Jerry Fodor and Ernie LePore argue against inferential role semantics on the grounds that either it relies on an analytic/synthetic distinction vulnerable to Quinean objections, or else it leads to a variety of meaning holism frought with absurd consequences. However, the slide from semantic atomism to meaning holism might be prevented by distinctions not affected by Quine's arguments against analyticity; and the absurd consequences Fodor and LePore attribute to meaning holism obtain only on an implausible construal of (...) inferential roles. (shrink)
Critically reflecting some theses of Fodor & LePore's Holism, it is argued that semantic holism in spite of all their criticism is not defeated. As a consequence of the rejection of the analytic-synthetic distinction, a first result is that they do not take Traditional Holism, as it originates from Frege and Wittgenstein, serious at all. Whereas a Weak Anatomism, inspired with views of Traditional Holism, might be an interesting alternative to atomism and holism even for (...) Quine and Neo-Fregeans like Dummett. Concerning the Principle of Compositionality an ambiguity between recurrence and functional compositionality is localized that relativizes their critique on Davidson. And finally versions of content- and belief-holism in combination with adequate charity-principles are discussed as a basis for squaring Intentional Realism with Brentano's Thesis. (shrink)
Ever since Darwin a great deal of the conceptual history of biology may be read as a struggle between two philosophical positions: reductionism and holism. On the one hand, we have the reductionist claim that evolution has to be understood in terms of changes at the fundamental causal level of the gene. As Richard Dawkins famously put it, organisms are just ‘lumbering robots’ in the service of their genetic masters. On the other hand, there is a long holistic tradition (...) that focuses on the complexity of developmental systems, on the non-linearity of gene– environment interactions, and on multi-level selective processes to argue that the full story of biology is a bit more complicated than that. Reductionism can marshal on its behalf the spectacular successes of genetics and molecular biology throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. Holism has built on the development of entirely new disciplines and conceptual frameworks over the past few decades, including evo-devo and phenotypic plasticity. Yet, a number of biologists are still actively looking for a way out of the reductionism–holism counterposition, often mentioning the word ‘emergence’ as a way to deal with the conundrum. This paper briefly examines the philosophical history of the concept of emergence, distinguishes between epistemic and ontological accounts of it, and comments on conceptions of emergence that can actually be useful for practising evolutionary biologists. (shrink)
In debates between holism and reductionism in biology, from the early 20th century to more recent re-enactments involving genetic reductionism, developmental systems theory, or systems biology, the role of chance – the presence of theories invoking chance as a strong explanatory principle – is hardly ever acknowledged. Conversely, Darwinian models of chance and selection (Dennett 1995, Kupiec 1996, Kupiec 2009) sit awkwardly with reductionist and holistic concepts, which they alternately challenge or approve of. I suggest that the juxtaposition of (...) chance and the holism-reductionism pair (at multiple levels, ontological and methodological, pertaining to the vision of scientific practice as well as to the foundations of a vision of Nature, implicit or explicit) allows the theorist to shed some new light on these perennial tensions in the conceptualisation of Life. (shrink)
Aron Gurwitsch made two main contributions to phenomenology. He showed how to import Gestalt theoretical ideas into Husserl’s framework of constitutive phenomenology. And he explored the light this move sheds on both the overall structure of experience and on particular kinds of experience, especially perceptual experiences and conscious shifts in attention. The primary focus of this paper is the overall structure of experience. I show how Gurwitsch’s Gestalt theoretically informed phenomenological investigations provide a basis for defending what I will call (...) Phenomenal Holism, the view that all the parts of a total phenomenal state metaphysically depend on it. To illustrate how the ideas developed along the way can be used in advancing work on the phenomenology of particular kinds of experience, I draw on them in defending Husserl’s view that we can be aware of abstract objects against a phenomenological objection. (shrink)
This paper attempts to build a bridge between the interpretation of quantum theory and the philosophy of mind. In contrast to other such attempts, the bridge which this paper suggests does not consist in extending features of quantum theory to the philosophy of mind. The argument of this paper is that the discussion about a revision of the Cartesian tradition in current philosophy of mind is relevant to the interpretation of quantum theory: taking this discussion into account sharpens up the (...) task for the interpretation of quantum physics as far as the scope of what is known as quantum holism is concerned. In particular, considering this discussion makes out a strong case against the interpretation that considers quantum holism to be universal in the physical realm. (shrink)
