Wholes are real, or else they are not worth talking about at all, as not existing in the first place. On materialism, there are no wholes: no persons, no molecules, not even any Rutherfordian atoms or protons.
So then, on materialism, most human discourse is – as pertaining to entities that do not truly exist, being therefore inapposite to things as they really are – simply not worth doing; is, rather, inapt, and so likely injurious.
But if materialism is false – as, being a notion of entities that under its own account do not actually exist, it must necessarily be – then wholes are real. Some of them, anyway. The trick is to discern which apparent wholes are entities in their own right, and which are only our own heuristics.
We speak for example of a whole pile of gravel, but that is clearly a heuristic. The pile is not an entity.
Animals on the other hand do really exist as entities in their own right. Only an epistemological and empirical idiot would insist otherwise (this, granting the difficulty of scribing truly and accurately the boundary between animate organism and mechanical procedure at the viral scale). Plants are another matter, especially multicellular plants. Is a tree a thing? Much harder to say; better, perhaps, as safer, to grant it actuality, than not.
Marriages are reals. So then are families. To assert otherwise is to deny their actuality, or their influence upon the course of history. And to do that would be to blind oneself to historical, causal factors that obviously obtend; that matter. It’s a crazy notion. People care about their families, and act in the interests thereof, and so (betimes) to the great and immediate detriment of their own. We certainly *could* assert that in so doing, they were motivated by illusion.
But, NB: that would be the *less* parsimonious hypothesis, of those that are on offer.
It would be the hypothesis that found their sacrifices utterly incomprehensible.
It would be, NB, the hypothesis that asserted its own incapacity to understand sacrificial acts.
It would be the hypothesis that asserted its own inadequacy to what is; that, to put it in the simplest terms, asserted its own falsity.
As marriages and families are reals, so then are houses (e.g., the House of Abraham, of Windsor, of Kristor), clans, tribes … and nations. This, at any rate, taking nations to be related by blood, as the aetymology of “nation” forces us to do.
Nations, then, by a straightforward extension, are likewise ontological reals. They are not social fictions, or constructs; are not illusions. They supervene upon their natives, to be sure, but do not and cannot reduce thereto. They act in ways that none of their subject constituents ever would, and so doing oblige those constituents, and sway them, informing their acts and shaping their preferences. Only thus might a young man possibly decide to go to war for his nation. If nations are nothing, such decisions could not but be insane, pathological, inapposite to reality; and so they could not but lead the irreal “national” agglomerations of such sacrificial acts, dedicated to an illusion, to anything other than ruin.
Nations are ontological reals.