FocusInterpreting phenomena as sums of parts
- Knowledge is … both parts to assemble and assemblages of parts
- Knowing is … acting on assembled truths
- Learner is … an assembler
- Learning is … putting together
- Teaching is … breaking things down
SynopsisReductionism is a descriptive notion that can be applied to any discourse that embraces the premise that an object, agent, event, or any other type of phenomenon can be fully understood in terms of either simpler phenomena or as the sum of its parts. Types of Reductionism include:
- Methodological Reductionism – any approach to study that is oriented by an intention to provide explanations for phenomena in terms of smaller or simpler phenomena.
- Ontological Reductionism – any belief system in which the entirety of reality is seen to consist of different combination of a few specified parts or elements (such as, e.g., earth, fire, air, and water).
- Theory Reductionism – an assertion that new, more expansive and/or powerful theories operate by reducing previous theories to simpler or more basic terms.
CommentaryThe major (and condemning) commentaries on reductionism are associated with Emergent Complexity Discourses and Ecological Discourses, which flatly assert the underlying premise of Reductionism is false.
Authors and/or Prominent InfluencesDiffuse
Status as a Theory of LearningWhile usually applied specifically to discussions of knowledge (rather than learning), the assumptions of Reductionism and its subdiscourses are evident in virtually all Correspondence Discourses.
Status as a Theory of TeachingReductionism is not a theory of teaching, but its core premise is pervasively present in modern schooling – and especially evident in Directive Pedagogies.
Status as a Scientific TheoryThe notion that a phenomenon might be understood by reducing it to simpler phenomena was foundational to modern science, and so Reductionism is integral to both Empiricism and Rationalism. However, the realization that some phenomena transcend their parts has exposed Reductionism as an over-applied assumption rather than a defensible principle of scientific study. It is relevant and appropriate to many phenomena, but it is of limited relevance and use in the study of such complex phenomena as learning.
- Methodological Reductionism
- Ontological Reductionism
- Theory Reductionism
Please cite this article as:
Davis, B., & Francis, K. (2020). “Reductionism” in Discourses on Learning in Education. https://learningdiscourses.com.
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