There are various proposals for a general characterization of holism1. In this paper I propose the following: a variety of holism is the view that every X of an appropriate kind, which is part of a relevant whole W, cannot be legitimately separated or taken in isolation from W. Then, I distinguish two general kinds of holism, depending on two different reasons which can debar us from taking X in isolation from W. One reason can be that separating (...) X from W always amounts to transforming X into something else. Correspondingly, a strong holism is the view that if the whole W is modified anywhere, X ceases to be X and becomes something else. Another reason why it may be illegitimate to consider X in isolation from W can be that if we separate X from W, nothing that we know entitles us to exclude that X might be transformed into something else. Correspondingly, virtual holism is the view that if the whole W is modified anywhere, we can never rule out that X ceases to be X and becomes something else. (shrink)
The aim of the paper is to propose a general conception of holism which is applicable to cases as far apart as holism in belief systems and holism in quantum physics. My proposal characterizes a holistic system S in terms of generic ontological dependence among its parts. This dependence relates to some of the properties that make something a part of an S whenever there is a suitable arrangement with other things. My proposal thus also characterizes what (...) it is for something to be a part of a holistic system and enables us to conceive of holistic properties. (shrink)
Fodor and Lepore, in their recent book "Holism," maintain that if an inference from semantic anatomism to semantic holism is allowed, certain fairly deleterious consequences follow. In Section 1 Fodor and Lepore's terminology is construed and amended where necessary with the result that the aforementioned deleterious consequences are neither so apparent nor straightforward as they had suggested. In Section 2 their "Argument A" is considered in some detail. In Section 3 their "argument attributed to Quine" is examined at (...) length and a shorter and more perspicacious argument suggested which avoids their charge that the Quinean argument is guilty of an equivocation on the word 'statement'. (shrink)
The dominant conceptions of moral status in the English-speaking literature are either holist or individualist, neither of which accounts well for widespread judgments that: animals and humans both have moral status that is of the same kind but different in degree; even a severely mentally incapacitated human being has a greater moral status than an animal with identical internal properties; and a newborn infant has a greater moral status than a mid-to-late stage foetus. Holists accord no moral status to any (...) of these beings, assigning it only to groups to which they belong, while individualists such as welfarists grant an equal moral status to humans and many animals, and Kantians accord no moral status either to animals or severely mentally incapacitated humans. I argue that an underexplored, modal-relational perspective does a better job of accounting for degrees of moral status. According to modal-relationalism, something has moral status insofar as it capable of having a certain causal or intensional connection with another being. I articulate a novel instance of modal-relationalism grounded in salient sub-Saharan moral views, roughly according to which the greater a being's capacity to be part of a communal relationship with us, the greater its moral status. I then demonstrate that this new, African-based theory entails and plausibly explains the above judgments, among others, in a unified way. (shrink)
Meaning holists hold, roughly, that each representation in a linguistic or mental system depends semantically on every other representation in the system. The main difficulty for holism is the threat it poses to meaning stability--shared meaning between representations in two systems. If meanings are holistically dependent, then semantic differences anywhere seem to balloon into semantic differences everywhere. My positive aim is to show how holism, even at its most extreme, can accommodate and also increase meaning stability. My negative (...) aim is to provide reasons for rejecting various nonholist proposals, at least for systems of mental representations. (shrink)
Abstract In their book, Holism: A Shopper's Guide, Jerry Fodor and Ernest Lepore fail to distinguish between two kinds of holism. One of these is holism about meaning, which is indeed problematic. The other is holism about translation, which is not so clearly problematic. Moreover, the problem with the first sort is that it renders communication unintelligible, not that it rules out psychological laws. Further, Fodor and Lepore's criticisms of various contemporary holists are based on serious (...) misreadings. In particular, Quine need not accept the conception of statements that they force on him, and Davidson and Dennett do not argue for the principle of charity in the ways Fodor and Lepore suppose. But Fodor and Lepore's question about the provenance of the principle of charity is a good one and deserves an answer. (shrink)
