Reductionism is a philosophical notion that encompasses a set of ontological, methodological, and epistemological claims about how entities, processes, methods, and knowledge relate to one another across levels of organization and/or scientific domains. Typically, the question is whether such elements at higher levels of organization (i.e., biological) can be deduced from elements at lower levels (i.e., chemical).
Reductionism encompasses several related claims that revolve around three major types of objects a reduction might concern: the “furniture of the world” (ontological claims), the methods and heuristics of science (methodological claims), theories, explanations, and, more generally, knowledge (epistemological claims) (e.g., Ayala 1974; Sarkar 1992; Nagel 1998).
Ontological reductionism is typically a claim about how entities and processes belonging to a given level of organization can be shown to be entities and processes belonging to a lower level of...
KeywordsExplanatory reduction Inter-theoretic reduction Methodological reduction Ontological reduction
References and Further Reading
- Nagel E (1961) The reduction of theories. In: The structure of science: problems in the logic of scientific explanation. Harcourt Brace and World, New York, p 336–397Google Scholar
- Nagel T (1998) Reductionism and antireductionism. In: Bock GR, Goode JA (eds) The limits of reductionism in biology. Wiley, Chichester, pp 3–10Google Scholar