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Holism is the philosophical approach to understanding complexity that recognizes that ""The whole is more than the sum of its parts."" (Aristotle). The attributes of the whole, resulting from the interrelationships of the parts, is indecipherable through reductionistic or analytic techniques. Holism is the philosophy behind synthesis and systems thinking.

The whole being more than the sum of the parts is not an algebraic expression referring to numbers. As the biologist Paul A. Weiss said, ""However, a living cell certainly does not have more content, mass or volume than is constituted by the aggregate mass of molecules which it comprises....the ""more"" (than the sum of the parts) in the above tenet does not at all refer to any measurable quantity in the observed systems themselves; it refers totally to the necessity for the observer to supplement the sum of statements that can be made about the separate parts by any such additional statements as will be needed to describe the collective behavior of the parts, when in an organized group."" Source: Weiss, P. A., (1969), The living system: Determinism stratified. In Koestler, A., and Smythies, J. R. (eds.) (1969) , Beyond Reductionism: New Perspectives in the Life Sciences, Hutchinson, London.

Holism and reductionism are complementary philosophies for use by business management.