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Reductionism And The Impossibility of A Master Vocabulary

August 2012
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Reductionism seeks to have a kind of master vocabulary that which, if not now, then at some moment potentially to come, contains both the necessary and sufficient elements by which all causal relationships can be described.

Emergent philosophy might be thought of this way. The so-called master vocabulary is not a master vocabulary except insofar as it does more in its specific application than to rival vocabularies. Further, this vocabulary (which ever one that might be), is indispensable thus far, and contains important concepts which can lead sometimes into other vocabulary sets, though not necessarily so.

Think of this last point thus. A man and his wife argue over the lack of affection and care in their marriage. It turns out that the major and unconscious causal factor which leads to this disagreement is that they had consumed a sufficient amount of spoiled mayonnaise to chemically disrupt the balances of their bodies.

Their fighting can, for a sufficiently large part, be reduced to their sour stomachs; which, in turn, can be reduced and sufficiently understood in the complimentary vocabularies of biology and chemistry.

In this way, we can see how the vocabulary of marriage can be augmented by these other two vocabularies. Further, we are wise for recognising this.

However, it does not follow that all causal relationships are ultimately reducible to a single vocabulary.

If we, for the sake of clarity, model that we would have one privileged vocabulary which would serve as the most general and most foundational, and set other vocabularies above this in a kind of pyramid structure–or better yet, if we set even several vocabularies atop this most general vocabulary, understanding each to represent complimentary vocabularies; then we might assume that the very tip of each vocabulary, being each like the tip of each pyramid, is in some fundamental way dependent on the first; then, I say, we might assume the possibility of a master vocabulary to which all are reducible.

Even in this kind of structure, we might see each pyramid to be composed of layers, each of which represents a fundamental transformation such as to be different in kind than that upon which it is dependent, even as a child might start building a pyramid on a rock, upon which is set plastic blocks, then wooden, and finally a chewed piece of gum.

At each level, different things are taken in which cannot be explained by the terms which are contained in the former; yet all are dependent on each the former.

But my view would not even have it so.

Rather, vocabularies begin often in entirely related areas; such as the language of New York street gangs evolves to express causal relationships which are very different than do evolve such languages as would go into making a Zen Tea Ceremony, or in Harpooning Whales.

The language which does so much to explain aspects which must be necessarily involved in all three must necessarily be too general as to be sufficient to explain the important contingencies in each particular vocabulary set.

Further, to get such a powerfully generalized vocabulary necessarily entails a kind of falsification which precludes a vocabulary would ever sufficiently explain the all of the three as even to come close to justifying the abandonment of any of their respective vocabularies.

On the contrary, the level of falsification necessitated in making a highly generalized language leads me to the conclusion that each of the respective vocabularies is to that extent even more justified in its conservation of itself, containing in each case those terms and assumptions which alone can lay threadbare the necessary causal terms.


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