Modern science grew out of the idea that the universe is comprised of independent parts, and a complex system can be reduced to these parts without loss of completeness. The independence of parts became the basis of reductionism―the idea that the whole is simply a linear sum of parts. Sometimes, this reduction fails, and then it becomes necessary to postulate that the parts are indeed interdependent. The reason for this interdependence, however, has not been very apparent. I will describe the reasons in this post, and connect them to the “systems approach” which views a system as a collection of interrelated parts rather than mutually independent parts.
This essay was written in response to the call for essays by the Royal Institute of Philosophy for their yearly essay contest. For the pleasure of readers, it is reproduced below.
One of the problems that has repeatedly bothered me for the last decade is the distinction between physical properties, their measurements, and the values of properties that are discovered during measurement. I have flip-flopped in my understanding of the nature of the problem and what might be a viable solution. I will use this post to describe the problem and what I believe is the best way to resolve it. I will also connect the solution to ideas about the nature of perception and reality in Indian philosophy. But before I begin, let’s take a closer look at how science presently tries to address this issue.