Reductionism can mean either an approach to understanding the nature of complex things by reducing them to the interactions of their parts, or to simpler or more fundamental things or a philosophical position that a complex system is nothing but the sum of its parts, and that an account of it can be reduced to accounts of individual constituents. This can be said of objects, phenomena, explanations, theories, and meanings.

Reductionism strongly reflects a certain perspective on causality. In a reductionist framework, phenomena that can be explained completely in terms of relations between other more fundamental phenomena, are called epiphenomena. Often there is an implication that the epiphenomenon exerts no causal agency on the fundamental phenomena that explain it.

An example of reductionism will be like the views of certain individuals sustain in fields they lack specialization, in order to explain or rationalize  their own views on their field of specialization, example: Religious reductionism generally attempts to explain religion by boiling it down to certain nonreligious causes. A few examples of reductionist explanations for the presence of religion are: that religion can be reduced to humanity’s conceptions of right and wrong, that religion is fundamentally a primitive attempt at controlling our environments, and that religion is a way to explain the existence of a physical world. Anthropologists Edward Burnett Tylor and James George Frazer employed some religious reductionist arguments. Sigmund Freud’s idea that religion is nothing more than an illusion, or even a mental illness, and the Marxist view that religion is “the sigh of the oppressed,” providing only “the illusory happiness of the people,” are two other influential reductionist explanations of religion, that try to reduce the Spiritual side of Man to fantasies and fairies.

Tiny Fairy

E.B. Tylor argued that in the past, religion was used by people to account for or explain things that occurred in the world.He saw that it was important for religions to have the ability to explain why and for what reason things occurred in the world.For example, God (or the divine) gave us sun to keep us warm and give us light. Tylor argued that animism is the true natural religion that is the essence of religion; it answers the questions of which religion came first and which religion is essentially the most basic and foundation of all religions.For him, animism was the best answer to these questions, so it must be the true foundation of all religions. Animism is described as the belief in spirits inhabiting and animating beings, or souls existing in things.To Tylor, the fact that modern religious practitioners continued to believe in spirits showed that these people were no more advanced than primitive societies. For him, this implied that modern religious practitioners do not understand the ways of the universe and how life truly works because they have excluded science from their understanding of the world. By excluding scientific explanation in their understanding of why and how things occur, he asserts modern religious practitioners are rudimentary. Tylor perceived the modern religious belief in God as a “survival” of primitive ignorance.He claimed the contemporary belief in God to be a survival, because science could explain the phenomena previously justified by religion.

Edward Burnett Tylor


We would smile now a this patronizing views on Religion if not for the fact many contemporary, supposedly well educated  men share this outdated outlook on the issue. A simplistic chain of causality it is frequently heard by completely rational, scientifically oriented individuals when co-relating phenomena to cause an effect. For example, a reductionist believes that the complexity of the human brain is a result of complex and interacting physical processes. If scientists research and understand these underlying chemical reactions, then they can explain intelligence, emotion and all of the other human conditions. Of course this is tied to the ideological concept of scientific determinism.

Scientific Determinism and it’s problems

Determinism (specifically causal determinism) is the concept that events within a given paradigm  are bound by causality  in such a way that any state (of an object or event) is completely, or at least to some large degree,determined by prior states. In physics, this principle is known as cause-and-effect.

Determinism is also the name of a broader philosophical  view, which conjectures that every type of event, including human cognition  (behavior, decision, and action) is causally  determined by previous events.In philosophical arguments, the concept of determinism in the domain of human action is often contrasted with free will. The argument called in-determinism  (otherwise “non-determinism”) negates deterministic causality as a factor and opposes the deterministic argument.

Determinist believe any determined system is fully governed by causal laws resulting in only one possible state at any point in time. A debate within determinism exists about the scope of determined systems, with some maintaining that the entire universe is a single determinate system and others identifying other more limited determinate systems. Within numerous historical debates, many varieties and philosophical positions on the subject of determinism exist, most prominently the free will debates involving compatibility and incompatibles.

Predeterminers  proposes there is an unbroken chain of prior occurrences stretching back to the origin of the Universe.”

Universe Folds

The problem with this view of course is that exclude Free Will, in a deterministic Universe, your choice has being predetermined by a particular previous cause. Even physicists are finding that the quest for fundamental particles making up matter and governing the laws of the universe may be much too difficult to study, without looking at the model as a whole.

Unlike Newtonian physics, modern research takes into account the complex interactions between the particles, rather than looking at them individually. Chaotic systems, such as turbulence, weather patterns and even the behavior of crowds are difficult to explain by the process of scientific reductionism.

In addition, isolating one phenomenon and studying it often changes its behavior. For example, it is impossible to measure both the position and speed of an electron, because measuring one affects the other. Therefore, the very purest reductionist principles cannot be used to describe anything.  Scientific reductionism is too flawed to act as a valid philosophical viewpoint.

Aside from the problems involved in applying the idea to abstract ideas such as emotion and being, it is very impractical. Many areas, such as quantum physics, are too complicated to describe by studying the individual parts, and doing so does not always give the best picture.


