Universal Holism and Individualized Reductionism.

Universal Holism and Individualized Reductionism

When a Whole Cannot be the Sum of its Parts

Plato, Kant, Nietsche evolving views on complex dynamic existential reality.


It is almost impossible for a normal healthy human being to have an opinion without a theorizing. Regardless of his/her real intentions it implies premises contained in an adopted frame of reference. As pointed out in another publication, the frame of reference may either be consciously free willed or act by subconsciously controlling the opinion as expressed in the language report. Either way the propositioned opinion about an object or event occurrence is reported and its credibility depends on the probable truth content of the opinion. If the report is based on the sensory perceptual described verification of the individualized occurrence(s) by all witnesses at all times, anywhere in mesoscopic space, then it is likely to be accepted by many as true without further considerations. “Seeing is believing” will guide the choice.

But when the occurrence escapes sense-phenomenal perceptual or ontological verification/resolution then we must rely -by epistemological inferences- on the less credible certainty of the visible consequences of the occurrence, as linguistically reported by an observer or recorded by an instrumental measurement.

What if the individualized occurrence resist being framed/reduced into any symbolic or sentential formalism to be linguistically reported? Fortunately we need not worry about objects or events projecting infinitely into cosmological space ‘n’ or infinitesimally into sub Planckian micro space at either extreme of the ontologically descriptive spectrum? Either way, logically absent the possibility of a reductionist effort of receding infinities, the information content cannot become directly available. The practical/empirical solution is to eliminate infinities is to settle for approximations to a truthful reliable content by positing the reality of an abstract transfinite space ‘n-1’. This way, the absolute, reliable truthful certainty of anecdotal sensory evidence is sacrificed as we depart from the individualized reductionism into the speculative uncertainty domain of an indirect universal holism based on intuitions and the recent benefits of both new updated recorded history and a global explosion of other informations as we map today the probable territory of tomorrow as we look into the past for orientation. We can now benefit from the joint merits of a ‘universal holism’ and an ‘individualized reductionism’ synthesis. Let us now examine the merits and drawbacks of this approach.


A ‘Holism’ perspective tacitly implies that everything in our entire universe is causally connected, entangled or otherwise existing as non separable entities functioning as a unit whole. Whatever experienced occurrence that you cannot ontologically describe you can always explain so long as your epistemological explanatory model poem account is strictly derived from the same relevant ontological measurements or observations when statistically correlated and then linguistically expressed as a comprehensive new unit singularity comprising the best of both perceptual and conceptual constitutive elements. But ‘Holism’, as practiced by organized JudeoChrIslamic religions and other theosophies in our real existential reality brings new contemporary issues influencing our vital decision-making process. Which element should we rely more on to satisfy the bioppsychosocial (BPS) imperative for biological survival, the immediate empirical experience  or the transcendental conceptual abstraction thereof? To follow are some of the salient issues to focus on.

Is the whole more than the sum of its constitutive parts? Are the constitutive units static or are they dynamically interacting?  If the latter, then it would be more appropriate to restate the concept of ‘Holism’ as one where the dynamically evolving state of the universal whole is more important than the dynamically evolving states of its relevant constituent parts. In hybridizing the new emergent Epistemontological singularity, which aspect should we rely more on, the ontological scientific methodology or the epistemologically derived inferences there from? How do we reconcile the invariant constituent unit mass particles with the variable states of their aggregates as the controlling determinants of the overall state of the unit ‘holistic’ whole? Let us briefly consider the merits of both aspects.

As previously suggested above both aspects have their own intrinsic merits and to benefit from both we need to identify or invent a common denominator to both capable of satisfying at least their necessary requirements if not their isolated sufficiency status. If we agree on the premise of an ongoing dynamic evolution of complex existential reality, then a consideration of ‘variable states’ is more fitting than an ‘invariant statism’ for a critical analysis. This way we stay alive in the present by anticipating the probable future threats to species survival based on recurring, consistent past experiences and updated recorded historical facts, lest we are “condemned by repeating the “Lessons of History” as author Will Durant warned us in his now famous book. But an Epistemontological new hybrid synthesis as a guiding singularity is a compromise between the relative certainty of the ontological scientific methodology sense-phenomenal tools and the current uncertainty of the epistemological tool resting on mathematical logical probabilities, a speculative approach. Something like a re-statement of the still raging debate on the merits of the classical ‘feet on earth’ Copenhagen classic school and the post modern ‘flights of fancy’ school relying heavily on symbolic/sentential reductionism many a times irrelevant to sensory ongoing real time realities of existence, as if it could have an independent life divorced/isolated from falsifiable environmental circumstances. We find that quantum mechanical theory provides the current best bet to bring both extremes together as argued extensively in our other published books. Let’s us briefly examine critically the respective merits of the methodological tools behind epistemological ‘holism’ and ontological ‘reductionism’ respectively.

