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Reductionism is any of several related philosophical ideas regarding the associations between phenomena which can be described in terms of other simpler or more fundamental phenomena.[1] It is also described as an intellectual and philosophical position that interprets a complex system as the sum of its parts.[2]


The Oxford Companion to Philosophy suggests that reductionism is "one of the most used and abused terms in the philosophical lexicon" and suggests a three-part division:[3]

  1. Ontological reductionism: a belief that the whole of reality consists of a minimal number of parts.
  2. Methodological reductionism: the scientific attempt to provide an explanation in terms of ever-smaller entities.
  3. Theory reductionism: the suggestion that a newer theory does not replace or absorb an older one, but reduces it to more basic terms. Theory reduction itself is divisible into three parts: translation, derivation, and explanation.[4]


  1. Webster's Dictionary
  2. Kricheldorf, Hans R. (2016). Getting It Right in Science and Medicine: Can Science Progress through Errors? Fallacies and Facts (en) pp. 63. Cham: Springer. ISBN 978-3-319-30386-4
  3. Michael Ruse (2005). The Oxford Companion to Philosophy p. 793 Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-103747-4
  4. Alyssa Ney. "Reductionism". Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. IEP, University of Tennessee.