A theory of holism for nursing

Med Health Care Philos. 1998;1(3):255-61. doi: 10.1023/a:1009931428062.


In this paper it is argued that nurses should be holists whilst at the same time accepting that 'holism' is a contentious concept. One of the problems for a supporter of holism is that of which holism--an attempt to outline the version of holism advocated is made by identifying only two versions of holism: The Strong theory and the Pragmatic theory of holism. By introducing this device it is hoped to avoid, if only by stipulation, some of the more sophisticated nuances of holism drawn by other commentators. However despite a most judicious use of Ockham's Razor some detailed groundwork remains. In the first part of this paper a simple example is used which aims to articulate what are arguably some of the central issues within the holism debate. These issues are then placed within a wider philosophical context. The second part of the paper will offer definitions of Strong and Pragmatic holism. Drawing on specific examples from the nursing context it will be argued that the Pragmatic theory of holism is the theory of holism most compatible with nursing theory and practice. The methods employed in this paper are philosophical. Since the questions considered are conceptual rather than empirical requiring a discursive approach, utilising thought experiments and case implication to explore the issues.

MeSH terms

  • Holistic Health*
  • Humans
  • Knowledge
  • Nursing Research
  • Nursing Theory*
  • Philosophy, Nursing
  • Professional Practice