Christian Kanzian


Ontological reductionism is normally motivated by a sceptical view on what people in their ordinary life assume to be the case in their ordinary world: things like cars, sheep, and human persons, having properties, being related to one another, and remaining the same even if they change. Reductionists want to protect us from taking such a naive view of reality as ontologically serious. Ontology should not reflect upon what normal people mean, but what the basic structures of our world really are. And science - natural science of course - tells us what these basic structures really are. Thus the noblest aim of ontology is to reduce the objects in one's everyday world to the basics presented to us by natural science; respectively to reconstruct these objects from this given basis. In my talk I try to examine ontological reductionism in more detail: How is the label “ontological reductionism” to be understood? Are there common premises shared by the different reductionistic positions? How can we discuss them? – My result will be that reductionistic ontologies assume strong premises, beliefs, I am inclined to say; and these beliefs can be called into question, because of on the one hand ontological and on the other hand methodological or meta-ontological reasons. My focus lies on the reductionistic assumption of ontology as an “a posteriori” discipline; and here especially on the problem of “hypostasizing” models used in physical theories (which normally occurs in a posteriori or “inductive” ontologies). Atoms for instance, understood as material simples, may be useful models for physical interpretations of the material basis of reality; as ontological entities they are simply faulty constructions. – However, my alternative is strict anti-reductionism, for which I finally will give an outline.


20th century philosophy; ontology; philosophy; Wittgenstein Ludwig; atomism; hylomorphism; macro world; model; ontology; reductionism; substance

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