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Sunday 13 November 2005

A wide-reaching term, designating views in which the individual elements of a system are determined by their relations to all other elements of that system. Being highly relational, holistic theories do not see the sum of the parts as adding up to the whole.

In addition to the individual parts of a system, there are "emergent," or "arising," properties that add to or transform the individual parts. As such, holistic theories claim that no element of a system can exist apart from the system in which it is a part.

Holistic theories can be found in philosophical, religious, social, or scientific doctrines. An example of a holistic scientific theory is Gaia, in which the earth and all of its life processes are seen as self-regulating and interdependent components of a much larger cosmic system.

An example of a holistic theological doctrine is panentheism ("everything in God"), in which every part of the universe, including human and nonhuman life, is seen as a part of God. Contrast with atomism.