Contrary to other commentators’opinions on how best to compare or contrast both methodologies, this author believes that inferential abstractions are always necessarily derived from their corresponding preceding observables, measured or observed experiences. One cannot infer reliable absolute consequences from acts that have not happened yet. If all complex objects must have had an origin from an unit particulate object at the beginning, it cannot spontaneously and independently evolve into complex structures/arrangements without a previous plan and a source of energy to fuel the new geometrical 4-d arrangement in any spacetime conceivable because, among other things, there is in principle no accessible memory of preceding occurrences. Then any reliable real time, updated analysis of both tools should start first with an examination of the general principles as they apply to the totality of the whole complex system or apply to the individualized structural/functioning of any of its reduced components. The proper reductionist activity is based on the totality of the environmental circumstances influencing the whole complex system considered as a unit and not on the sum of the applicable  characteristics of the environmental idiosyncrasies of the isolated constituent parts. Likewise, an explanatory reductionism is metaphysical and not an observable ontic, pragmatic category as some renowned particle physicists argue when ignoring the evolutionary aspects of complexity as viewed by the investigator within a valid frame of reference. See Weinberg’s 1992 justifications. This warning is particularly so when trying to understand the super complexity of dynamically interacting living systems at the micro or mesoscopic level of organization (molecular, cellular, histological, organismal, societal, etc.) where inherited and learned traits are continuously influencing each other in their environmental space-time milieu right here on our real time city hospitals or laboratories today where it is realistically meaningful as a first priority option. Within those priority option guidelines we prefer to start from the general to the particular in all cases whether at the cosmological, sub-Planckian sub-atomic levels, mesoscopic or in between because ultimately it is all about human life and its exclusive self consciousness capability to double up as actors/observers and narrators of the drama of existence, as argued in our own BPS brain dynamics model. In our opinion, it constitutes an excessive act of self indulgent behavior when claiming exclusive validation of either a holistic or a reductionist model as necessary and sufficient when obviously both are complementary and needed but not sufficient in themseves. We witness this unfortunate behavior often in physics where reductionists generalize about the resulting behavior of particulate matter when e.g., environmentally contrived component electrons, ions or molecules perform when condensed, frozen at sub-zero temperatures or otherwise unnatural environments on our vital earth biosphere environmental simulations with the intent to market their ideas as applicable to real time ongoing existential conditions on our planet earth vital biosystem or elsewhere. Another problem we will not discuss now is the questionable probability distribution assigned to varying participating events. This is not meant to deny the potential transcendental value of simulations under justifiable environmental conditions to generate various probable formulations to explain the measured reports. The one formulation able to produce the most future confirmations of their predictions would be the winner. Sometimes it would be the hands-on experimentalist and materialist reductionist, other times the arm chair holistic philosopher with the same materialist frame of reference. The former looks at the immediate, empirical ongoing now, the latter at the transcendental probable tomorrow scenario so valuable in anticipating and preparing actionable strategies for probable life survival threats in the future. Both approaches are necessary but not sufficient in themselves. Together, as a unit life survival kit Epistemontological singularity, it is the best choice as argued by this author in detail in many published volumes of arguments. We will briefly examine some of those arguments to follow.

