Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


Holism as an Art


Philosophy Department


College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Date Range



Social and Behavioral Sciences


Holism as an Art Abstract: This paper is a sequel to the paper I presented at the 2008 SACP conference, titled Holism as an alternative to universalism.In that paper I argued that instead of swinging between universalism and particularism, the Confucian vision can be characterized as holism, which retains particularity not as separated individual parts but as participants of a whole. Building on this thesis the current paper points out further that holism is not merely a theory, but an art of living. One who lives holistically will not only live with the thin reason, with the written, the universal, the general, and the timeless. The person will engage the thick world in thick ways. So for instance, the persons understanding of civil discourse will see it much more than just gaining intellectual awareness and understanding of different beliefs. It involves affecting peoples attitudes and way of living, transformation of each other and human relations, and indeed, it is itself a way of living and relating. As an art, it requires learning rituals (with regard to which Confucianism is particularly stimulating), rhetoric (not in its derogative sense of spinning, but in the sense of the ancient art defined by Aristotle as an ability, in each case, to see the available means of persuasion [1] that takes into account the effects of emotions, body language, tone of voice, moments of silence, etc.), sensitivity (to cultural differences, nuances of expression, settings in which dialogue takes place, etc.), confidence (rather than arrogance), and a caring, constructive attitude. They all require practice to perfect, like learning gongfu.

Conference Name

Peimin Ni

Conference Location

Binghamton, NY, United States

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