From Oxford Dictionaries

characterized by the belief that the parts of something are intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole.

Is there an opposite view for not taking the big picture at face value (accepting that 'face value' is not baked into the definition of holistic), but evaluating the individual components to come to your own conclusion of the big picture 'from first principles'?

For example:

Rather than accepting the 'big picture' conclusion, she used _________ to come to the same conclusion by looking at the individual factors at play, from first principles.

The best I can think of is Critical Thinking or Inductive (?) Reasoning, but both are techniques and not philosophies.

  • I've just noticed the close flags are for not giving an example of how the word will be used. I'm happy to add that, but I'm surprised no close-voter commented to explain that to me. – Pureferret Apr 12 '18 at 11:26
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    I didn’t vote, but maybe those who did thought that anybody who has been in the community for over six years and has earned over a thousand rep points (including the association bonus), earning over 150 in his first six days, would know the rules by now. P.S. Your example sentence tells me that you want, not the opposite of “holistic”, but rather the opposite of holism. – Scott Apr 12 '18 at 15:36
  • @Scott Thanks for the clarification on the close flags. I'd hardly call myself part of the community though, despite having joined a long itme ago. I've just posted some upvoted questions/answer that were more popular than good. I'll bear that in mind in the future though. – Pureferret Apr 13 '18 at 11:15
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    The obvious term to me is halfasstic. – Hot Licks Apr 20 '18 at 1:49

The antonym is atomistic.

Again from ODO:

atomism [noun] mass noun

Philosophy A theoretical approach that regards something as interpretable through analysis into distinct, separable, and independent elementary components.

The opposite of holism

and atomistic: [adjective] [Philosophy] see atomism [ODO]


And '... evaluating the individual components to come to your own conclusion of the big picture', which tacitly assumes atomism, is the analytical approach / method:

Analytical Approach

An analytical approach is the use of analysis to break a problem down into the elements necessary to solve it.



The sample sentence in the question makes it clear that the question is asking for a noun, the opposite of holism.  This is reductionism:


    a procedure or theory that reduces complex data and phenomena to simple terms

Oxford English Dictionaries:

    derogatory  The practice of analyzing and describing a complex phenomenon in terms of phenomena that are held to represent a simpler or more fundamental level, especially when this is said to provide a sufficient explanation.

Collins English Dictionary:

    any method or theory of reducing data, processes, or statements to seeming equivalents that are less complex or developed    usually a disparaging term

The Merriam-Webster and Collins entries list reductionist and reductionistic as adjective forms of reductionism (i.e., opposites of holistic).

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