For the reasons expressed above this author finds it unnecessary and confusing to dissect out further the metaphysical holism as an epistemological category to distinguish alleged (but as yet unjustified) ontological, property and nomological variations. The allegations that some physical objects carry non physical parts or the equivalent allegation that, the whole may contain non-physical entities directly responsible for causally efficient properties in addition to those properly attributed to the physical particulate matter constituents; they call it ‘ontological holism’, is incomplete. This incompleteness may have well been the reason why Ontological Holism has been a stumbling block in explaining quantum mechanical interpretations because, e.g., if a physical particle is not detected as traveling with a de Broglie ‘wavicle’ it is assumed it is not there being carried by the wave. For some it is more credible that a massless physical particle exists! Along the same lines ‘nomological holism’ stands for behavior that can only be attributed to a non-physical agency. These very special environmental circumstances attending these variations need more elaboration until they become experimentally testable or at least probable under a metaphysical logic scrutiny. However, it is fair to say that in the ideal world of Weinberg’s reductionism it is correct in insisting that it is the ontological particulate matter, visible or not, that ultimately decides the outcome of their reactive interaction and not the representational abstract formulation of interpreters that drives and controls the outcome. But in the real-time world scenario of fluctuating environmental idiosyncrasies the very same object or event under the same environmental conditions may well elicit different occurrence language accounts even by identical twins! So much for the importance of the renowned narrator in dictating trend setting norms for all to follow as truths regardless of the strict ontological correspondence to the real object in real existence. The very same object may elicit different conceptualizations in different qualified observers. I am reminded of Nobel Prize Niels Bohr remarks on what today we call ‘Ontological Holism’ as it applies to Quantum Theoretical considerations way back in 1934. While quantum mechanical phenomena can be described or explained in purely physical terms, obviously not all participating entities (e.g., physical particles, environmental conditions, etc.) can be characterized as physical material objects especially when independently characterized as to their isolate/individual structure/function and reactivity. Consequently to characterize a ‘quantum’ object as an independently existing object is simplistic and unnecessary. Even Bohmian Mechanics’s relatively more recent inclusion of the corresponding fields created by the totality of physical particles of the undivided universe that guide their particle trajectories, besides the physical particles themselves, is incomplete, albeit being necessary… but not sufficient because it excludes, among other things, the human being species obvious brain limitations in the perceptual/conceptual evaluation and linguistic characterization of existential reality as this author had abundantly analyzed in other publications.  .   .

Summary and Conclusions.

The simplest way to phenomenologically describe and/or inferentially explain the causally driven simplest possible system S with two or more participating components, say a, b, c, is to assume the unit-size particulate matter components may interact under clearly stated standard temperature and pressure (STP) environmental conditions and coordinates in space time. This would be an idealist representation of a Newtonian spatiotemporal kinematic behavior of a, b, c, ..n particles responding to finite forces f=ma as each particle projects forward along its trajectory. In anticipation of having to describe/explain some unexpected experimental results or observations, we then incorporate a quantum theoretical mathematical logic such that this system is now more adequately characterized by a tensor-product state-vector factorizing into a vector in the Hilbert space of each individual participant  thus: Ψa, b, c, …, n ≠ Ψa ⊗ Ψb ⊗ Ψc….. Ψn. In the real time human and earth spatio-temporal biosystem world of hands-on experimentalists and arm-chair theorists of language reporters of the observables results, the tensor products of the equation do not factorize out as shown in the previous equation. No wonder the participating elements are said to be all entangled if we imply an unreal statism instead of a a real-time complex evolving before the scratching heads of the human practitioners and the speculators whose access to absolute reality is denied to their physical brain processing capabilities in both the perceptual and/or conceptual domain of discourse! No wonder we have to settle for convenient approximations and propositional brainstorm model poems to see it their corresponding predictions are verified in future measurements and/or observations….. and even then it will undoubtedly change eventually with the passage of time, not to mention the unjustifiable excesses attributable to either the materialist physics scientific methodology ontological claims or the philosophical methodology epistemological claims when excluding each other as the only valid assessment of human existential reality. That is the reason why only in the ideal world the total is not necessarily and sufficiently expressed as the sum of its constitutive parts. This way both the ontological and epistemological views, albeit necessary, become extreme views because of their insufficient status when taken separately. Why not integrate the best of both into a new unit singularity, a dynamic hybrid Epistemontological synthesis like our own biopsychosocial BPS model of brain dynamics. This conceptualization, as spelled out in seven published volumes, a blog, a treatise and various other publications, is still in development as several issues remain unsolved as pointed out in our arguments above.

Reproduced in part and modified from “Treatise on the Neurophilosophy of Consciousness.” A Multidisciplinary Biopsychosocial (BPS) Model. Trafford Publishing, Inc.  Only Reference

In Deltona, Fl. Early Spring 2014.

Dr. Angell O. de la Sierra, Esq.


About Dr.d

See CV, family & publications at: http://delaSierra-Sheffer.net/
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