Stathis, you asked th million $ question:
"...>Could you briefly explain what reductionism is and why
> you don't like it?"<
( May I shortchange it into:
"what is MY take I call reductionism - and I like it".)
Let us start with two concepts I want to use:
the 'world' (existence, everything) as an interconnected unlimited
function, all of it influencing all of it.
2. Model: Our mind is not capable to assume it all, so as a mental aid for
survival we consider "things" in topically, functionally, ideationally (and
in whatever aspect) identifying our
REDUCED views, which are applicable for our observational skills. We
surround models by boundaries within which we 'observe' and 'recognize'. If
they are not substantially cutting into those 'observed' features, we tend
to disregard the 'out-of-boundary' effects which, however, are there - with
a potential of change in the (not currently observed) aspects.
Such a limited (maybe wide) fraction of the totality is MY "model".
Aristotle spoke about such models consisting only of material parts
when he stated that the "total is more than the sum of its components
To 'reduce' our view - thinking/observing - to units of such models
is what I CALL reductionism. I was reprimanded by philosophers stating quite
different (and several) definitions of philosophical
'reductionism' (systems) - this is, however, MY TAKE.
Why I don't like it (or do?)
Our knowledge base of the world (now I mean: nature) consists of evaluation
about reductionistic (model) observations. Our history of the cognitive
inventory we carry about the world was built upon models, sometimes in
disregard of other models (and the totality).
This is the ONLY way we with our feeble mind can learn about the world. This
is how technology was developed. I use it, you use it.
I cannot dislike our way of getting along. What I dislike is the
consideration of model-deductions as validated onto the totality. Most
sciences (all are: models!) do it, except for the new trend of approaching
physical considerations (and math) in non-physical sciences. It is also
limited, just broader.
Consider to it the development of the models (sciences) at those levels of
epistemic enrichment at which observations were made - with means of the
time - and evaluation was coined - at the level of the time. Later on more
epistemic enrichment required additions, ameliorations, but the original
reductionist ideas survived in most cases. Quantizing models (applied
mathematics) led to equations of incomplete quantities, maybe usable within
the model-consideration but ultimately leading to paradoxes. One reason IMO
how and why QM was necessary to develop.
Your example "...a hydrogen atom is made up of an electron and a proton,
..." is asking for the question: "and an electron? and a proton?" and so
on - but the main deficiency of your (reductionist) statement is to consider
for the alleged material(?) particles as to 'making' a model whithout also
including functional aspects, total ambience-connections in an interrelated
totality - dynamism.
I (as a colloidal chemist) used another example:
there is no such thing as "water = H2O" except for the primitive conclusion
of 'destroying' water and getting measurement results resembling those on
H2 and O2 (not H and O) with the proportion describable as in the water
formula-weights. None of such "ingredients" allowing for a surface tension,
the 4C max density, or hydrodynamics etc., so characteristic for 'water'.
Reductionistic model-view resulted in an unimaginable edifice of the
scientific knowledge-base, all balanced by applied math. As it turned out
½century ago, it does not contribute easily to a 'deeper' understanding of
the world. We realize complexities within models, between models and
unrelated to models. Finite and infinite ones.
This is why I slant my speculations away from the reductionistic model-view.
Alas, I am not to far ahead with it.
You asked the m$ - I replied the 2c.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Stathis Papaioannou" <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>
To: <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>; <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>;
<[EMAIL PROTECTED]>; <email@example.com>
Sent: Friday, April 29, 2005 2:23 AM
Subject: Re: Implications of MWI
> John Mikes wrote:
> >I don't think I really can expect a reply to this question: I am in the
> >boat of reductionist thinking, just dream about more.
> John, this is the second time you have mentioned reductionist thinking ijn
> the last few days. Could you briefly explain what reductionism is and why
> you don't like it? For example, a hydrogen atom is made up of an electron
> and a proton, but its behaviour is very different to that of an electron
> a proton on its own. Is it reductionist to say that a hydrogen atom is
> made up of these two subatomic particles? Similarly, a human being is made
> up of electrons, protons and neutrons, but its behaviour is very different
> to what one might guess from knowing the intricate details of particle
> physics. You can say that the hydrogen atom and the human being (and for
> that matter, just about everything else in the universe) show surprising
> behaviours, or emergent behaviours, and I would agree with you. You can
> say that there are aspects of very complex systems, like a human being or
> the universe as a whole, which science is incapable of explaining at our
> current level of understanding, and I would agree with you again. But how
> does this negate the essential point that everything is made up of its
> constituent parts, however complex the configuration of and interaction
> between those constituent parts may be?
> --Stathis Papaioannou