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Monday, 30 April 2007

Catching up on back issues of the TLS, I found this in an advertisement for "Polytheism and Society at Athens" (TLS, Oct. 6, 2006, p. 4):

"No other book takes such a holistic approach to Greek religious practice and experience, or deals with the acute historical and theoretical complexities in such a jargon-free and attractive manner." Peter Jones, Sunday Telegraph.

When a writer describes a  book as treating of a subject in a manner that is  "jargon-free" but also tells us that that book "takes...a holistic approach to Greek religious practice and experience" ["practice and experience"?] surely one has a right to be wary.

I cannot figure out what "holistic" means. Can anyone help me? Can anyone tell me what "holistic" as used above, or used anywhere at all -- in all those phrases about "taking a holistic approach" or "having a holistic view" -- must or can mean?

And how was it that for centuries, we all did without the word "holistic"? Indeed, as late as  the 1950s, and the 1960s, and the 1970s, English speakers everywhere did without the word "holistic"? How did people in that deprived past manage to express the same idea without that word "holistic"?

Is it just possible that the word "holistic" does nothing more, does less, than an "all-encompassing" or "variegated" or  "multifarious" or "wide-ranging" and that, furthermore, one is right to suspect that it really depends on the subtext of that good old dunstable word "whole"?  

Posted on 04/30/2007 3:08 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
30 Apr 2007
Hugh Fitzgerald

Russell Simmons? The man from Def Jam?

Yes, of course, silly of me to forget. He too deplores sappy-headed "holistics" but expresses it in his own, inimitable, slightly abridged, way.

30 Apr 2007
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Isn't that the fourth word proposed for banishment by Russell Simmons?