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2 The reductionist/holist debate

2.1 Versions of reductionism

The scientific method is not a well defined one, but one that has arisen historically in the pursuit of scientific truth
*1. From this practice some philosophers have abstracted or espoused a "purer" form of ideal scientific practice, which is epitomized in the reductionist approach. It is around this that debate has largely centred. There are many formalisations of reductionism. Here are some examples:

All of these are subtly different. They all epitomise a single style of inquiry, that any phenomenon, however complex it appears, can be accurately modelled in terms of more basic formal laws. Thus they are rooted in an approach to discovering accurate models of the natural world, namely by searching for simple underlying laws. They range from the abstract question of whether all real systems can be modelled in a purely formal way to more practical issues about the sort of reduction preformed in actual scientific enquiry.

In this paper I aim to show the irrelevance of the abstract question; that when faced with a choice of action it is a very similar range of issues that face both the in-principle reductionist and holist. So for the purposes of this paper I will take the abstract definition (*) as my target absolute definition of reductionism (and hence by implication holism).

Pragmatic Holism - Bruce Edmonds - 22 FEB 96
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