AskDefine | Define eclecticism

Dictionary Definition

eclecticism n : making decisions on the basis of what seems best instead of following some single doctrine or style [syn: eclectic method]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. The quality of being eclectic
  2. An approach to thought that draws upon multiple theories to gain complementary insights into phenomena
  3. Any form of art that borrows from multiple other styles

Extensive Definition

Eclecticism is a conceptual approach that does not hold rigidly to a single paradigm or set of assumptions, but instead draws upon multiple theories, styles, or ideas to gain complementary insights into a subject, or applies different theories in particular cases. It can be inelegant, and eclectics are sometimes criticized for lack of consistency in their thinking, but it is common in many fields of study. For example, most psychologists accept parts of behaviorism, but do not attempt to use the theory to explain all aspects of human behavior. A statistician may use frequentist techniques on one occasion and Bayesian ones on another. An example of eclecticism in economics is John Dunning's eclectic theory of international production.


Eclecticism was first practiced by a group of ancient philosophers who attached themselves to no real system, but selected from existing philosophical beliefs those doctrines that seemed most reasonable to them. Out of this collected material they constructed their new system of philosophy. The term comes from the Greek eklektikos: choosing the best Well known eclectics in Greek philosophy were the Stoics Panaetius and Posidonius, and the New Academics Carneades and Philo of Larissa. Among the Romans, Cicero was thoroughly eclectic, as he united the Peripatetic, Stoic, and New Academic doctrines. Further eclectics were Varro and Seneca.

Architecture and art

The term eclecticism is used to describe the combination in a single work of elements from different historical styles, chiefly in architecture and, by implication, in the fine and decorative arts. The term is sometimes also loosely applied to the general stylistic variety of 19th century architecture after Neo-classicism (c. 1820), although the revivals of styles in that period have, since the 1970s, generally been referred to as aspects of historicism.
Eclecticism plays an important role in critical discussions and evaluations but is somehow distant from the actual forms of the artefacts to which it is applied, and its meaning is thus rather indistinct. The simplest definition of the term—that every work of art represents the combination of a variety of influences—is so basic as to be of little use. In some ways Eclecticism is reminiscent of Mannerism in that the term was used pejoratively for much of the period of its currency, although, unlike Mannerism, Eclecticism never amounted to a movement or constituted a specific style: it is characterized precisely by the fact that it was not a particular style.


Eclecticism is recognized in approaches to psychology that see many factors influencing behavior and the psyche, and among those who consider all perspectives in identifying, changing, explaining, and determining behavior. (See also Integrative Psychotherapy.)

Martial arts

Some martial arts can be described as eclectic in the sense that they borrow techniques from a wide variety of other arts. The Martial Arts system developed by Bruce Lee called Jeet Kune Do is classified as an eclectic system. This system favors borrowing freely from other systems within a free floating framework. As with other disciplines that incorporate eclecticism Jeet Kune Do's philosophy does not hold rigidly to a single paradigm or set of assumptions or conclusions but encourages a student to learn what is useful for themselves. There is also Hapkido, a martial arts composed of throws, pressure points, and kicks that uses the system of eclectic

In philology

In textual criticism, eclecticism is the practice of examining a wide number of text witnesses and selecting the variant that seems best. The result of the process is a text with readings drawn from many witnesses. In a purely eclectic approach, no single witness is theoretically favored. Instead, the critic forms opinions about individual witnesses, relying on both external and internal evidence.
Since the mid-19th century, eclecticism, in which there is no a priori bias to a single manuscript, has been the dominant method of editing the Greek text of the New Testament (currently, the United Bible Society, 4th ed. and Nestle-Aland, 27th ed.). Even so, the oldest manuscripts, being of the Alexandrian text-type, are the most favored, and the critical text has an Alexandrian disposition.


Eclecticism is also known as a new popular music stream in the house scene. Dutch DJs like Don Diablo, Gregor Salto and Erick E are active in this music. Eclecticism is popular among Experimental Music Artists like Alex Ross-Iver,Tom Waits and Les Claypool.
Robin Holloway cites the composers Britten, Shostakovich, Copland, Poulenc and Tippett as eclectic composers, 'along the lines first boldly laid by Stravinsky; they make their idiom from very diverse sources, assimilating and transforming them into themselves'
In fact, most popular western music can be classified as eclectic, as virtually the entire genres of blues, jazz, rock, funk, hip-hop, punk, reggae, country, Rhythm & Blues, electronica, salsa, and others are openly derivative of well-established forms- often, the genre acquires a new name to assist in marketing. The Beatles 'White Album' can be considered a turning point in pop music because it successfully showed that the public could appreciate musicians' mastery of several distinctively different styles on a single album- blues, hard rock, psychedelia, ballads and more. As well, Sly & the Family Stone, Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, Stevie Wonder, and Miles Davis, Joni Mitchell, were foremost among those most successful in producing music which defied definition. This was because any given song on certain albums might be classified as jazz, blues, rock, country, or other. In recent years, such artists as Beck, Manu Chao, Ce-Lo, Sublime, Lauryn Hill, Kultur Shock, Tracy Chapman, Michelle N'Dgocello, and Prince, have habitually produced music which refused to adhere to any particular label but drew upon and demanded appreciation of a multitude of cultural influences. Technology such as mp3s, filesharing, cheap media players, open source software, and inexpensive recording/editing software, will undoubtedly increase this trend as listeners exert even more control over what they hear.


eclecticism in Bulgarian: Еклектика
eclecticism in Catalan: Eclecticisme
eclecticism in Czech: Eklekticismus
eclecticism in Danish: Eklekticisme
eclecticism in German: Eklektizismus
eclecticism in Spanish: Eclecticismo
eclecticism in French: Éclectisme
eclecticism in Galician: Eclecticismo
eclecticism in Italian: Eclettismo
eclecticism in Limburgan: Eclectisme
eclecticism in Hungarian: Eklektika
eclecticism in Dutch: Eclecticisme
eclecticism in Norwegian: Eklektisisme
eclecticism in Portuguese: Ecletismo
eclecticism in Russian: Эклектизм
eclecticism in Serbian: Еклектицизам
eclecticism in Finnish: Eklektinen
eclecticism in Swedish: Eklekticism
eclecticism in Vietnamese: Chủ nghĩa chiết trung
eclecticism in Turkish: Eklektisizm
eclecticism in Ukrainian: Еклектизм
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