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An attempt or tendency to explain a complex set of facts, entities, phenomena, or structures by another, simpler set: "Science requires some degree of reductionism, some picking apart and focusing on one or two variables at a time" (Natalie Angier).

re·duc′tion·ist adj. & n.
re·duc′tion·is′tic adj.


1. the analysis of complex things, data, etc, into less complex constituents
2. often derogatory any theory or method that holds that a complex idea, system, etc, can be completely understood in terms of its simpler parts or components
reˈductionist n, adj
reˌductionˈistic adj


(rɪˈdʌk ʃəˌnɪz əm)

1. the theory that every complex phenomenon, esp. in biology or psychology, can be explained by analyzing the simplest, most basic physical mechanisms that are in operation during the phenomenon.
2. the practice of oversimplifying a complex idea or issue to the point of minimizing or distorting it.
re•duc′tion•ist, n., adj.
re•duc`tion•is′tic, adj.


The attempt to explain complex phenomena in terms of simple laws or principles.
ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Noun1.reductionism - a theory that all complex systems can be completely understood in terms of their components
theory - a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world; an organized system of accepted knowledge that applies in a variety of circumstances to explain a specific set of phenomena; "theories can incorporate facts and laws and tested hypotheses"; "true in fact and theory"
2.reductionism - the analysis of complex things into simpler constituents
analytic thinking, analysis - the abstract separation of a whole into its constituent parts in order to study the parts and their relations


nReduktionismus m
References in periodicals archive ?
As far as reductionism is concerned, I believe his work is predicated on the idea of a nonreductive bio-cultural synthesis, although in practice his "explanations" do seem reductionistic.
Bureaucratic reductionism-determinism meant many big companies could not effectively manage the processes of change that are only slightly reductionistic and not very deterministic.
The brainwave response to tones is a reductionistic measure," Salisbury explained.
In Mind and Cosmos, Thomas Nagel accepts the sequence of events-the chronicle, as it were--established by modern science, and he declares himself to be an atheist, but he claims that modern science's reductionistic, materialistic explanation of the story's developments is inadequate.
His goal is to resist a reductionistic explanation for the world and history.
6) Features of philosophy developing in the United States during the past one hundred years reflect the deterioration: extremely technical language, a lack of relevance to daily human living, the diminution of independent reflection, a deficiency of social and political leadership, an increasing indifference to history, reductionistic orientations, a narrowing scope of reason, a certain malaise of the spirit, and the failure to capitalize on the values of Christianity.
The four perspectives are integrated into a broader strategy: In the first two sections, the editors show the philosophical and historical limitations of reductionistic materialism (which is the prevailing perspective for most scientists today) and then present some models in physics that allow for views of mind of nonreductionists.
By referencing the occasional irregularities in embryonic development (such as the development of monozygotic twins) as well as the ordinary genetics of cell division, Molhoek uncovers the flaws in the reductionistic conflation of genome and identity, and in doing so removes some of the ethical barriers to human cloning.
However, the doctrine of the common good can be seen as not mysterious, but rational and reductionistic.
That is, the new spiritual guru movements (separate from old, "traditional" Hinduism) are by definition universalizing and reductionistic (and therefore no longer identifiably distinctive or uniquely Hindu).
Amos Yong complains that some purportedly scientific accounts of a phenomenon such as glossolalia in fact involve "an extra-scientific conclusion [that] is smuggled in" (52); he sees multiple levels of explanation as appropriate "as far as it goes, so long as reductionistic and totalizing views are resisted" (61).
By banishing metaphysics in favor of reductionistic materialism, positivism and the modernist consensus it has helped to forge are cut off from the rich insights not only of the religious narrative but also of the classical and humanist traditions.