Reductionism in modern philosophy as a problem
Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №6 - 2014
Author: Gusseva Nina, The “Kazakhstan Philosophy Congress” Association of Philosophers, D. Serikbayev East-Kazakhstan State Technical University, Kazakhstan
The interest in the vision of the prospects for the development of
philosophy is not at all random. It focuses, first, on ensuring development of
Weltanschauung which is not situational and, second, on the proof of the
capability of the intellect to detect the logic of processes that occur in real
life, thus, being the subject of philosophical reflection. Third, it is aimed
at enhancement of modeling the upcoming future and an opportunity to timely
In this respect, development of modern
philosophy should be considered not only on the basis of the analysis of the reality
under study but on the thorough study of the approaches and methods either used
or to be used in this analysis.
Prospects for the development of philosophy
are determined by the available development of thought which is represented by
already existing philosophical concepts. They project different forms of world
perception on Weltanschauung of modern people. Interrelation of world perception
with existing types of Weltanschauung is significant as it expresses a
particular aspect of recognition or denial of the identity of being and
thinking. Any philosophical concepts express the attitude of the person (or the
humanity) to the world. This issue can be considered in different ways.
Philosophical understanding of the world at
different times reflected different types of established attitudes toward the
world. Thus, philosophy of ancient Greece was based on the cosmocentric concept
that best expressed particular attitudes toward the world of the ancient
Greeks. Various interpretations of the first entities focused on the world as a
whole - cosmos that determined the existence of policies and each individual,
as a microcosm.
Medieval philosophy expressed theocentric
attitude toward the world as the basis for its understanding. This reflected
beginning of the specialized cognition of the spiritual aspect of human existence.
The concept of the spiritual Absolute – God, predetermining any possible
acceptable and unacceptable existence, structurally defined ideological and philosophical
In modern times, the main structural
postulate was focus on notions of power tools, which were used by man in his
relation to the world. The development of mechanisms, that altered the level of
abilities of the human being in his relation to the world, became the main
issue of the philosophy of that period, i.e. considering the processes of
cognition and its methods, which could improve the results and thereby increase
potential in the relation of the human being to the world.
Enlightenment emphasized the role of
knowledge which became the absolute and was then considered responsible for
everything that needed correction in the life of the society and the
individual, thus, leading it to perfection.
In the philosophy of the Modern time and
the Enlightenment the "person - world" relation was mainly understood
without isolating the qualitative difference between the person as an
individual and the person as a social being. It took place even when the person
was defined as a social being. The "person - world" relationship was
seen as a model of an individual human approach to the world which in this form
is common to all other human beings. The person-oriented under standing of the
“person-world” relationship was to a great extent abstract. The Weltanschauung
based on such understanding was to be abstract as well. The abstract character
in this aspect was primarily in considering personal qualities as attributes of
a person. They originally were considered to be attributive, so were the major
issues of cognition and knowledge. Cognition was identified as a process based
on the physical abilities of an individual including his feelings and
Knowledge was considered to be not only a
tool (as the condition and means of achieving the desirable), but also got some
axiological features. In this context axiological problems also acquired the
necessary features of "instrumentality". During this period some
features of reductionism became apparent. These features have retained their
value and circulation in the modern period as well.
In modern time san attempt to overcome the
person-oriented understanding of the "person - world" relationship
was made in the concepts of such philosophers as B. Spinoza and G. Leibniz.
Their concepts returned the philosophical thought to the need of considering
the "person - world" relationship in a broad context, with studying
both the human being and cognitive problems with all the consequences.
Thus, the idea of understanding nature as a
cause of itself made it necessary to understand the place and status of the
person and his abilities. This, in its turn, lead to understanding that
interpretation of the person and all his attributes and capabilities cannot be
reduced to his material form (body) as the basis. G. Leibniz’s idea of the
interrelation of monads and pre-established harmony also focuses on going
beyond the physical body of the human being when considering his essence and
The images of Nature and Pre-established
harmony made the philosophical understanding of the "person - world"
relationship irreducible to the status of the person as an individual. This
opened up new horizon of understanding of the world, a new horizon of person’s
philosophical comprehension of the world and himself.
German classical philosophy completely
overcame the reduction of understanding the human being only as a set of
physical characteristics. Kant, Hegel and Feuerbach specified the type of
connection of the transcendental and individual in the “person-world”
relationship. Philosophical thinking acquired a new "vector". Since
that period philosophical thought has been focused on understanding the
integrity of the existing world in which development both the individual and
the society is possible and is carried out as the unfolding of the parameters
of its unity and integrity .
