Holistic vs. Reductionist Paradigm

Western medicine as well as Western science as a whole are based on the reductionistic paradigm. The basic premise of this paradigm is that in order to to understand and create health, we need to understand all the parts of the human physiology, e.g., how nerve cells work and what minerals, vitamins and other nutrients are needed. By contrast, the holistic paradigm asserts that we will never grasp the whole by analyzing the parts and putting them together.

All ancient healing systems, whether it be Traditional Chinese Medicine or Ayurveda, or healing systems developed in recent centuries such as homeopathy, naturopathy and aromatherapy, are based on principles stemming from the holistic paradigm. Below are listed some major principles of each paradigm. In addition to the healing arts, they apply to any scientific or philosophic discipline.

Reductionist Paradigm

  • A system can be completely understood by studying its parts. Even though the whole is more than the collection of the parts, the system can be recreated by putting the parts together.
  • Minute quantities don’t matter.
  • The history of a system is irrelevant as long as its current state is known.
  • Subjective influences need to be eliminated.
  • Remedies: effect based on active ingredients.
  • Examples of tools: chemical analysis and synthesis, GC, etc.
  • Medical research: controlled study.
  • Opposite effects are considered undesired or inimical.
  • Reconstituted essential oils.
  • Pure means free of additives, “impurities,” germs, etc.
  • The Universe is seen as being chaotic. Dissection and control are the means to make it bearable.

Holistic Paradigm