Jan Smuts

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Jan Smuts, circa 1919

Jan Christiaan Smuts (24 May 187011 September 1950) was a South African statesman, general, and intellectual. Amongst the offices that he held, he was Prime Minister of South Africa and Field Marshal in the British Army.


  • If there was to be equal manhood suffrage the whites would be swamped all over South Africa by the blacks and the whole position for which whites have striven for 200 years or more would be given up.
    • Statement at the Imperial Conference (1921)

Holism and Evolution (1926)[edit]

Holism and evolution (1926)
  • The intimate rapport with nature is one of the most precious things in life. Nature is indeed very close to us; sometimes closer than hands and feet, of which in truth she is but the extension. The emotional appeal of nature is tremendous, sometimes almost more than one can bear.
    • p. 337
  • In all the previous cases of wholes, we have nowhere been able to argue from the parts of the whole. Compared to its parts, the whole constituted by them is something quite different, something creatively new, as we have seen. Creative evolution synthesises from the parts a new entity not only different from them, but quite transcending them. That is the essence of a whole. It is always transcendent to its parts, and its character cannot be inferred from the characters of its parts.
    • p. 342
  • (Holism is) the tendency in nature to form wholes that are greater than the sum of the parts through creative evolution ...
  • Having no human companion I felt a spirit of comradeship for the objects of nature around me. In my childish way I communed with these as with my own soul; they became the sharers of my confidence.

Holism (1929)[edit]

"Holism" in The Encyclopaedia Britannica, Fourteenth Edition, (1929), p. 640-644
  • Holism is the theory which makes the existence of “wholes” a fundamental feature of the world. It regards natural objects, both animate and inanimate, as wholes and not merely as assemblages of elements or parts. It looks upon nature as consisting of discrete, concrete bodies and things and not as a diffusive homogeneous continuum. And these bodies or things are not entirely resolvable into parts; in one degree or another they are wholes which are more than the sum of their parts, and the mechanical putting together of their parts will not produce them or account for their characters and behaviour. The so-called parts are in fact not real but largely abstract analytical distinctions, and do not properly or adequately express what has gone to the making the thing as a whole.
  • Holism is therefore a viewpoint additional and complementary to that of science, whose keywords are continuity and mechanism. The ideal of science is continuity, and its method is based on the analysis of things into more or less constant elements or parts, the sum of whose actions account for the behaviour of these things. Things, thus become mechanisms of their parts; and the interactions of their invariable parts in a homogeneous time and space according to the rules of mechanics are sufficient to account for all their properties. This mechanistic scheme applies even to living bodies, as their material structures determine the functions which constitute life characters. Mind is similarly, though much more doubtfully, based on physical mechanisms and functions. Life and mind are thus considered as derivative and epiphenomenal to matter.

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