Östen Dahl oesten at
Wed Mar 1 15:25:31 UTC 2006

Steve Long writes:
” I wonder why a reductionist attitude is always a bad thing to have?”
Obviously, it is not. You could say that reductionism just amounts to
applying Occam’s Razor (not assuming the existence of something if you don’t
need to). And it is clear that like “epiphenomenon”, “reductionism” can be
misused, as a label for things you don’t like. But my warning against
reductionism concerns the refusal to acknowledge that you sometimes need
higher-level constructs in order to say interesting things. For instance,
you could claim that a forest is “nothing but” a set of trees, but you
cannot reduce the statement that a forest is dense, or that it is a good
hiding-place, to a set of statements about the individual trees. 
- östen

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