Trends in one area of study can spawn buzzwords in others. ‘Holistic’ is an example of this phenomenon, with its connotations moving from philosophy to medicine and then to, well, pretty much everything else.
The idea of holism, which has itself become something of a cliché, is that a whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This is the opposite of reductionism.
Accordingly, the goal of holistic medicine is to treat a person as a whole rather than just treat one symptom of disease. Practitioners of holistic medicine consider the physical, social, spiritual, emotional and mental aspects of health.
The holistic approach seems to have inspired others to ape it—or at least claim to do so. On March 31, 2009, for example, a press release about telecommunications research described a new study that “provides a holistic view of the Taiwanese communications market by analyzing key trends, evaluating near-term opportunities, and assessing upcoming risks factors.”
Yet for all of these aspects, the report’s conclusion—that the use of fibre-based networks “will increase the size of Taiwan's Internet market by 44 percent by 2013”—sounds more reductionist than holistic. The ‘prescription,’ suggesting that Taiwan’s telecommunications operators should invest in more fibre cabling, seems awfully single-minded, rather than providing multifaceted advice.