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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

versão On-line ISSN 2224-7912
versão impressa ISSN 0041-4751


STRAUSS, Danie. The nature and place of the whole-parts relation both from a general philosophical perspective and from that of the philosophy of the special sciences. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2017, vol.57, n.4, pp.1078-1092. ISSN 2224-7912.

This article focuses on the broader philosophical and special scientific context within which an account is given of the nature and place of the whole-parts relation within scholarly disciplines (the natural sciences and the humanities). This investigation will pave the way for a follow-up article in which attention will be given to the implications of our current analysis for scholarly reflection on human society and for a more comprehensive understanding of communal forms of social life (including "gemeenskappe"). In the initial sections of this article the conceptual element of rationality is related to the nature of (scientific) thinking while contrasting it with the absence of logical-analytical abilities within the higher developed animals. What is striking about the human being is the erect gait, free hand with an opposing thumb geared towards formative cultural activities guided by the spiritual expression of the human face. A few observations about concept and word are made in order to address the question where to position the whole-parts relation. The nature of a numerical unity and multiplicity also underlies our awareness of the individual person (unity) and many individuals (multiplicity). At once it becomes the starting-point for an individualistic understanding of human society. Udehn (2002) distinguishes between methodological individualism and methodological holism - thus introducing the idea of wholeness - an idea serving holism. He supports a remark made by Jellinek (1966) namely that the individualistic-atomistic and opposing collectivistic-universalistic orientations represent contrasting world views. Since scientific thinking is characterized by modal abstraction (lifting out one or another aspect of reality by disregarding others), the special sciences have to proceed from a view of reality which exceeds the confines of a single aspect and therefore inevitably operates on the basis of a philosophical view of reality. This requires an account of the coherence between unique aspects and an acknowledgement of the fact that the whole-parts relation first of all should be appreciated as a function concept and not as a thing concept. Locating the whole-parts relation within the spatial aspect opens up the way to an analysis of backward- and forward-pointing moments of coherence (analogies) between the spatial aspect and the aspect preceding it (i.e. the numerical aspect), and the coherence between those aspects succeeding the spatial aspect evinced in spatial analogies within them. The discovery of the spatial meaning of the whole-parts relation is found in the school of Parmenides, particularly in Zeno's B Fragment 3. His discovery presupposes infinity as an endless succession but this meaning was turned "inwards" by the insight that continuity is infinitely divisible. Parmenides and his school transcended the restricted Pythagorean claim that everything is number by actually exploring space as a new mode of explanation. It will be argued that the spatial whole-parts relation mediate the interconnections between the numerical aspect, spatial aspect, the kinematic aspect and the other post-spatial aspects. The implication is that human society can neither be interpreted in terms of isolated individuals nor in terms of one or another social whole or totality embracing individuals as integral parts. From the perspective of the numerical aspect one should distinguish between the concept of the successive infinite and the idea of the at once infinite - where one may also, in the latter case, contemplate the idea of infinite totalities. A first indication is given of the limitations of the whole-parts relation by using the example of NaCl. In addition, the transition from closed physical systems to opened systems is briefly explained in order to pave the way for our follow-up article. It turned out that since ancient Greece, organicistic modes of thinking constantly gave shelter to both individualistic and universalistic orientations. The systematic distinctions explained in this article will provide the basis for our subsequent analysis of the role (limits and scope) of the whole-parts relation in an understanding of human society.

Palavras-chave : Whole-parts relation; succession; totality; individualism; atomism; universalism; holism; uniqueness and coherence; world views.

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