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I want to yell this from the rooftops to all of those people who conflate reductionism with hard determinism. Determinism is not reductionistic! Okay…not literally yell it from the rooftops as (the majority) of people who aren’t into philosophy would just think “huh”? But you get the point.
For people who don’t already know, hard determinism states that since every event is causal, free will is incompatible with such. I don’t label myself as a Hard Determinist, but rather a Hard Incompatibilist (Meaning free will is incompatible in both a deterministic univerese as well as an indeterministic universe), but either way neither implies a reductionistic framework.
Reductionism, at it’s stripped away base, means that everything can be reduced down to it’s parts. And there are reductionists out there who think everything is just the “small bits” bouncing around. Some even say large scale objects don’t really exist due to this.
This is what I call “extreme reductionism”. The rejection of what those parts make up due to being able to reduce an object to the parts. And it’s a big, ginormous, whopping mistake from what I can tell.
And some of these people not only reject free will (which they are absolutely correct in doing so), but they also reject consciousness itself and say that is an “illusion”. Let’s just disregard the fact that you can’t have an illusion without consciousness, so the illusion of consciousness is within an illusion of consciousness within an illusion of consciousness, so on ad absurdum.
But why is this reductionistic framework a mistake? Because we know otherwise. We know that parts make up wholes which have an actual effect on the parts themself. That simply isn’t possible without extending existence to the very wholes that the parts make up.
For example, a rubber ball on a slope with only a little incline (on Earth with gravity) will tend to roll down the slope. The roundness of the ball is one factor that allows this. But if the ball is only it’s parts, those properties don’t really exist. Yet at the same time the “small parts” that comprise the ball get displaced to the “bottom of the slope”. If we were to take those exact small parts that make up the rubber ball and reconfigure them into a rubber cube, place it on the top of the slope (which again, only has a small incline), the cube will just stay there. The “small parts” that make up the cube do not get displaced. If, however, we were to configure those parts into an ice cube (rather than a rubber cube), well that ice cube might slide down the slope and displace those parts.
The very fact that large scale objects have properties that the individual parts alone do not, and that those properties have a very real effect on those smaller parts, means that we simply can’t say that it’s only those parts that exist and everything else is an “illusion”. Rather, we must add in wholes to our ontology (our understanding of being / existence).
When we say that the whole can have an effect on the parts, that is often called “downward causation”, and it is opposed to reductionism.
And if the universe is entirely causal (determinism), then both upward and downward causality apply. This means that parts create wholes which effect parts, which effect wholes, and so on. Wholes of some parts can be parts of even bigger wholes, which can causally funnel back down to what the parts do and in turn what the wholes do.
Keep in mind that free will is equally as incompatible with a framework that accounts for the wholes, just as much as it is for one that only accounts for the parts. When someone uses that “reductionistic” word to describe determinism and the lack of free will, they are mistaking determinism as reductionism. And though some determinists are also reductionists, it doesn’t follow that one has anything at all to do with the other. Upward, downward, sideways, multidirectional, or even special swirly whirly causation is “deterministic” and incompatible with free will.
Chapter thirteen of the book goes through this in detail as well. It’s important to understand the nature of causality and the relationships between parts and wholes so we don’t make false assumptions.
If you are a determinist or incompatibilist, and you find someone using the “reductionist” word on you, educate them. After all, they were led through the upward and downward causal path that created such a thought and erroneous claim.
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