Atomists explain properties of wholes as compositions of properties of their parts; in particular properties of complex expressions as composed of properties of their parts. Especially, semantic atomists explain meanings of complex expressions as composed of meanings of their parts. Holists deny themselves this way: they insist that at least in some cases properties of wholes are more basic than, or not reducible to, properties of their parts; in particular, semantic holists claim that meanings of (at least some) wholes are more basic than meanings of parts. Now as atomists have composition as the way of getting themselves from the meanings of parts to the meanings of wholes, holists need something to get them from the meanings of wholes to those of their parts. What is usually invoked in this context is the concept of intersubstitutivity, which is, however, not always wholly clear.
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