Holism: Revolution or reminder?

Topoi 12 (1):31-39 (1993)
Abstract
Among the four propositions considered in this paper, we have found two which can contribute to a holistic environmental ethic: individuals acquire some of their value through participating in communities, including biotic communities, and wholes, including biotic communities, can have values which are not the sum of the values of the individuals composing them. However, accepting these propositions does not represent a revolutionary break distinguishing holism from traditional value theories or ethics. On the other hand, the holistic propositions we considered which would clearly differentiate holism from (at least some) traditional value theories and ethics are unacceptable. Consequently, if the propositions we have discussed fairly represent what goes under the name of “holism,” then rather than being a new kind of ethic, a viable ethical holism will make its contribution by emphasizing the communal elements of traditional ethics which have sometimes been neglected in glorifications of the individual. This would not be an inconsiderable contribution, philosophically, socially, or environmentally
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