Peter Pagin Is the principle of semantic compositionality compatible with the principle of semantic holism? The question is of interest, since both principles have a lot that speaks for them, and since they do seem to be in conflict. The view that natural languages have compositional structure is almost unavoidable, since linguistic communication by means of new combinations of words would be virtually incomprehensible otherwise. And holism too seems generally plausible, since the meaning of an expression is directly (...) connected with the way that expression interacts with other. (shrink)
Mental (or semantic) holism is the doctrine that the identity of a belief content (or the meaning of a sentence that expresses it) is determined by its place in the web of beliefs or sentences comprising a whole theory or group of theories. It can be contrasted with two other views: atomism and molecularism. Molecularism characterizes meaning and content in terms of relatively small parts of the web in a way that allows many different theories to share those parts. (...) For example, the meaning of 'chase' might be said by a molecularist to be try to catch. Atomism characterizes meaning and content in terms of none of the web; it says that sentences and beliefs have meaning or content independently of their relations to other sentences or beliefs. One major motivation for holism has come from reflections on the natures of confirmation and learning. As Quine (1953) observed, claims about the world are confirmed not individually, but only in conjunction with theories of which they are a part. And typically, one cannot come to understand scientific claims without understanding a significant chunk of the theory of which they are a part. For example, in learning the Newtonian concepts of 'force', 'mass', kinetic energy' and 'momentum', one doesn't learn any definitions of these terms in terms that are understood beforehand, for there are no such definitions. Rather, these theoretical terms were all learned together in conjunction with procedures for solving problems. The major problem with holism is that it threatens to make generalization in psychology virtually impossible. If the content of any state depends on all others, it would be extremely unlikely that any two believers would ever share a state with the same content. Moreover, holism would appear to conflict with our ordinary conception of reasoning. What sentences one accepts influence what one infers. if i accept a sentence and then later reject it, i thereby change the inferential role of that sentence, so the meaning of what i accept wouldn't be the same as what i later reject. but then it would be difficult to understand on this view how one could rationally --or even irrationally!-- change one's mind. and agreement and translation are also problematic for much the same reason. holists have responded (1) by proposing that we should think not in terms of "same/different" meaning but in terms of a gradient of similarity of meaning, (2) by proposing "two factor" theories or (3) by simply accepting the consequence that there is no real difference between changing meanings and changing beliefs. (shrink)
The concept of holism is of great use in philosophy of science. But its meaning does not correspond to the traditional use of holism in social sciences. The aim of the paper is to criticize an attempt to link the two meanings. Such a confusion derives from a misunderstanding of methodological individualism which is erroneously considered to be an atomism. Since the concepts of holism can be related to many different meanings, and since there are many different (...) models of action (including different models of rationality) behind the concept of methodological individualism, the debate should be cautious of all those differences. The papers gives a brief survey of these and discusses specific theses expressed by Vincent Descombes to support holism in social sciences. (shrink)
Dispositionalist theories of mental content have been attacked on the grounds that they are incompatible with semantic holism. In this paper, I resist important worries of this variety, raised by Paul Boghossian. I argue that his objections can be avoided by a conceptual role version of dispositionalism, where the multifarious relationships between mental contents are grounded on the relationships between their corresponding, grounding dispositions.
One central strand in Quine's criticism of common-sense notions of linguistic meaning is an argument from the holism of empirical content. This paper explores (with many digressions) the several versions of the argument, and discovers them to be uniformly bad. There is a kernel of truth in the idea that ?holism?, in some sense, ?undermines the analytic?synthetic distinction?, in some sense; but it has little to do with Quine's radical empiricism, or his radical scepticism about meaning.
Reconciliation of semantic holism with interpretation of individual expressions is advanced here by means of a relativization of sentence meaning to object language theories viewed as idealizations of belief-systems. Fodor's view of the autonomy of the special sciences is emphasized and this is combined with detailed replies to his recent criticisms of meaning holism. The argument is that the need for empirical evidence requires a holistic approach to meaning. Thus, semantic realism requires semantic holism. -/- .
