Talk:Greedy reductionism

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Great! I am going to link a few articles to this. Thanks. Paul Beardsell 12:24, 9 Apr 2004 (UTC)

second paragraph[edit]

The second paragraph about Daniel Dennetts argument on how the brain works is a bit unclear and has a kind of indignant flavor to it. I don't understand if the article is explaining the concept or speaking for or against Dennett. but it's a minor problem, the article is good otherwise.

I agree that I tend to write sentences that are "a bit unclear". It would be good if someone could replace what I wrote with a better version. If two seemingly different phenomena are found to be related in such a way that one phenomenon can be reduced to another, it is natural for people to feel disorientation and maybe even indignation. Dennett is among those who have the intuition that it is possible to produce consciousness from a collection of coordinated unconcious processes. I share Dennett's intuition, but I think it is fair to ask if Dennett is slipping into greedy reductionism. The only way to know is to construct a detailed account of how consciousness is generated. --JWSchmidt 13:08, 24 October 2005 (UTC)

More changes[edit]

I've made two passes at this and, while I think they keep most of the good stuff in the original and put it together in a cleaner, more comprehensive package, I know that this article could be better. If you have any ideas, please jump in. Feel free to discuss them here if you're not yet ready to implement them or want feedback.

Greedy reductionism versus "explaining away"[edit]

I want to note that greedy reductionism is not just another form of explaining away, nor is it the same as choosing the wrong (too low) level of explanation to yeild explanatory work. Greedy reductionism as Dennett uses it refers more specifically to trying to impose simple, inadequate explanations on complex phenomena while dismissing problematic details in a tendentious way. While I don't believe there's anything incorrect about the article, I think readers may miss that nuance.

Dennett's discussion uses his metaphors of cranes and skyhooks; probably that's too long to cover here. However, his distinction between good reductionism and greedy reductionism was the same as that between attempting to build theories only with cranes (atop cranes, atop cranes...) ultimately grounded on the earth and using no magical skyhooks, and attempting to build theories without even cranes.

I agree Greedy reductionism is not explaining away. The current passage needs to be refined. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Smark17 (talkcontribs) 15:35, 30 August 2008 (UTC)


good addition to the article, but is there any suggestion anywhere about the origin of the word? was it named after someone named Bulver? Adambrowne666 08:05, 7 January 2007 (UTC) David Bergan 19:26, 7 January 2007 (UTC)

Use of this term[edit]

Are there any sources suggesting that this term is in widespread use beyond Dennet's work? All the sources listed, and all the ones I can find in the scholarly literature are either from Dennet himself, or are referencing the fact that Dennet uses the term...I see no evidence that this term is used in a broader sphere. Cazort (talk) 22:02, 26 November 2007 (UTC)

Added a third section[edit]

I added a third section, feeling that Dennett's "greedy reductionism" sounded so much like the classic "fallacy of division" that it should be noted in the article somewhere. I decided that it warranted its own section, however, I would understand if it were moved to the related links section (or whatever it was called). I do believe that most every academic wishing to express the notion of "greedy reductionism" refers to the fallacy of division instead. This seems to be some kind of catchphrase Dennett invented and keeps around for personal use. Furthermore, I do not intend to revisit and revise this page, so feel free to edit away.

Djdoobwah (talk) 07:31, 20 February 2008 (UTC)

2010.01.12 rewrite[edit]

Here's the definition I removed, which is not really supported by the book:

greedy reductionism arises when the thing we are trying to understand is explained away instead of explained, so that we fail to gain any additional understanding of the original target.

Here's the "example" I removed, for the same reason:

For example, we can reduce temperature to average kinetic energy without denying that temperature exists, so this is good reductionism. In contrast, when we consider the question of why clicking on a hyperlink takes us to one website and not another, any answer that says that it all comes down to electrons and that hyperlinks don't really exist is a greedy attempt to explain away the problem without solving it.

I should mention that I don't have a problem with this material; I just don't think it has to do directly with "greedy reductionism" as Dennett seems to use the term. And here are the two dubious sentences about Skinner, Dennett, and behaviourism which I removed:

Thus, from the Skinnerian standpoint, it is mentalism which displays greedy reductionism, as human behavior is explained away by mental processes which occur in an ambiguous "mind" while ignoring the importance of the study of behavior for its own sake. This example is particularly relevant because Dennett himself can be categorized as a type of behaviorist.[citation needed]

False vacuum (talk) 10:44, 12 January 2010 (UTC)

What is with this article?[edit]

I google "nothing buttery" and this is the first link that pops up. "Nothing buttery" was coined by Donald Mackay well before Dennett came up with greedy reductionism. It is basically the same idea but Dennett just renamed it. And it was Mackay who used it against Skinner, in person, and even in televised debates. This happened at least 25 years before Dennett introduced greedy reductionism. I don't even see how this warrants an article at all when Mackay did everything first. What did Dennett add? How can Mackay not even be mentioned? It's like somebody got Dennett and Mackay mixed up. This idea does not warrant an article, and if it did, it should be about Mackay first and foremost, not Dennett.

Savagedjeff (talk) 02:26, 29 May 2010 (UTC)

The phrase "nothing buttery" does not appear in this article. I have no idea why Google turns up this term, but I think your issue is with Google, not Wikipedia. Guettarda (talk) 03:32, 30 May 2010 (UTC)

You still haven't addressed my critique. What justifies this article? It is not a novel idea, it is from a marginal book by a marginal author. It is a rip-off of nothing buttery complete with all the anecdotes. Mackay did ALL of this first. He at least deserves a mention when the idea is such a blatant rip-off.

This entire article is about nothing buttery. Google links it for a reason. It is the same exact Mackay story. From taking reductionism too far to the main aim of the attack which was Skinner. Dennett showed up 20 years too late, but he wouldn't have showed up at all if he didn't have Mackay to rip-off.

In fact, this article used to have a nothing buttery section. It described nothing buttery as "synonymous with greedy reductionism". So now synonyms are encyclopedia material?

Savagedjeff (talk) 20:50, 31 May 2010 (UTC)

I think it's because Nothing Buttery was once part of this article -- I added it ages ago -- google must have picked up on that, and hasn't refreshed since then. I'd be happy to have it reinstated. I'd say it's useful to have synonyms sometimes simply because people often know things by different names - good to know we're all talking about the same thing. Adambrowne666 (talk) 00:46, 1 June 2010 (UTC)
Hmmm. Not sure that I see such a strong parallel between "greedy reductionism" and "nothing buttery". The point of Dennett's term, which may well also be MacKay's point (I can't find out one way or the other), is that it distinguishes "good" from "greedy" reductionism. Yes, there's a parallel between the latter and "nothing buttery", but the distinction that Dennett is drawing is unaddressed. Possibly because "nothing buttery" was not coined in the context of this particular discussion (I assume; difficult to tell without delving back into sources). Anyway, the distinction is the important part, since Dennett is defending the reductionist programme in science from those who wish to caricature it as something which it is not. Or am I missing the point? Either way, looking back over previous versions of the article that still have the "nothing buttery" section, if there is a strong parallel the text could do with being rewritten (and better sourced) to make the point better. What was deleted could definitely have done with being fleshed out. --PLUMBAGO 16:44, 2 June 2010 (UTC)
I was going to answer just as Plumbago did. I don't know what MacKay's project was, but it seems plausible that MacKay-type skepticism regarding reductionism is exactly why Dennett felt the need to invent a specifically 'bad' form of reductionism with which to contrast the good. Artificialintel (talk) 21:25, 29 August 2010 (UTC)