When does reductionism not work? Why is the property of the whole not reducible to the sum of its parts? By Psychology Posted on 2022-04-04 Category : Other Can you please explain with specific examples?
example. A group of specialists of different profiles can very successfully solve some very complex complex problem, but each of these specialists (and any number of these identical specialists) will never be able to solve the same problem.
I once read, ahem, “anecdote”:
The meaning of words is the simplest example of a situation where reductionism does not work. The meaning of a word comes from parts of that word, but parts of the word are not letters. The meaning of the word “bow” is not made up of the meaning of individual letters. Reductionism does not work wherever the system is sufficiently complex to generate new patterns and properties.
It depends on what is meant by “works”. If this is understood as “the ability to adequately explain and describe complex integral natural systems”, then it does not work. If this means “the ability to provide a model on the basis of which you can create your own artificial systems”, then it works.
Neither physics, nor chemistry, nor biology is able, on the basis of their reductionist models, to assemble from “their reductionist details” at least one slightly complex integral natural system. Neither life, nor consciousness, nor society. But for the creation of artificial systems, they all provide the widest opportunities and tools.
Reductionism, like so much in philosophy, substitutes practical success and fruitfulness for logical validity. It only provides a simplified model of natural phenomena, which is only suitable for creating artificial systems based on it, which usually do not even remotely resemble natural ones. This of course has a huge benefit. But this does not mean that reductionism solves the problem that it claims to solve, namely, the explanation of complex phenomena with the help of simpler ones.
For example, physics. It is based on the reductionist idea of reducing all motion to speculative ” inertial motion.” All its further constructions (inertial reference frames, coordinates, momentum, energy, force, and mass) they live on this reductionist idea. As a result, a model called “physical reality” was built, which describes and allows you to work only with artificial physical experiments and devices.
As a result, we have created many artificial technological, physical, chemical, and biological worlds around us, but we have not made any progress in understanding (i.e., we cannot assemble complex systems) nature, life, consciousness, or society.
By the way, even artificial systems are not reduced to a set of parts that they consist of, even taking into account their properties, on the basis of which they interact. Here you need to add the idea and project (program) of the whole, according to which these systems were assembled. As well as those who assembled them, and all the tools, equipment, technological lines used by them, as well as their idea and project. Etc. As you can see, the main “detail” of such systems is the person himself. Who knows, perhaps we should also look for traces of it in natural systems, and you may not need reductionism.
Reductionism is analysis, a necessary stage of cognition. Reductionism “does not work” when analysis is not followed by synthesis – in fact, a holistic stage of cognition. Synthesis may not be possible if we were unable to obtain sufficient reliable information about the object/process under study at the analysis stage. At the same time, it is obvious that there is no synthesis without analysis – there is nothing to synthesize. Therefore, in the scientific and near-scientific sphere, a holistic approach without previous reductionism usually degenerates into an empty pseudo-philosophy.
The property of the whole is irreducible to the sum of parts, because the parts as a whole are not just summed up, but are combined by complex interactions that provide the emergent properties of the whole.
Such great responses and comments! It's simple-
Interaction is the sum of properties, it is not equal to the sum of some artificially subjectively selected” parts “of the whole, but leads to a “general property of the whole”.