involves a survey of selected prior work on holistic thought. The purpose of this survey is to provide a preliminary clarification of the extent and character of such thought within contemporary Western culture and to highlight the principal logical and ethical debates to which it has given rise. Some of the works from which initial orientation will be taken include Denis Charles Phillips’s Holistic Thought in Social Science (1976), Anne Harrington’s Reenchanted Science: Holism in German Culture from Wilhelm II to Hitler (1996), and Linda Sergent Wood’s A More Perfect Union: Holistic Worldviews and the Transformation of American Culture (2010).

The document has been put together by project Research Officer Christian McMillan and represents his views alone.

Key research questions considered within this stage:

The research questions are as follows:
􀁸 Why does holism attract strong valuations? And is the positive or negative point of view, if either, better warranted?
􀁸 What is the nature of the underpinning concept of ultimate wholeness?
􀁸 How does the concept relate to the multiplicities of experience? And are there links between a particular concept of ultimate wholeness and the ethical valuations attaching to holistic thought?

Stage 1 – Introduction and Part I

Stage 1 – Part II (Includes case study on the holistic thought of von Uxekull)

“One World”: Logical and Ethical implications of Holism

“One world”: logical and ethical implications of holism
On 1 June 2016 a two-year collaborative research project based in the Centre for Psychoanalytic Studies (CPS) began. The project is funded by a large grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). The Principal Investigator is Professor Roderick Main of CPS; the Co-Investigator is Dr David Henderson, Senior Lecturer in Psychoanalysis at Middlesex University and a psychoanalytic psychotherapist in private practice; and the Research Assistant is Dr Christian McMillan, postdoctoral researcher in CPS.

The following is the project summary:

The aim of this project is to determine the logical and ethical implications of holism. 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.

This project will provide an in-depth explanation and comparison of concepts of wholeness in the work of two influential twentieth-century thinkers in this area: the Swiss depth psychologist Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) and the French post- structuralist philosopher Gilles Deleuze (1925-1995). The research will have a particular focus on the field of psychotherapy, in the context of ongoing professional, academic, and policy debates about the effectiveness, and consequent funding, of psychotherapy in which non-holistic, more reductive therapeutic models seems to be favoured because of their greater amenability to quantitative evaluation through random controlled trials, specifically in relation to the NHS programme ‘Improving Access to Psychological Therapies’.

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. This project will examine why holism attracts these strong positive and negative valuations and which point of view, if either, is the better warranted.

Further, holism is usually discussed in relation to a particular system which itself can be considered to be part of a wider whole and ultimately of the widest whole: the total ‘system’ which is referred to by some holists as the ‘one world’. The project will examine the nature of such underpinning concepts of ultimate wholeness, how these concepts relate to the multiplicities of experience, and the links between a particular concept of ultimate wholeness and the positive or negative ethical valuations attaching to holistic thought.