A reductionist approach to the analysis

Our preference for simple and unified explanations is a strong force for reductionism, but our demand that all relevant phenomena be accounted for is at least as strong a force against it.

Students might like to consider what might go on the middle shelf and what else might be missing. There are molecular systems consisting of highly interconnected and functionally integrated networks whose complex organization does not permit a recomposition of the system behavior from the component functions studied in isolation Green et al.

The experimental and laboratory approach in various areas of psychology e. Schaffneracknowledges that reductionism in his sense has been peripheral to the practice of molecular biology, but maintains that his formal model of reduction captures the reduction relation between theories.

These articles give patients the idea that a simple one-step process can be targeted in the treatment of disease, when clearly there are multiple factors involved. Holism is the idea that items can have properties, emergent propertiesas a whole that are not explainable from the sum of their parts.

Consider the example that Schaffner offers in support of the possibility of reduction: While acknowledging the legitimacy of reductionist research strategies that isolate molecular causes relative to a background held fixed for experimental purposes, Robert emphasizes that this methodology does not license an inference to an exclusively reductionist position where all explanatorily relevant causes are molecular.

Supporters of a reductionist approach say that it is scientific. Aristotle is the foundation for both philosophical themes pertaining to reductionism. In medicine, we are in danger of becoming greedy reductionists and it would pay for us to step back occasionally and take a more holistic view of our field.

In philosophy of biology, reduction involves questions about how different biological disciplines and theories are related, and how biology is connected to physics and chemistry e.

Reductionistic and Holistic Science

Additionally Nagel treats the question of evolutionary emergence, i. Philosophical issues in biology seemed to require distinct analyses that are more sensitive to empirical research in biology Brigandt This underscores the relationship between the inherent complexity of a system under study and the limits of methodological reductionism.

Some arguments, however, do not put as much emphasis on the individual significance of the parts.


Disease in humans can never be fully understood in the laboratory. Yet Aristotle was attentive to issues of material composition and constraints arising from the nature of properties exhibited by animal parts, which often mark commitments to types of ontological and epistemic reduction.

Almost all of the discussion surrounding one-many Section 4. Richard Jones divides ontological reductionism into two: Both experimental investigation and explanation can focus on one among many causes, relegating everything else to the context or background which is often held fixed in experimental studies.

As an adjective, one online dictionary defines basic as: Evidence-based reductionism It is not only in the laboratory where reductionism pervades. It is useful to group different approaches to reduction into two basic categories: This decline has been accompanied by increasing attention to models of explanatory reduction e.


Models of theory reduction were of primary interest in post-positivist philosophy of science that emerged in the s and have received the most sustained attention Schaffner In this context, however, the learners prior understanding is misleading. There is a need now to move away from scientism and the ideology of cause-and-effect determinism toward a radical empiricismsuch as William James proposed, as an epistemology of science.

If reduction in this sense is not occurring in biology, then there are significant questions about whether it best fits biological knowledge and practice.

Reductionism in Biology

The philosophical study of reduction links up with several key issues in the philosophy of science. This is often extremely hard to do, especially in the face of our strong preference for simple explanations.

Dennett terms such aspirations "skyhooks," in contrast to the "cranes" that reductionism uses to build its understanding of the universe from solid ground. Instead of construing theory relations in terms of the Nagel-Schaffner model, he identifies a key principle of inference operating in classical genetics and molecular genetics: Yet it has been argued that molecular biology as the reducing theory does not consist of a small body of laws, so that a covering-law model of explanation and reduction is not applicable Culp and KitcherKitcherSarkar For example, lightning would not be reducible to the electrical activity of air molecules if the reduction explained why lightning is deadly, but not why it always seeks the highest point to strike.

Sometimes a lower level explanation is better relative to one epistemic virtue, while a higher level explanation is preferable relative to another, such as unification. The construction of synthetic regulatory circuits, the modeling of complex genetic and metabolic networks, and the measurement of transcriptional dynamics in single cells are just some of the new ways of analyzing complex phenomena that have invigorated microbiology 3113839 Knocking out a gene need not have any impact on ontogeny due to genetic redundancy, while eliminating a particular cell or group of cells may dramatically interfere with normal development Brigandt a,Mitchell The Concept of Reductionism.

The concept of reductionism has become an integral part of our daily lives. "The terms 'analytic' and 'reductionist' refer to a particular mental attitude or manner of thinking that has dominated the modern period"(I) and has replaced the synthetic and hierarchical pattern of thought.

Biological learners can be studied in a reductionist way as they solve BCI-like control problems, and machine learning algorithms can be developed and tested in closed loop with the subjects before being translated to full BCIs.

Reductionism and its heuristics: Making methodological reductionism honest have ignored this fact in our analysis of reductionistic activities. Or perhaps we have broader paradigm for how to approach philosophical problems.

Reductionism in Biology

1 The failure of a unitary structuralist account of reduction. Reductionist definition, the theory that every complex phenomenon, especially in biology or psychology, can be explained by analyzing the simplest, most basic physical mechanisms that are in operation during the phenomenon.

See more. Reductionism encompasses a set of ontological, epistemological, and methodological claims about the relations between different scientific domains.

Reductionism and Holism

Ontological reductionism denies the idea of ontological emergence, and claims that emergence is an epistemological phenomenon that only exists through analysis or description of a system, and does not exist fundamentally.

A reductionist approach to the analysis
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