In the philosophy of Karl Marx and
Friedrich Engels the thesis of the unity and integrity of the existing world
was developed on the basis of the dialectical materialist methodology. In
particular, Marx, developing the doctrine of the social and economic structure,
characterized the "person - world" relationship, referring to the
activity concept of development of the individual and the society.
We are talking about laws of the development
of the society as an integrated social system which is characterized by
processes generating contradictions, causing their growth and solution.
Concretization of the principle of the material unity of the world in the
further development of philosophy provided for understanding of the laws in the
development of nature as well. This point was brilliantly characterized by
Engels in his famous work "The Dialectics of Nature". This dialectics
materialistic philosophy is still evolving.
At the same time, in the middle of the
nineteenth century such trends in philosophy which did not focus on understanding
the integrity of the world, the recognition of its unity and of its inherent
laws appeared and got several modifications. Rejection of the positive
experience of the classical philosophy was explained by the desire to upgrade
and “open new horizons” in the development of philosophy. The orientation
toward update is very diverse. It ranges from, on the one hand, a complete
denial to recognize the need for philosophy as such, with its gradual reduction
to an identity with a set of empirical procedures, to, on the other hand, focus
on the reduction of philosophical studies to the characteristics of the mental
states of the individual, which are, in fact, the sphere of his personal experience.
In modern philosophy there are trends,
schools, directions, etc., whose research has specific characteristics that define
their basic approaches to reality as well as characteristics that define the image
of the reality itself which they, comprehending, model and modeling, comprehend.
These specific characteristics, defining the entire course of philosophical research
and its conclusions, include reduction techniques used in the comprehension
mechanism. Today, it makes sense to talk about the phenomenon of reductionism
as some global problem of modern philosophy.
The global crisis has demonstrated
disintegration of all the things that before it were perceived as integral,
orderly and logical. This cannot but lead to the conclusion that in the world there
are no forces that enhance its unity and integrity. The "person-
world" relationship in this context is perceived as farfetched, devoid of
real relevance. Human being is not only the subject of history, but also the
subject of his own life. The image of the world becomes not integral but
Modern Western philosophy, for defining
real prospects for its further development and overcoming problems requires
clarification of its basics. Admission that modern Western philosophy needs to
define its basics is already a step taken against its obsession with
However, a great number of reductions are
characteristic of the domination of the eclectic in judgment as the eclectic
approach does not solve the problem of achieving understanding of the
connection between related phenomena or objects. For it, it is sufficient if
there is an indication of the presence of heterogeneous, regardless of the
presence or absence of links between them.
At the same time eclectic descriptions
cannot avoid the designation of certain interfaces between those phenomena or
objects that appeared to be in proximity. It is the attempts to explain
connections, not laws that cause a great number of reduction variants. In this
situation universalization of reduction takes place. In this case reduction is
a technique the status of which is transferred (sublimated) from the position
of a private method to the universal method of thinking.
The most typical manifestations of
- The philosophical level of cognition
becomes identical to the psychological one;
- Integrity is substituted by a sum;
- Connections are substituted by contacts
- Purely cultural phenomena are substituted
by those of civilization;
- Activity is substituted by a system of
- The philosophical is substituted by the
- Rational is substituted by the irrational;
- The universal is substituted by the
- Objective characteristics of the reality
are substituted by their random sets;
such an opportunity;
- Consideration of people’s real motives
that shave their attitudes are substituted by studying declaration saimedat
concealing real motives;
- Consideration of the world as a unity is
substituted by treating the world as chaos (chaosmos);
- Treating methodology as a sphere of
universal philosophical knowledge, implemented in special scientific research
is replaced by the idea that methodology is a method of broad spectrum of
- The notion “to be” is substituted by the
notion “to have”;
- The social “space-temporal” is
substituted by the mechanical, physical, biological, etc.;
- Connections of objective structures of
reality are substituted by structures of consciousness;
- Weltanschauung is substituted by
perception of the world;
- Consideration of the essence is
substituted by consideration of causes;
- Consideration of the essence is
substituted by consideration of meaning;
- Consideration of the entity is substituted
by consideration of statements;
- Consideration of the basic is substituted
by consideration of superficial;
- Consideration of the higher is substituted
by consideration of the lower;
- Consideration of the basis is substituted
by consideration of its attributes at best;
- The reasonable is substituted by the
- The dynamic is replaced by the static;
- Integral is substituted by a sum of its
- The philosophical level of thinking is
substituted by the empirical or theoretical ones;
- The essential is substituted by the
- Weltanschauung and reality do not coincide
but the yare treated as identical;
- Necessary objective knowledge is
substituted by subjective experience;
- The “reality” structure is substituted by
that of the “world outlook”;
- The adjustability to the world replaces
developing, transformational attitude;
- Lack of adequate understanding of reality
is substituted by speculations “about…”;
- The image of the exact reality (here and
now) replaces understanding reality as a process with logics of its own that
can only be comprehended using with the holistic approach;
- Understanding that reality has its own
internal structure is substituted by the denial of this statement;
- The philosophical understanding of
reality is replaced by the situational one;
- The holistic approach is replaced by the
systemic one, etc.
