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is a general principle of thought and is applied to describe phenomena.

When scientifically describing a phenomenon with a given purpose one generally has the alternative of choosing
  • a ‘bottom-up’ atomistic description, which starts with atom-like elements: you view the phenomenon as a puzzle combined by rules (view of atomism. see Atomism) and

  • a ‘top down’ holistic description which starts with a ‘gestalt’, a 'whole' that you have in mind. It has functional parts (called holemes), if you can view the phenomenon as a special case of a general 'whole' (Holon, pattern, Gestalt, Type). This is the view of holism.
When recognizing a "gestalt" in a phenomenon, it is possible to ‘reconstruct’ or model the phenomenon (including its dimensions and parts) as a ‘concretization’ of this “gestalt”. Other words for ‘gestalt’ are ‘whole’ and the Greek expression: Holon .

Recognition starts with the existence of a phenomenon which is intuitively recognized by an observer, who "sees" or realizes a structure of some Holon in the phenomenon, i.e. a phenomenon can be recognized as a concretization of a Holon if s/he already has some idea of a Holon in mind. From a phenomenon as such no Holon can be modeled (constructed). It needs to be ‘added’ from previous knowledge (‘background knowledge’). It was Immanuel Kant who discovered this solution to the problem of cognition and called it his "Copernican turn" in the theory of knowledge.

A concretization starts with the abstract Holon and constructs a material example of the Holon as phenomenon. A Holon is concretized in a practical situation by a special choice from a variation field (see Holon).

General mental operations
  • Recognizing a Holon. If you see a face, you may see only an eye or an ear. However, from the face Holon in your mind you recognize it tentatively as a face. You thus add the holistic information.

  • Concretization of a Holon You may want to draw a picture of a face in profile by concretizing your face Holon, You then subtract parts of your holistic knowledge. These are general mental operations man uses in daily life, science and humanities.

  • Switch phenomenon: You may know the picture of a young woman, which suddenly switches to an old woman or the duck-rabbit – the switch picture of the Tractatus of Ludwig Wittgenstein. The interpretation depends on your holistic ‘gestalt’ you choose to ‘see’. It is a holistic recognition problem because the picture itself allows for both interpretations with different functions of the parts.

  • Deciding which concretization of a Holon depends on your interpretation (= choice of Holon): you can have different perspectives of the same phenomenon (e.g. the switch design above): an old woman who looks embittered, or a young woman who looks charming.

The two above-mentioned operations of holistic adding and subtracting information are important in Kant’s knowledge theory. From the holistic considerations here, we can conclude:.

In a recognition act one has to add information from the mental representation of the assumed Holon, e.g. a real three-dimensional object is never seen by the retina in all parts at the same time. One has only one perspective of the objects. The rest has to be added from the holistic representation of the whole object in the mind.

In a production act sometimes one has to subtract information from the mental representation of the assumed Holon, e.g.
  • if a child designs a house, it designs it with all its four walls, because the child "knows" that the house has four walls, but it does not yet know that it has to subtract at least two walls.

  • or: The adult author of a text does not describe all parts of the object; s/he mentions only those parts which are relevant in the communication.

  • or: in the communication through language: the author omits all holistic information which he thinks the reader can add from his knowledge base. Clearly, this only works with a common knowledge base. It may be considered as one function of culture to guarantee this common knowledge in everyday life for the members of a community.

Historical Applications

In Linguistics, Ferdinand de Saussure conceived Language as a holistic system where each part is related to every other part. This is expressed by his concept of "valeur", the value (or role or function) of its "position" in the system.

In Psychology, the period of ‘Gestalt’ psychology at the beginning of the 20th century followed an atomistic period. Since their main concentration was on phenomenological aspects, no structured formal theory of ‘gestalt’ was formulated, however. Neither was it proposed by any other theory in linguistics or logic.

Literature :

Mudersbach (1992, 1999, 2004), Gerzymisch-Arbogast/Mudersbach 1998, 1999, 2008, Sunwoo (2012), Gerzymisch (2013), Benecke (2014).