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

[1]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 correct it.

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 postulates.

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 intellectual abilities.

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 attributes.

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[2].

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 eclectic.

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 eclecticism.

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 reductions are:

- The philosophical level of cognition becomes identical to the psychological one;

- Integrity is substituted by a sum;

- Connections are substituted by contacts and interrelations;

- Purely cultural phenomena are substituted by those of civilization;

- Activity is substituted by a system of actions;

- The philosophical is substituted by the empirical;

- Rational is substituted by the irrational;

- The universal is substituted by the common;

- Objective characteristics of the reality are substituted by their random sets;

- Cognitionofobjectivelyexistingphenomenaissubstitutedbythedenialof 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 application;

- 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 rational;

- The dynamic is replaced by the static;

- Integral is substituted by a sum of its parts;

- The philosophical level of thinking is substituted by the empirical or theoretical ones;

- The essential is substituted by the situational;

- 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.

[1] 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.

[2] 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

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