Conceptual Foundations for Multidisciplinary Thinking

By Stephen Jay Kline | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 12
Consistency as a Primary Criterion The Limits of Reductionism and Synoptism

The results of Chapters 7 through 10 tell us that although both the reductionist and the synoptic views are important, neither view can tell us, by itself, all we need to know about matters of vital concern to humans. Both are incomplete as views of the world. This is useful information but leaves open several questions. The first of these questions is, What are the limits of the domain of what we can learn from the reductionist and the synoptic views, respectively?

To answer this question, we need to erect a taxonomy that includes all the major classes of systems of central concern to humans so that we can see what the reductionist and the synoptic views can each tell us about the various classes. Such a taxonomy is shown in Figure 12-1. It provides a suitable, but somewhat arbitrary, taxonomy of six major classes of systems. This taxonomy is not homogeneous, but contains several differing kinds of systems so that it covers both material systems and concepts. We have a new question and therefore take a new view and a taxonomy different from but not inconsistent with the hierarchy of constitution.

Before we can go farther, we must answer a question about the taxonomy in Figure 12-1, Do the six categories of systems cover all, or at least nearly all, of the matters of vital concern to humans? We can use the taxonomies of social philosophy and the careful taxonomy of Phenix ( 1964) as a check. This checking suggests that the six classes in Figure 12-1 cover, or nearly cover, all the matters of primary concern to humans, and that is all we need for this discussion. I hope you will check this against other lists and/or with your own experiences. If you find serious omissions, I would appreciate comments with specifics on what is not covered.

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