A Holistic Summation

Holism suggests that the whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts. Perhaps at first, this sounds physically or mathematically illogical, if not mystical. However, it’s a perfectly reasonable reality.

In the sense of emergent properties, an entity, conglomerate, body, or any system really, can be viewed as a thing in itself. This means the parts of a whole system plus the system exists such that they can be ontologically accounted for (i.e. they count as existing). Thus, the whole is necessarily greater than the sum of it’s parts.

In the most basic interpretation, this existential-addition gives us a universe where we have all it’s parts plus one in existence; everything is at least all things that exist plus the existing universe as a whole. Likewise, this cosmic accounting process can be broken down further – per the accountant’s definition of part and whole – to sum all the whole’s that exist from all parts to give a larger sum that the most basic everything+1=universe.

Imagine trying to do this. Where do you start, or really, where do you stop? Beginning with everything plus one, let’s assume we somehow can know not only how many fundamental parts there are, but that they are indeed fundamental parts and not just wholes of even more parts. Knowing that, we’ll have to decide where further distinctions need be made. This is a philosophical exercise and can go on forever, and our knowledge is too limited to get the accounting right, but let’s fancy the challenge in brief by example: For instance, is the Earth a whole to be counted as a planet among other planets and stars to be parts of whole galaxies with those as parts of whole clusters that make the whole universe? Need we also account for Earth’s whole as being of parts, such as whole continents and seas, or are those also wholes to be broken down into dirt and tetrahedral water molecule cohesions, which are parts of, ad infinitum? Likewise, is Earth’s lands beyond geography as a whole, to be composed of parts such as wholes of parts such as countries, societies, people? Is a person a whole or are they a whole of whole organ parts that are wholes of whole cell parts? Is our brain a whole or a part of whole neural regions of parts of whole masses of parts of whole neurons. What is the meaning of determining where a whole or a part begins and ends, and if it is relevant, exaggerate, or illusory? I assume you get the point and I hope you see the challenge is one of knowledge, context, and so interpretation and detail.

The idea of all this holistic accounting is to highlight the effect of dynamic parts in a system. The effect that emerges from dynamic parts is a “whole”. Emergence means a new and unknown quality has appeared from something. This easily fits to this discussion with the logic being that a whole can emerge from parts. Inevitably, this leaves us with human opinion and belief as the means by which we can account for what are parts and wholes. Ultimately, the universe is a whole with a whole system, and within this whole system sub-whole-systems can emerge per context and observation. It’s up to the accountant to decide in what depth and detail they would like to file constituent parts and their respective wholes. Furthermore, one could choose not to account for them, defying holism and viewing the world reductionistically as just parts interacting with only the emergence of an illusion that they form a whole beyond them.

A Final Note: Account accordingly, knowing accounting itself is an emergence of it’s own interacting dynamo of parts. Reduce as you may, knowing reductionism itself can be considered an emergent result of parts. Whether wholes are reduced to just parts or not, the parts emerge!

 

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