One of the important trends embedded in the philosophical
and scientific thought of this century has been the development, articulation and application of the concept of wholes. This is particularly evidenced in Gestalt or configuration theories of perception,
the whole -organism approach of biologists, neurologists, neuro-surgeons, psychiatrists, psychologists and social scientists, the philosophical inquiries, primarily of the Organicist and Idealist schools
of philosophy and in the explication of the principle of organic
evolution expressed in theory of Evolutionary Holism. Some ideas
involved in the concept of wholes, however rudimentary and at times
superficial, have been resident in intellectual thought from the
very origins of philosophy in which certain Pre-socratics and. early
Greeks envisaged the universe as a process and as a unity, with life
conceived as being a part of its essential nature. Though many scholarly systems through two and a half millennia have employed some
aspect of the concept of wholes, it can be said that one of the fullest
and most extensive attempts to utilize and develop these principles
with reference to the theory of organic evolution is Jan Christian
Smuts's Holism and Evolution.
Selection of material has necessarily been made. To conform to the limitations imposed on the study, we have excluded any
purposeful attempt to deal with the scientific validity of Smuts's
system as a theory of organic evolution. We make an effort, however,
to discuss his evolutionary system as a whole with reference to his
concept of the essential nature, organization and behavior of personal wholes. This is formulated into an underlying question which
runs through the entire study.
Section I seeks to clarify, at the beginning, some basic
problems concerning wholes which hamper contemporary research; the
discussion in the remainder of the Section sets forth Smuts's general philosophical position, indicates its dependence on the thought
of Aristotle, Leibniz, Kant and Hegel, and criticizes it on some important issues which have to do with the attempt to formulate a theory of organic but especially personal wholes.
Based on the rather extended treatment cf Smuts's system in Section I which forms the necessary background for the entire
discussion, Section II is then able to proceed along a line of thought which deals more specifically with the psychological implications inherent in his theory. It is a discussion centered around.
basic concepts concerning normal and deviated personality, self-organization, behavior and inter-action. Some patients under
stress are cited from the author's own clinical experience to
support the central thesis. By a critical discussion of valuable
suggestions and severe inadequacies in the Philosophy of Holism,
a general frame of reference far different from Smuts's emerges
which, nevertheless, retains some important insights of his