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[ri-duhk-shuh-niz-uh m] /rɪˈdʌk ʃəˌnɪz əm/
the theory that every complex phenomenon, especially in biology or psychology, can be explained by analyzing the simplest, most basic physical mechanisms that are in operation during the phenomenon.
the practice of simplifying a complex idea, issue, condition, or the like, especially to the point of minimizing, obscuring, or distorting it.
Origin of reductionism
1940-45; reduction + -ism
Related forms
reductionist, noun, adjective
reductionistic, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for reductionism
  • Constructing a technology league table is always mired in reductionism.
  • Today's researchers, however, are increasingly hitting the limits of reductionism.
  • The problem with modern education and research is reductionism.
  • reductionism is all well and good as a method for collecting, and in a more limited sense, interpreting data.
  • Then again, reductionism has a tendency for that sort of thing.
  • Ultimately, even our higher thought processes can be reduced to the same binomial reductionism.
  • We sense the truth of the new order intuitively, not through reductionism.
  • There is absolutely no danger of scientific reductionism taking all the fun and wonder out of life.
British Dictionary definitions for reductionism


the analysis of complex things, data, etc, into less complex constituents
(often derogatory) any theory or method that holds that a complex idea, system, etc, can be completely understood in terms of its simpler parts or components
Derived Forms
reductionist, noun, adjective
reductionistic, adjective
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for reductionism

1948, in philosophy, from reduction in specialized sense in philosophy (1914) + -ism. Related: Reductionist.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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