The claim of this paper is that we should envisage physicalism as an ontological holism. Our current basic physics, quantum theory, suggests that, ontologically speaking, we have to assume one global quantum state of the world; many of the properties that are often taken to be intrinsic properties of physical systems are in fact relations, which are determined by that global quantum state. The paper elaborates on this conception of physicalism as an ontological holism and considers issues such (...) as supervenience, realization of higher-order properties by basic physical properties, and reduction. Keywords: physicalism, holism, relations, space-time, quantum physics, Humean supervenience. (shrink)
Contents: Preface. Johannes BRANDL: Semantic Holism Is Here To Stay. Michael DEVITT: A Critique of the Case for Semantic Holism. Georges REY: The Unavailability of What We Mean: A Reply to Quine, Fodor and LePore. Joseph LEVINE: Intentional Chemistry. Louise ANTHONY: Conceptual Connection and the Observation/Theory Distinction. Gilbert HARMAN: Meaning Holism Defended. Kirk A. LUDWIG: Is Content Holism Incoherent? Anne BEZUIDENHOUT: The Impossibility of Punctate Mental Representations. Takashi YAGISAWA: The Cost of Meaning Solipsism. Alberto PERUZZI: (...) class='Hi'>Holism: The Polarized Spectrum. Jonathan BERG: Inferential Roles, Quine, and Mad Holism. Jerry FODOR & Ernest LEPORE: Replies. (shrink)
Both libertarian and compatibilist approaches have been unsuccessful in providing an acceptable account of free will. Recent developments in cognitive neuroscience, including the connectionist theory of mind and empirical findings regarding modularity and integration of brain functions, provide the basis for a new approach: neural holism. This approach locates free will in fully integrated behavior in which all of a person's beliefs and desires, implicitly represented in the brain, automatically contribute to an act. Deliberation, the experience of volition, and (...) cognitive and behavioral shortcomings are easily understood under this model. Assigning moral praise and blame, often seen as grounded in the notion that a person has the ability to have done otherwise, will be shown to reflect instead important aspects of signaling in social interactions. Thus, important aspects of the traditional notion of free will can be accounted for within the proposed model, which has interesting implications for lifelong cognitive development. (shrink)
Taking the problem of perception and illusion as a leading clue, this article presents a new phenomenological approach to perception and the world: holism of experience. It challenges not only Husserl’s transcendentalism, but also what remains of it in Heidegger’s early thought, on the grounds that it is committed to the skeptical inference: Since we can always doubt any perception, we can always doubt perception as a whole. The rejection of such an implicit inference leads to a relational paradigm (...) of Being-in-the-World that differs from Heidegger’s on many points. (shrink)
At its most extreme, semantic holism is the doctrine that all the inferential properties of an expression constitute its meaning. Holism is supported by the consideration that there is no principled basis for localism's distinction among these properties. The paper rejects four arguments for this. (1) The argument from confirmation holism is dismissed quickly because it rests on verificationism. (2) The argument from the rejection of analyticity fails because it saddles the localist with unacceptable epistemic assumptions. Localism (...) is not committed to a priori knowledge or to knowledge that is in any interesting sense unrevisable. (3) The argument from psychological explanation fails because it begs the question. (4) The argument from functionalism needs to be accompanied by a further argument that functionalism is essentially holistic. In any case it could only establish a very mild holism. (shrink)
This paper argues that popular criticisms of semantic holism (such as that it leaves the ideas of translation, disagreement and change of mind problematic) are more properly directed at an "instability assumption" which, while often associated with holism, can be separated from it. The versions of holism that follow from 'interpretational' account of meaning are not committed to the instability assumption and can thus avoid many of the problems traditionally associated with holism.
