Irreducible Holism

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Jakub Bożydar Wiśniewski


This paper explores some issues concerning the relation between ontological reduction and conceptual reduction, as construed by the physicalists. More specifically, it aims at highlighting and analyzing certain general methodological and ethical implications of the physicalistic research projects. Against this background, the paper identifies a certain category of concepts as “irreducibly holistic”, that is, those with regard to which ontological and conceptual reduction are inextricably bound together. Further, the paper argues that since irreducibly holistic concepts are conceptually irreducible to the physical, they have to be ontologically irreducible to the physical as well, thus rendering physicalism false. This conclusion is reached by analyzing and then rejecting a variety of programmes aimed at accommodating irreducibly holistic concepts within a physicalist framework (including eliminativism, preservative irrealism and quasi-realism). Lastly, an ontologically pluralistic framework is proposed for the purpose of reconciling apparently conflicting insights from different areas of philosophical and scientific inquiry.


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Wiśniewski, Jakub Bożydar. 2011. “Irreducible Holism”. Diametros, no. 30 (December):76-92.
Author Biography

Jakub Bożydar Wiśniewski, University of London

Jakub Bożydar Wiśniewski Queen Mary, University of London London E1 4NS e-mail:
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