Abstract

Consider the concept of integrity: on the one hand, we use the concept to describe the integrity of individuals; and we mean something like their intactness and resistance to impingement by antagonistic forces. On the other hand, we also use the concept to describe the integrity of collective structures, such as ecosystems; and we mean something about how the components hang together in a relatively stable way. Jan Zwicky’s work does justice to this crucial ambiguity: for her, integrity is a kind of wholeness which is not fusion, but which preserves the distinctness and particularity of its component details. According to this vision, there is reciprocity between the micro-structural details and the macro-structural whole: the character of the whole does determine the character of the details, but it is also constituted by and inseparable from them. While there is an objection to the epistemology of Zwicky’s notion of component detail—it seems that we can sometimes grasp “content” while ignoring details—it is not decisive. If we extract the “content” from an ecosystem in a quantitative survey, for example, we have missed something indispensable: because an ecosystem is not fully understandable independently of its role as a home for living, individual organisms. Furthermore, it is an experimental truth that, by attending to details, we learn more about the complex whole of which they are components.

... ἐν τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ μικρῷ κόσμῳ ὄντι.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1535-5306
Print ISSN
1085-6633
Pages
pp. 89-109
Launched on MUSE
2017-05-30
Open Access
No
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