This paper is an examination of evidential holism, a prominent position in epistemology and the philosophy of science which claims that experiments only ever confirm or refute entire theories. The position is historically associated with W.V. Quine, and it is at once both popular and notorious, as well as being largely under-described. But even though there’s no univocal statement of what holism is or what it does, philosophers have nevertheless made substantial assumptions about its content and its truth. (...) Moreover they have drawn controversial and important conclusions from these assumptions. In this paper I distinguish three types of evidential holism and argue that the most oft-cited and controversial thesis is entirely unmotivated. The other two theses are much overlooked, but are well-motivated and free from controversial implications. (shrink)
There is a great deal of terminological confusion in discussions of holism. While some well-known authors, such as Davidson and Quine, have used “holism” in various of their writings,2 it is not clear that they have held views attributed to them under that label, views that are said to have wildly counterintuitive results.3 In Davidson’s case, it is not clear that he is describing the same doctrine in each of his uses of “holism” or “holistic.” Critics of (...)holism show a similar license. My aim in this paper, therefore, cannot be to provide and to examine a characterization of content holism that matches every use that has been made of the term. I aim rather to give a precise form to a holistic doctrine at one end of a spectrum of views that ranges from localism or atomism about content to holism about content. This view has the wild consequences often attributed to holism. While it is dubious that anyone has ever seriously held the view I characterize,4 some view like it seems to be what critics often have in mind when arguing against content holism. It is therefore worthwhile to make it precise, to distinguish it from other, related views, and to examine its internal coherence. Thus, in this paper, I will, first, clarify the doctrine, or a doctrine, of content holism, and, second, argue that content holism (so characterized) is not just false (which may be readily granted) but self-contradictory. To begin, we must distinguish between meaning holism and content holism. Let us reserve the term “meaning holism” for doctrines which are about the conditions for the possibility of linguistic expressions having meanings. Meaning holism is therefore a doctrine in the domain of the philosophy of language. “Content holism,” in contrast, we will treat as a doctrine in the philosophy of mind, about the conditions for the possibility of a thought5 having a content. By “a content” we mean, intuitively, what.. (shrink)
The suggestion that cognition is holistic has become a prominent criticism of optimism about the prospects for cognitive science. This paper argues that the standard motivation for this holism, that of epistemological holism, does not justify this pessimism. An illustration is given of how the effects of epistemological holism on perception are compatible with the view that perceptual processes are highly modular. A suggestion for generalizing this idea to conceptual cognitive processing is made, and an account of (...) the holists' failure is offered. (shrink)
The reductionist/holist debate is highly polarised. I propose an intermediate position of pragmatic holism. It derives from two claims: firstly, that irrespective of whether all natural systems are theoretically reducible, for many systems it is utterly impractical to attempt such a reduction, and secondly, that regardless of whether irreducible 'wholes exist, it is vain to try and prove this. This position illuminates the debate along new pragmatic lines by refocussing attention on the underlying heuristics of learning about the natural (...) world. (shrink)
The paper "Does Epistemological Holism lead to Meaning – Holism" (Cozzo, 2002) touches one of the main problems of a molecularist theory of meaning: how to restrict the class of inferences connected with a word, in order to define the sense of the word. I will discuss the starting point of this approach, mainly the pre-theoretical criterion against meaning holism: meaning holism, following a well-known argument by Dummett, reduces communication to a mystery. However there is a (...) strong background assumption of this argument: communication is sharing the same meanings. Accepting this assumption without acknowledging it makes the entire proposal more problematic than it appears at first sight. In what follows I will try to clarify the possibility of a different reaction to meaning holism, putting forward some distinctions which come to light when the above stated assumption is made explicit. Then, some other comments will follow on the difficulty of avoiding extreme meaning holism, even within Cozzo's elegant attempt to implement a molecularist vision; in the end, his notion of the sense of a word will appear to be difficult to define, if these holistic aspects of language take the space they deserve even in his theory. I conclude with two remarks regarding two relevant requirements for a theory of meaning (conservativeness and harmony). (shrink)
