One good reason for the popularity of "reductionism" among the philosophical outposts of the Western Establishment is that it can be, and is, used as a device for trying to take the wind, so to speak, out of the sails of Marxism. . . . In essence reductionism is a kind of anti-Marxist caricature of Marxist determinism. It is what anti-Marxists pretend that Marxist determinism is.
Reductionism argues that we can learn what 'makes things tick' by looking more closely at matter, examining the underlying units. There are at least two problems with this approach. First, reductionism assumes that only observable, material items are 'real, ' even though the vacuum of space is known to contain vast amount of inaccessible, 'invisible' energy. Subatomic particles go in and out of observable 'existence, ' and science does not know 'where' they go when they are not manifesting here. Second, this path of reasoning ignores a major quandary encountered in the realm of quantum physics. When examining matter more closely-diving down from the molecular level to the subatomic-a point is soon reached where there is virtually nothing present, at least not an obvious 'material something.
We live in a culture of reductionism. Or better, we are living in the aftermath of a culture of reductionism, and I believe we have reduced the complexity and diversity of the Scriptures to systematic theologies that insist on ideological conformity, even when such conformity flattens the diversity of the Scriptural witness. We have reduced our conception of gospel to four simple steps that short-circuit biblical narratives and notions of the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven in favor of a simplified means of entrance to heaven. Our preaching is often wed to our materialistic, consumerist cultural assumptions, and sermons are subsequently reduced to delivering messages that reinforce the worst of what American culture produces: self-centered end users who believe that God is a resource that helps an individual secure what amounts to an anemic and culturally bound understanding of the 'abundant life.
We still find, especially in parts of academe, the damaging notion that everything is a struggle for power, or being empowered, or hegemony, or oppression: and that all competition is a zero-sum game. This is not more than repetition of Lenin's destructive doctrine. Intellectually, it is reductionism; politically, it is fanaticism.
A delicate balance is required to combat violence perpetrated in the name of a religion, an ideology or an economic system, while also safeguarding religious freedom, intellectual freedom and individual freedoms. But there is another temptation which we must especially guard against: the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil; or, if you will, the righteous and sinners.
Clary: What are you doing here, anyway? Jace: 'Here' as in your bedroom or 'here' as in the great spiritual question of our purpose here on this planet? If you're asking whether it's all just a cosmic coincidence or there's a greater metaethical purpose to life, well, that's a puzzler for the ages. I mean, simple ontological reductionism is clearly a fallacious argument, but- Clary: I'm going to bed.
Like all of modern science, the field of psychiatry, especially in its current biological incarnation, has become smitten with materialist reductionism, the idea that all phenomena can be explained by the interaction and movement of material particles. As a result, to suggest that anything other than brain mechanisms in and of themselves constitute the causal dynamics of a mental phenomenon is to risk being dismissed out of hand.
Jeffrey M. Schwartz
And yet my, not only my faith, but my experience has led me to believe that the world is not a construction of space and time and matter and energy. That that mapping is insufficient. That the world is instead some kind of a linguistic construct. It is more in the nature of a sentence, or a novel, or a work of art than it is in the nature of these machine models of interlocking law that we inherit out of a thousand years of rational reductionism.
The Truth doesn't need your cooperation to exist. All forms of cult, all forms of hype, all forms of delusion do require your participation in order to exist. I've looked into marginal areas of human experience -historical and otherwise- with a rational mind, and what I've found is that doorways into the miraculous are far fewer than the publicists of the New Age would have us believe. On the other hand, they are not as rare as the proponents of radical reductionism and materialism would have us believe. There are doorways out of the mundane...
There is a strong current in contemporary culture advocating ' holistic ' views as some sort of cure-all... Reductionism implies attention to a lower level while holistic implies attention to higher level. These are intertwined in any satisfactory description: and each entails some loss relative to our cognitive preferences, as well as some gain... there is no whole system without an interconnection of its parts and there is no whole system without an environment.
For example, the call for equal rights has perverted into 'let's all be the same.' Male and female biological differences are discounted, because 'male' and 'female' are considered 'outdated social constructs, ' and while that is partially true, the social construct stance becomes clear reductionism when it totally discounts clear differences in male and female biology (i.e., androgyny is not the same as equality).
I maintain that the human mystery is incredibly demeaned by scientific reductionism, with its claim in promissory materialism to account eventually for all of the spiritual world in terms of patterns of neuronal activity. This belief must be classed as a superstition. ... We have to recognize that we are spiritual beings with souls existing in a spiritual world as well as material beings with bodies and brains existing in a material world.