This is known now days as Scientism, the “ism” added to signify dogma I guess, following is an excerpt of Science Delusion by Curtis White:

“Scientism is essentially the belief, the faith, that all problems and questions are potentially soluble by empirical investigation (and that if they’re not, they’re somehow not real questions, not real problems). But there are large areas of human experience for which science has no convincing or compelling means of accounting. I am, I suppose, more or less an atheist, but when I read the Book of Genesis, I find that there is something profoundly true about the picture of human nature in those verses—a picture of our perversity and self-alienation that neuroscience, for instance, has no way of getting at or talking about. Schopenhauer, Freud, and Heidegger all give us comparable forms of truth—truths that aren’t verifiable or measurable in the same way as those of science, but that are no less valuable. The most important truths are often untranslatable into the language of fact.”

The Taj Mahal photo mosaic, not the best picture

Just like the picture above you got to stand back figuratively, and literally in order to look at the whole picture, it always irritate me when mechanic materialistic explanations for social phenomena, with vaguely analogies to Physics, or Mathematics, Just because we can quantify statistics about it, like divorce, homicide, crime, etc. Doesn’t mean the phenomena in question is a mathematical problem, or some biologist mixing different categorical realms,  try to reduce complex issues like love, attraction, procreation, to a genetic component, or to pheromones, or chemical reactions, etc.. Ignoring complex cultural, historical, and sociological structures, who may  radically vary geographically, and were the person you may end marrying and procreating, was not even your choice, but imposed to you by tradition, like arranged marriages so common in many cultures, all to do with social, political, and religious structures, nothing to do with the chemistry of hormones,  and biological attraction!

A Vow from an Arranged Husband

I don’t know who you are, or where you come from. I have never met you so I don’t know what you look like. I don’t know what makes you laugh, what makes you sad, what makes you cry, what makes you tickle, and what makes you scared. I don’t know what book is your favorite or whether you read books or magazines. I don’t know what lipstick you wear, what color is your favorite. I don’t know what you like to eat or whether you enjoy cooking. I don’t know whether you like love stories or you are into die hard action. I don’t know whether you believe in love on first sight, or love at all. All I know is that you are out there and you are my future wife. I haven’t found you or you have not been found for me, yet. But deep down, beneath all the skepticism that I have for this system, I know you are out there. Whether you will read this or not, I write this vow, this promise that I make, not to portray myself as a poet or some romantic but to ease my own uneasiness. This world will ask you to leave your family, your home, your sanctuary, your childhood, and swear in front of a crowd of witnesses with judgmental eyes, that you, in sickness or death, in good times and bad, accept me as your husband and bind you fate to mines. I pray and I pray from the deepest depths of my heart, with all the will and strength in my body that I have, that when you take that vow, you do it out of choice not coercion. When you do make that choice, your choice, and you take that bold leap of faith.

Indian weding

A Giant Leap

The above paragraph  I included just to prove my point, and to show how biological determinism based on some supposed biological mechanism, come to nothing when confronting cultures, and complex social issues that transcend the realm of biology, Man may be an animal, and  genetically very similar to an ape, a friend of mine, a scientist liked to remind me of the fact we share a 98% genetic material, to justify his materialistic, mechanical views, recently read new discoveries that say it is only 95%, but regardless, 98%, or 95%, means little, my answer to my friend was to tell him to focus not on the 98%, but on the 2% difference, and reminded him that the 2% difference allowed Neil Armstrong’s famous phrase when he landed on the Moon:

“That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind”

Just to point out we can’t reduce Man and the Universe, to a mere mechanical happenstance, and dismiss Man Spiritual side, that in my opinion is by far more important as a deterministic element in Man’s true nature.

Rudolf Steiner on the Nature of the Ego

“Through self-consciousness man describes himself as an independent being separate from all others, as “I.” In his “I” he brings together all that he experiences as a being with body and soul. Body and soul are the carriers of the ego or “I,” and in them it acts. Just as the physical body has its center in the brain, so has the soul its center in the ego. Man is aroused to sensations by impacts from without; feelings manifest themselves as effects of the outer world; the will relates itself to the outside world, realizing itself in external actions. The “I” as the particular and essential being of man remains quite invisible. With excellent judgment, therefore, does Jean Paul call a man’s recognition of his ego an “occurrence taking place only in the veiled holy of holies of a human being,” for with his “I” man is quite alone. This “I” is the very man himself. That justifies him in regarding his ego as his true being. He may, therefore, describe his body and his soul as the sheaths or veils within which he lives, and he may describe them as bodily conditions through which he acts. In the course of his evolution he learns to regard these tools ever more as instruments of service to his ego. The little word “I” is a name which differs from all others. Anyone who reflects in an appropriate manner on the nature of this name will find that in so doing an avenue opens itself to the understanding of the human being in the deeper sense. Any other name can be applied to its corresponding object by all men in the same way. Anybody can call a table, table, or a chair, chair. This is not so with the name “I.” No one can use it in referring to another person. Each one can call only himself “I.” Never can the name “I” reach my ears from outside when it refers to me. Only from within, only through itself, can the soul refer to itself as “I.” When man therefore says “I” to himself, something begins to speak in him that has to do with none of the worlds from which the sheaths so far mentioned are taken. The “I” becomes increasingly the ruler of body and soul.