Some particularists have argued that even virtue properties can exhibit a form of holism or context variance, e.g. sometimes an act is worse for being kind, say. But, on a common conception of virtuous acts, one derived from Aristotle, claims of virtue holism will be shown to be false. I argue, perhaps surprisingly, that on this conception the virtuousness of an act is not a reason to do it, and hence this conception of virtuous acts presents no challenge (...) to particularist claims about the context variance of reasons. Still, I argue that the virtues nevertheless have important implications for our understanding of the particularism debate. Specifically, we can accept the particularist claim that reasons do not need to be principled in order to have the normative status that they do have, while still maintaining that sound moral thought and judgement has a principled structure understood in terms of the virtues. (shrink)
The authors argue that while meaning holism makes massive error possible, it does not, as Donald Davidson fears, threaten interpretability. Thus they hold, in opposition to Davidson, that meaning holism need not be constrained by an account of meaning according to which in the methodologically most basic cases the content of a belief is given by the cause of that belief. What ensures interpretability, they maintain, is not that speakers' beliefs are in the main true, but rather that (...) beliefs have the contents they do because of events others can in principle identify and describe. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to contribute to a more balanced judgement than the widespread impression that the changes which are called for in today's philosophy of physics and which centre around the concept of holism amount to a rupture with the framework of Cartesian philosophy of physics. I argue that this framework includes a sort of holism: As a result of the identification of matter with space, any physical property can be instantiated only if there is (...) the whole of matter. Relating this holism to general relativity, I maintain that this holism cannot be directly applied to today's philosophy of physics consequent upon the failure of geometrodynamics. I show in what respect precisely the holism in quantum physics amounts to a revision of the holism within Cartesianism. (shrink)
The reductionist/holist debate seems an impoverished one, with many participants appearing to adopt a position first and constructing rationalisations second. Here I propose an intermediate position of pragmatic holism, that irrespective of whether all natural systems are theoretically reducible, for many systems it is completely impractical to attempt such a reduction, also that regardless if whether irreducible `wholes' exist, it is vain to try and prove this in absolute terms. This position thus illuminates the debate along new pragmatic lines, (...) and refocusses attention on the underlying heuristics of learning about the natural world. (shrink)
In their recent book Holism, Jerry Fodor & Ernest Lepore (F&L) argue that various species of content holism face insuperable difficulties. In this paper I reply to their claims. After describing the version of holism to which I subscribe, I follow them in addressing, in turn, its implications for these related topics: interpersonal understanding, false beliefs and reference, psychological explanation, content sirnilarity and identity, the analytic-synthetic distinction, and empirical evidence. The most prominent theme in my response to (...) F&L is that while holism does suffer from the problems they note in principle, it’s able to avoid them in practice. Holism’s implications, in short, are not only not fatal, but not even so bad --- and very possibly desirable. (shrink)
Holistic theories of meaning have, at least since Dummett’s Frege: The Philosophy of language, been assumed to be problematic from the perspective of the incremental nature of natural language learning. In this essay I argue that the general relationship between holism and language learning is in fact the opposite of that claimed by Dummett. It is only given a particular form of language learning, and a particular form of holism, that there is a problem at all; in general, (...) for all forms of holism, and irrespective of how language learning is understood, semantic holism is conducive to language learning. The paper has three main parts. In the first, I demonstrate with the use of a simple formal system, that the form of holism that generates the problem that Dummett draws attention to is really decomposable into three distinct components, each of which is necessary for the problem to arise. In the second part, I demonstrate that even Dummett’s strong form of holism is compatible with one natural way in which to understand the incremental nature of language learning. In the third part, I outline the reasons why all forms of holism are conducive to language learning and offer two ways in which this general fact can be spelled out precisely. I end the paper by addressing some possible objections, and in doing so I draw attention to some affinities between semantic holism and the principle of compositionality, a semantic principle which has long been assumed to be conducive to language learning. (shrink)
The present essay aims at broadening the recent discussion on the issue of holism vs. particularism in quantum physics. I begin with a clarification of the relation between the holism/particularism debate and the discussion of supervenience relation. I then defend particularism in physics (including quantum physics) by considering a new classification of properties of physical systems. With such a classification, the results in the Bell theorem are shown to violate spatial separability but not physical particularism.
