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Organicism

Logic And Metaphysics

Plato's (c. 428–348 or 347 B.C.E.) metaphysical theories constitute an important starting place for organicism in the West. In the Philebus, he examined the problem of "how the one can be many, and the many one," that is, the ways in which diversity comports with unity. The Platonic doctrine of the Forms, as presented in the Republic, constituted one such solution. Even when Plato later criticized the failings of his own metaphysical teachings, as in the Theatetus, he remained committed to the principle that the totality is greater than the sum of its parts.

Aristotle (384–322 B.C.E.), in turn, rendered organicist doctrine a precept of logic by asserting that the whole is prior to its parts because it is only possible to conceive of the parts qua parts once one has grasped the whole. Hence, Aristotle maintained that the analysis of any organic unity requires a "decompositional" method that commences with the whole and then dissolves it into its constituent parts precisely in order to discover the contribution that each element makes to the totality. One finds applications of this logical method throughout the Aristotelian corpus, including his metaphysics, aesthetics, politics, and natural philosophy.

Organicist metaphysics thus stands in stark contrast to metaphysical atomism. The organicist believes that some inhering force—the Good, telos—unites beings into a single Being and therefore that apparent clashes or disparities between opposites are entirely illusory. The neo-Platonic doctrine of a concordance or coincidence of opposites follows an organicist track, as does Hegelian dialectical logic.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Octadecanoate to OvenbirdsOrganicism - Logic And Metaphysics, Aesthetics, Theology And Cosmology, Social And Political Thought, Decline Of Organicism