Man meditating on it's true nature

Steiner on the Spiritual Nature of Man

The soul nature of man is not determined by the body alone. Man does not wander aimlessly and without purpose from one sensation to another, nor does he act under the influence of every casual incitement that plays upon him either from without or through the processes of his body. He thinks about his perceptions and his acts. By thinking about his perceptions he gains knowledge of things. By thinking about his acts he introduces a reasonable coherence into his life. He knows that he will worthily fulfill his duty as a man only when he lets himself be guided by correct thoughts in knowing as well as in acting. The soul of man, therefore, is confronted by a twofold necessity. By the laws of the body it is governed by natural necessity. It allows itself also to be governed by the laws that guide it to exact thinking because it voluntarily acknowledges their necessity. Nature subjects man to the laws of changing matter, but he subjects himself to the laws of thought. By this means he makes himself a member of a higher order than the one to which he belongs through his body. This order is the spiritual. The spiritual is as different from the soul as the soul is from the body. As long as only the particles of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen that are in motion in the body are spoken of, we do not have the soul in view. Soul life begins only when within the motion of these particles the feeling arises, “I taste sweetness,” or, “I feel pleasure.” Likewise, we do not have the spirit in view as long as merely those soul experiences are considered that course through anyone who gives himself over entirely to the outer world and his bodily life. This soul life is rather the basis of the spiritual just as the body is the basis of the soul life. The biologist is concerned with the body, the investigator of the soul — the psychologist — with the soul, and the investigator of the spirit with the spirit. It is incumbent on those who would understand the nature of man by means of thinking, first to make clear to themselves through self-reflection the difference between body, soul and spirit.”

Body, Soul, Spirit


Ibn al-Arabi

God has intended man to know himself and creation. For Ibn al-`Arabi the highest form of knowledge is the knowledge of oneself, which is really God knowing Himself through the human consciousness as in the Hadith, “He who knows himself knows his Lord.” Knowledge is not just a bunch of information as we tend to think of it, but it is a knowing of oneself and life, which is to know the unity in oneself and with life. In other words, it is a knowing of God, within oneself and within the world. Ibn al-`Arabi says:

“All the infinite objects of knowledge that God knows are within man and within the cosmos through this type of nearness. No one knows what is within himself until it is unveiled to him instant by instant”

Al-khalq al-jaded – the world goes on being created anew at every single moment, the Absolute is continually manifesting itself in the infinity of ‘possible’ things.The manifest universe is manifest into existence instant by instant, without this continual recreation of all reality it would cease to exist.

The world in its entirety is perpetually changing. And every thing in the world is changing in itself from moment to moment. Thus every thing becomes determined at every moment with a new determination which is different form that with which it was determined a moment ago.

Thus the Absolute reveals itself perpetually in these successive self-manifestations, while the world is perpetually being lost due to its annihilation at every moment and its renewed birth at the next moment.

In this world-view expressed by Ibn Arabi, nothing remains static; the world in its entirety transforms itself kaleidoscopically from moment to moment, and yet all these movements of self-development are the ‘ascending’ movements of the things toward the Absolute-One, precisely because they are the ‘descending’ self-expression of the Absolute-One.

The ‘new creation’ he speaks of concerns the concrete things of the sensible world, and not the permanent archetypes themselves.

Thus in Ibn Arabi’s thought, everything in the world is constantly changing, but underlying this universal flux of changing things there is Something eternally unchanging.

The Descent is followed by its reversal, that is, Ascent, thus the whole process of creation forms a huge ontological circle in which there is in reality neither an initial point nor a final point, the whole circle is a trans-temporal or a-temporal phenomenon, everything is an occurrence in an Eternal Now.

An Eternal Now


About theburningheart

This entry was posted in Crisis of Values, Determinism, Eternal Now, God, Ibn Arabi, Materialism, Metaphysics, Mysticism, Oneness of Being, Ontology, Philosophy, Physics, Positivism, Post-Positivism, Reality, Reductionism, Science, Science and Belief, Scientism, Secular Society, Subjective, Tawhid, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Infinity Humi says:

    Hi there! I find your page very interesting. I agree with many ideas you’ve written here and I also like the artwork. Will you give me permission to reuse one photo? the one where there is a big bright light and a person is walking towards that bright light? I want to post it on a social networking site with the following caption taken from “At the Feet of the Master” by Krishnamurti:
    “Do not mistake your bodies for yourself-neither the physical body, nor the astral, nor the mental. Each one of them will pretend to be the Self, in order to gain what it wants. But you must know them all, and know yourself as their master.”

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