by Bruce Edmonds
CPM Report: 96-08
Date: 21 Feb 1996
An extended version is published as:
Edmonds, B. (1999). Pragmatic Holism (or pragmatic
reductionism), Foundations of Science, 4:57-82.
The reductionist/holist debate seems an impoverished one, with many participants
appearing to adopt a position first and constructing rationalisations second.
Here I propose an intermediate position of pragmatic holism, that irrespective
of whether all natural systems are theoretically reducible, for many systems
it is completely impractical to attempt such a reduction, also that regardless
if whether irreducible `wholes' exist, it is vain to try and prove this
in absolute terms. This position thus illuminates the debate along new
pragmatic lines, and refocusses attention on the underlying heuristics
of learning about the natural world.
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