In this paper it is argued that nurses should be holists whilst at the same time accepting that âholismâ is a contentious concept. One of the problems for a supporter of holism is that of which holism -- an attempt to outline the version of holism advocated is made by identifying only two versions of holism: The Strong theory and the Pragmatic theory of holism. By introducing this device it is hoped to avoid, if only (...) by stipulation, some of the more sophisticated nuances of holism drawn by other commentators. However despite a most judicious use of Ockham's Razor some detailed groundwork remains. In the first part of this paper a simple example is used which aims to articulate what are arguably some of the central issues within the holism debate. These issues are then placed within a wider philosophical context. The second part of the paper will offer definitions of Strong and Pragmatic holism. Drawing on specific examples from the nursing context it will be argued that the Pragmatic theory of holism is the theory of holism most compatible with nursing theory and practice. The methods employed in this paper are philosophical. Since the questions considered are conceptual rather than empirical requiring a discursive approach, utilising thought experiments and case implication to explore the issues. (shrink)
The health theories of Nordenfelt and Boorse are compared. Critical attention is focused on Nordenfelt's description of his theory as one of holistic welfare, contrasting with Boorse's analytical and statistical approach. Neither theory is found to give an entirely satisfactory account of ‘health’ in scientific medicine or common usage. Because Nordenfelt attenuates the ontological significance of organs and organ parts and simplifies the role of statistics, his theory is regarded as weakly holistic. Boorse underrates the importance of non-statistical evaluation. A (...) mediating position, termed ‘strong holism’ is suggested as a way of integrating normative and statistical elements in a more adequate health concept. (shrink)
It is claimed that the indispensability argument for the existence of mathematical entities (IA) works in a way that allows a proponent of mathematical realism to remain agnostic with regard to how we establish that mathematical entities exist. This is supposed to be possible by virtue of the appeal to confirmational holism that enters into the formulation of IA. Holism about confirmation is supposed to be motivated in analogy with holism about falsification. I present an account of (...) how holism about falsification is supposed to be motivated. I argue that the argument for holism about falsification is in tension with how we think about confirmation and with two principles suggested by Quine for construing a plausible variety of holism. Finally, I show that one of Quine's principles does not allow a proponent of mathematical realism to remain agnostic with regard to how we establish that mathematical entities exist. (shrink)
Quantum theory has the property of “local tomography”: the state of any composite system can be reconstructed from the statistics of measurements on the individual components. In this respect the holism of quantum theory is limited. We consider in this paper a class of theories more holistic than quantum theory in that they are constrained only by “bilocal tomography”: the state of any composite system is determined by the statistics of measurements on pairs of components. Under a few auxiliary (...) assumptions, we derive certain general features of such theories. In particular, we show how the number of state parameters can depend on the number of perfectly distinguishable states. We also show that real-vector-space quantum theory, while not locally tomographic, is bilocally tomographic. (shrink)
Contrary to a pervasive presumption of anthropocentricism in African thought, I identify an emphasis on the interrelatedness or interconnectedness of everything in nature, and argue that this is best construed as a rejection of anthropocentrism, and as something similar in conception to, and yet distinct from, holist perspectives. I propose that this strand of African thought, suitably reconstructed, should be construed as providing the basis for a promising non-anthropocentric African environmentalism. I name this position 'African Relational Environmentalism', and suggest that (...) it is what distinguishes this position from holism that can most enrich environmental ethics. -/- . (shrink)
On the basis of a comparative analysis of the biosemiotic work of Jakob von Uexküll and of various theories on biological holism, this article takes a look at the question: what is the status of a semiotic approach in respect to a holistic one? The period from 1920 to 1940 was the peak-time of holistic theories, despite the fact that agreement on a unified and accepted set of holistic ideas was never reached. A variety of holisms, dependent on the (...) cultural and disciplinary contexts, is sketched here from the works of Jan Smuts, Adolf Meyer-Abich, John Scott Haldane, Kurt Goldstein, Alfred North Whitehead and Wolfgang Köhler. In contrast with his contemporary holists, who used the model of an organism as a unifying explanatory tool for all levels of reality, Jakob von Uexküll confined himself to disciplinary organicism by extending the borders of the definition of “organism” without any intention to surpass the borders of biology itself. The comparison reveals also a significant difference in the perspectives of Uexküll and his contemporary holists, a difference between a view from a subjective centre in contrast with an all-encompassing structural view. Uexküll’s theories are fairly near to J. S. Haldane’s interpretation of an organism as a coordinative centre, but even here their models do not coincide. Although biosemiotics and holistic biology have different theoretical starting points and research-goals, it is possible nonetheless to place them under one and the same doctrinal roof. (shrink)