I maintain that the human mystery is incredibly demeaned by scientific reductionism, with its claim in promissory materialism to account eventually for all of the spiritual world in terms of patterns of neuronal activity. This belief must be classed as a superstition... we have to recognize that we are spiritual beings with souls existing in a spiritual world as well as material beings with bodies and brains existing in a material world.
John C. Eccles
Someone with a fresh mind, one not conditioned by upbringing and environment, would doubtless look at science and the powerful reductionism that it inspires as overwhelmingly the better mode of understanding the world, and would doubtless scorn religion as sentimental wishful thinking. Would not that same uncluttered mind also see the attempts to reconcile science and religion by disparaging the reduction of the complex to the simple as attempts guided by muddle-headed sentiment and intellectually dishonest emotion?
Protestant Christianity, whether in its liberal or conservative garb, finds itself waking up each morning in bed with a deteriorating modern culture, between sheets with a raunchy sexual reductionism, despairing scientism, morally normless cultural relativism, and self-assertive individualism. We remain resident aliens, OF the world but not profoundly in it, dining at the banquet table of waning modernity without a whisper of table grace. We all wear biblical name tags (Joseph, David, and Sarah), but have forgotten what our Christian names mean.
We live at a time that is notable for the polemical nature of discussions about identity, consciousness, rationality, agency, memory, and feeling. 'New atheists' and reductive materialists conduct gladiatorial debates against defenders of faith and enemies of reductionism. Lots of heat is produced, but, alas, little light is shed. How marvelous it is, then, to see this fine new book by Lenn E. Goodman and Gregory Caramenico. Here is a learned, illuminating, and decidedly non-polemical treatment of the classic questions of soul, mind, and brain-an exemplary work of scholarship.
Robert P. George
Seduced by the spectacular theoretical and practical successes of the objective sciences into thinking that the methods and criteria of those sciences were the only means to truth, philosophers sought to apply those same methods and criteria to questions relating to the meaning of life and the values that give meaning to life. Philosophy, especially the Analytical species prevalent in the English-speaking world, was broken up into specialized disciplines and fragmented into particular problems, all swayed and impregnated by scientism, reductionism, and relativism. All questions of meaning and value were consigned to the rubbish heap of 'metaphysical nonsense'.
One criticism of Freud still sometimes heard on the political Left is that his thinking is individualist - that he substitutes 'private' psychological causes and explanations for social and historical ones. This accusation reflects a radical misunderstanding of Freudian theory. There is indeed a real problem about how social and historical factors are related to the unconscious; but one point of Freud's work is that it makes it possible for us to think of the development of the human individual in social and historical terms. What Freud produces, indeed, is nothing less than a materialist theory of the making of the human subject. We come to be what we are by an interrelation of bodies - by the complex transactions which take place during infancy between our bodies and those which surround us. This is not a biological reductionism: Freud does not of course believe that we are nothing but our bodies, or that our minds are mere reflexes of them. Nor is it an asocial model of life, since the bodies which surround us, and our relations with them, are always socially specific.
Something like missionary reductionism has happened to the internet with the rise of web 2.0. The strangeness is being leached away by the mush-making process. Individual web pages as they first appeared in the early 1990S had the flavor of personhood. MySpace preserved some of that flavor, though a process of regularized formatting had begun. Facebook went further, organizing people into multiple-choice identities, while Wikipedia seeks to erase point of view entirely. If a church or government were doing these things, it would feel authoritarian, but when technologists are the culprits, we seem hip, fresh, and inventive. People will accept ideas presented in technological form that would be abhorrent in any other form. It is utterly strange to hear my many old friends in the world of digital culture claim to be the true sons of the Renaissance without realizing that using computers to reduce individual expression is a primitive, retrograde activity, no matter how sophisticated your tools are.
By now, I hope you recognize this as one more example of the reductionist paradigm at work, even when it's couched in natural and alternative terms. As we saw in chapter ten, one of the major problems with modern medicine is its reliance on isolated, unnatural chemical pharmaceuticals as the primary tool in the war against disease. But the medical profession isn't the only player in the health-care system that has embraced this element of reductionism. The natural health community has also fallen prey to the ideology that chemicals ripped from their natural context are as good as or better than whole foods. Instead of synthesizing the presumed "active ingredients" from medicinal herbs, as done for prescription drugs, supplement manufacturers seek to extract and bottle the active ingredients from foods known or believed to promote good health and healing. And just like prescription drugs, the active agents function imperfectly, incompletely, and unpredictably when divorced from the whole plant food from which they're derived or synthesized.
T. Colin Campbell