Of the entire range of frequent reductions
we can illustrate, for example, the meaning of reductions arising when considering
reality basis which philosophy is to reflect. Reduction in this sense lies in
interpreting real bases not as the links of the really existing, but rather to
recognize that only some objects and events are considered to really exist. In
this example reduction is based on identification of a meaning manifestation
form with the meaning itself.
Spheres and issues where reductions have
taken place can be considered a large-scale "map", a
"guidebook" to the fundamental problems of human existence, science,
art and philosophy. Consideration and “demythologizing” harmful reductions,
distorting philosophical thought and human knowledge, is an already identified
"way" in which we may expect the development of philosophy.
Without identifying reductions present in
one form or another in philosophical thinking, it is impossible to adequately
understand the essence of problems people, science and the society are facing,
since any reduction always distorts basic meanings. Even a cursory glance at
the current situation in philosophy indicates the presence of a great number of
reduction variants in a wide range of philosophical trends, from positivism to
structuralism and postmodernist concepts.
Identification of reductions is a way of
philosophy self-purification, a way of self-adjustment to the possibility to
align the image of the world, created by philosophy, with the world itself, and
the philosophical image of a human being with a real person. The solution to
this problem applies both to the roots and the prospects for philosophy
development. [See: 1; 2].
1. Guseva N.V. Dialekticheskoe myshlenie i
redukcionizm // Aktual'nye problemy razvitija mirovoj filosofii. Mezhdunarodnaja
nauchno - teoreticheskaja konferencija, posvjashhennaja 75-letiju akademika NAN RK Zh.M. Abdil'dina.
15-16 fevralja 2008. Chast' 1. –Astana: Min. obr i nauki RK, Evrazijskij un-t,
Institut filosofii i politologii MON RK, s. 164-167.
2. Guseva N.V. Fenomen redukcionizma v
filosofskom soznanii // HHP Vsemirnyj Filosofskij Kongress. Doklady
Kazahstanskoj delegacii. Almaty: Min. obr. i nauki RK, Komitet Nauki, Institut
Filosofii i politologii. - 2008, s. 21- 35.
 The text was the First Kazakhstan Philosophy Congress Plenary report. See:
Filosofija v sovremennom mire: strategii razvitija. Materials of the first Kazakhstan
Philosophy - Almaty, 2013, pp. 56-64.
 See: Delez Zh., Gvattari F. Chto takoe filosofija? – St. Petersburg, 1998. - pp. 40-47; Sartre J. - P.
Critiquedelaraison Dialetique. – Gallimard., 1985; Gurevich P.S. Jekzistencializm Bubera.
Kvintjessencija. – 1992. p. 371;
Popper K. Predpolozhenija i oproverzhenija. Rost nauchnogo znanija. M.: Ermak, 2004.
–S. 104-112, ch.12, etc.; Gadamer H.-G. Istina i metod: osnovy filosofskoj germenevtiki.
- M., 1988; Grof S., Laslo Je., Rassel P. Revoljucija soznanija: transatlanticheskij
dialog. - M., 2004; Filosofija poznanija: vek HH1. – Almaty, 2012;
Riker P. Konflikt interpretacij. Ocherki po germenevtike; Merlo-Ponti M. Fenomenologija
vosprijatija. – St.Petersburg, 1999; Bodrijjar Zh. Zabyt' Fuko. – St. Petersburg, 2000; Solov'eva G. Sovremennaja zapadnaja filosofija. Komparativistskie
issledovanija. V 2-h tomah. V2, s. 126-127; Gusserl' Je.
Idei k chistoj fenomenologii i fenomenologicheskoj filosofii. T.1. - M.: DIK,
1999. p. 164—165, 172; Mamardashvili M.K., Pjatigorskij A.M.
Simvol i Soznanie. – M., 1997. – pp. 28, 29; Molchanov V. Paradigmy soznanija i struktury
opyta // Logos. – 1992. – № 3. – p. 9., etc.
Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №6 - 2014