Philosophy, Physics

Reductionism is a philosophy according to which the laws of physics are relatively simple and could be expressed concisely. If we were to understand and model all those laws we could explain any given phenomenon by breaking it down into its smaller parts until we just need to apply these simple laws.

With the current state of physics, it seems we are close to understanding many of these fundamental laws (although major shortcomings remain in the theory). Therefore, according to reductionism we should be close to understanding everything?

However as Murray Gell-Mann put it:

Reductionism is correct, but incomplete.

As a matter of fact, it was noted by Anderson (Anderson 1972) and many others (Gu et al. 2009) that phenomena at different scales exhibit properties that couldn’t be reduced to lower scales, even though they are governed by the same exact laws. We need new models to describe these larger scale phenomena .

This fact was observed in several complex systems including cellular automata (Cisneros et al. 2020).


  1. . . "More Is Different". Science 177 (4047). American Association for the Advancement of Science:393–96. DOI. See notes
  2. . . "More Really Is Different". Physica D: Nonlinear Phenomena 238 (9-10):835–39. DOI.
  3. . . "Visualizing Computation in Large-scale Cellular Automata". In Artificial Life Conference Proceedings, 32:239–47. MIT Press. DOI.
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