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Chiropractic Journal of Australia : CJA June 2012
44 Chiropractic Journal of Australia Volume 42 Number 2 June 2012 In ensuing paragraphs the word culture will be used in its anthropological defnition (totality of behavioural patterns, beliefs, and products of human work and thought characteristic of a community or population); and the word spirit, that has many different meanings, will be used as is customary in chiropractic literature. A GLIMPSE OF HISTORY OF THOUGHT Materialism was one of many conceptions of living matter that, for centuries, refected changing cultural backgrounds and worldviews. It was a unitary approach whereby all forms and properties of living matter would be mere transformations of one substance. It resulted in reductionism that justifed analytical methods, the properties of the wholes being derived from the properties of their parts. It also supported the assumption that life and consciousness could derive from physico-chemical processes. Materialism took into account effcient causes but excluded fnal causes from the domain of sciences. Analytical methods proved to be heuristic and scientifc advances of last centuries garnered wide support for their underlying materialistic worldview. However, the assumption dating back to Antiquity that the whole was more, or different, than the sum of its parts did not fall into oblivion. Here are three perspectives of holism and their different relationships with materialism. The Medical Science of Man Historian Elizabeth Williams detected holism in the medical science of man, or anthropological medicine, that was formulated in France at the end of the 18th century. This school of thought was consistent with the materialistic optimism of French revolutionaries who intended to transform individuals and society by medicine and social hygiene. It actually originated in 18th-century vitalism that not only postulated the existence of an undefned materialistic vital force but also allowed for environmental factors and internal dispositions. “It was holistic, both in its conception of the human persona as an integral, functionally interdependent whole and in its view of medicine as a science or art that must somehow embrace the myriad, interdependent phenomena of human experience. Seen in this light, medicine was not limited to a discrete set of physical phenomena but instead was extensive, to some theorists even comprehensive, in its purview.” 2 A type of medicine grounded in physiology and anthropology was therefore the key to understanding human nature and providing guidance in all aspects of human life. After mid- 19th century the medical science of man declined when its components evolved into medical specialties and anthropology in a general context of refexions on the roles of heredity and environment. Its central problematic – “reciprocal physical- moral infuences” – became archaic in an era dominated by positive science and reductionist methodologies. This was the time when Claude Bernard founded modern physiology. He postulated that a “creative vital force” could explain the development and organization of living organisms. Unlike 18th-century vitalists he attempted to defne this force and assumed that it was related to heredity.3 Holism and Universe In more recent times Jan Christiaan Smuts (1870-1950), South African soldier, statesman, and thinker, had broad perspectives associated with theories of sociology, evolution, radioactivity, and relativity. In an essay entitled Holism and Evolution, at the conjunction of science, philosophy, and metaphysics, he forged the term holism to denominate a factor that was “an inherent character of the universe.” 4 According to his theory holistic tendency was fundamental in nature: evolution was the gradual and creative stratifcation of progressive series of wholes stretching from inorganic beginnings to the highest manifestations of human mind, thus associating structure and process, space and time. Matter, life, and mind formed a continuum: life was based on lower physico-chemical structures; similarly, mind had a defnite relation with earlier structures. “Wholeness is the most characteristic expression of the nature of the universe in its forward movement in time. It marks the line of evolutionary progress. And Holism is the inner driving force behind that progress.” 5 Wholes were the “real units of Nature”; they were “dynamic, organic, evolutionary, creative” and not mere mechanical constructions. Parts and wholes reciprocally influenced each other. But wholes were entities quite different from the separate activities of their parts and they could be included in more elaborate wholes. “A whole, which is more than the sum of its parts, has something internal, some inwardness of structure and function, some specifc inner relations, some internality of character or nature, which constitutes that more.” 6 Holism was a general organising and regulating factor. It was partial in the early stages of evolution but progressively “gained” on mechanism and became pervasive; higher structures and their “functional newness” were based on lower structures and included them. Holism was basic to the universe in its multitudinous forms and processes: “In wholeness, in the creation of ever more perfect wholes, lies the inner meaning and trend of the universe.” 7 Smuts’ theory included final causes and led to a metaphysical conception of the universe that was “progressive, creative and pluralistic.” Holism also characterized the philosophies of Henri Bergson and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, although with different interpretations of relationships between matter, life, and consciousness. In biology, recent holistic theories were materialistic and insisted on interrelations between phenomena: differences between inorganic and living matter did not reside in the substance they were made of but in the specifc organisation of biological systems. New characteristics appeared in the process of emergence; this process could explain phenomena such as life and consciousness. General System Theory A paradigm was developed by biologist Karl Ludwig von Bertalanffy (1901-1972) in the 1930s and especially in the 1950s. At the conjunction of cybernetics and structuralism, the essential idea was that properties of a system were HOLISM IN HEALTH CARE JOLLIOT
CJA March 2012
CJA September 2012