In this essay I defend meaning holism against certain criticisms that Jerry Fodor has presented against it. In "Psychosemantics" he argued that meaning holism is incompatible with the development of scientific psychology given the ways in which scientific psychology adverts to intentional content. In his recent book "Holism" (co-authored with Ernest Lepore) he indicates that he still upholds this argument. I argue that Fodor's argument fails, and argue in favor of the compatibility of meaning holism with (...) scientific psychology. I also argue positively in favor of meaning holism, arguing in part that, contrary to Fodor's claims, psychofunctionalism provides a strong basis for defending meaning holism. As part of this argument, I contend, contrary to Fodor, that narrow content, as derived from psychofunctionalism, should be construed as semantic. (shrink)
Thick moral concepts are a topic of particular disagreement in discussions of reasons holism. These concepts, such as justice, are called “thick” because they have both evaluative and descriptive aspects. Thin moral concepts, such as good, are purely evaluative. The disagreement concerns whether the fact that an action is, for example, just always a reason in favor of performing that action. The present argument follows Jonathan Dancy’s strategy of connecting moral reasons and concepts to those in other domains. If (...) Dancy is correct then we should expect holism about thick moral concepts to the same extent to which we find holism for other sorts of thick concepts. Using this strategy two claims are defended: that reasons holism is characteristic of non-moral thick concepts—specifically, of aesthetic, epistemic and prudential thick concepts—and that such non-moral concepts exemplify useful and heretofore unnoticed models for thick moral concepts. (shrink)
Some moral theorists defend a holistic account of practical reasons and deny that the possibility of moral thought depends upon the existence of moral principles. This article explores the implications of this position for theorising about justice, which has often aspired to provide us with an ordered list of principles to govern our institutions and practices.
Most research in the natural sciences passes through repeated cycles of a analytic reduction to the next lower level of organization, then resynthesis to the original level, then new analyticareduction, and so on. A residue of unexplained phenomena at the original level appears at first to require a holistic description independent of the lower level, but the residue shrinks as knowledge increases.This principle is well illustrated by recent studies from the social organization of insects, several examples of which are cited (...) here. In theory it should also apply to human social organization. Culture is biological: meaning in culture can be approached as the outcome of mechanism-based causation, because culture stems from individual cognition, which has a biological basis. It would seem to follow that the most effective way to study culture is across all levels of organization from gene to society, passing repetitively through a cycle of reduction and synthesis in the manner of the natural sciences. Reductionistic analysis is favored by the tendency of semantic memory and culture to occur in discrete units that are arranged hierarchically. (shrink)
Jonathan Weisberg claims that certain probability assessments constructed by Jeffrey conditioning resist subsequent revision by a certain type of after-the-fact defeater of the reasons supporting those assessments, and that such conditioning is thus “inherently anti-holistic.” His analysis founders, however, in applying Jeffrey conditioning to a partition for which an essential rigidity condition clearly fails. Applied to an appropriate partition, Jeffrey conditioning is amenable to revision by the sort of after-the-fact defeaters considered by Weisberg in precisely the way that he demands.
This paper explores some issues concerning the relation between ontological reduction and conceptual reduction, as construed by the physicalists. More specifically, it aims at highlighting and analyzing certain general methodological and ethical implications of the physicalistic research projects. Against this background, the paper identifies a certain category of concepts as “irreducibly holistic”, that is, those with regard to which ontological and conceptual reduction are inextricably bound together. Further, the paper argues that since irreducibly holistic concepts are conceptually irreducible to the (...) physical, they have to be ontologically irreducible to the physical as well, thus rendering physicalism false. This conclusion is reached by analyzing and then rejecting a variety of programmes aimed at accommodating irreducibly holistic concepts within a physicalist framework (including eliminativism, preservative irrealism and quasi-realism). Lastly, an ontologically pluralistic framework is proposed for the purpose of reconciling apparently conflicting insights from different areas of philosophical and scientific inquiry. (shrink)