Pragmatic holism (or pragmatic reductionism)

Foundations of Science 4 (1):57-82 (1999)

Abstract
The reductionist/holist debate is highly polarised. I propose an intermediate position of pragmatic holism. It derives from two claims: firstly, that irrespective of whether all natural systems are theoretically reducible, for many systems it is utterly impractical to attempt such a reduction, and secondly, that regardless of whether irreducible 'wholes exist, it is vain to try and prove this. This position illuminates the debate along new pragmatic lines by refocussing attention on the underlying heuristics of learning about the natural world.
Keywords pragmatism  holism  reductionism  modelling  proof  heuristics  learning  reduction  philosophy  science
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Reprint years 2004
DOI 10.1023/A:1009642920187
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