On Reductionism and Determinism – and – Expansionism and Indeterminism

An interesting reaction that many people can have to the consilient biocultural approach to examining, studying and analyzing: film, literature, and culture is that it is `reductionist’ and/or `determinist’.

However – interestingly – it’s both reductionist and expansionist – and also, determinist and indeterminist.

Let’s look at overlaps in scientific domains: Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Psychology, Sociology, and Culture (or: Memetics)…

Overlaps in Scientific Domains

Overlaps in Scientific Domains

And – note how reductionism and expansionism are just two directions of analysis, both of which, consilience includes.

Reductionism and Expansionism: `Reductionism' moves leftwards in the diagram. `Expansionism' moves rightwards. As Bourdieu stated regarding the subjective and the objective (Bourdieu 1993), we need to do both at once. (Velikovsky 2014).

Reductionism and Expansionism: `Reductionism’ moves leftwards in the diagram. `Expansionism’ moves rightwards. As Bourdieu stated regarding the subjective and the objective (Bourdieu 1993), we need to do both at once. (Velikovsky 2014).

As E O Wilson states in Consilience (1998  [1999]):

`The natural elements of culture can be reasonably supposed to be the hierarchically arranged components of semantic memory, encoded by discrete neural circuits awaiting identification. The notion of a culture unit, the most basic element of all, has been around for over thirty years, and has been dubbed by different authors variously as mnemotype, idea, idene, meme, sociogene, concept, culturgen, and culture type.

The one label that has caught on the most, and for which I now vote to be winner, is meme, introduced by Richard Dawkins in his influential work The Selfish Gene in 1976.

The definition of meme I suggest is nevertheless more focused and somewhat different from that of Dawkins. It is the one posed by the theoretical biologist Charles J. Lumsden and myself in 1981, when we outlined the first full theory of gene-culture coevolution. We recommended that the unit of culture – now called meme – be the same as the node of semantic memory and its correlates in brain activity.

The level of the node, whether concept (the simplest recognizable unit), proposition, or schema, determines the complexity of the idea, behavior, or artifact that it helps to sustain in the culture at large.

I realize that with advances in the neurosciences and psychology the notion of node-as-meme, and perhaps even the distinction between episodic and semantic memory, are likely to give way to more sophisticated and complex taxonomies.

I realize also that the assignment of the unit of culture to neuroscience might seem at first an attempt to short-circuit semiotics, the formal study of all forms of communication. That objection would be unjustified. My purpose in this exposition is the opposite, to establish the plausibility of the central program of consilience, in this instance the causal connections between semiotics and biology.

If the connections can be established empirically, then future discoveries concerning the nodes of semantic memory will correspondingly sharpen the definition of memes. Such an advance will enrich, not replace, semiotics.’

(Wilson 1999, p. 148)

So, both `expansionism’ and `reductionism’ in this view are essential, merely depending on the perspective (and direction) taken; both approaches are equally important – and valuable – for understanding. Both subject and object are also to be considered, at once (e.g. a subjective individual in the system from their perspective; and the whole objective system, from everyone’s perspective). So we must consider the agents and the structures, at once. We can keep in mind the whole solar system, and the star and planets in it. We can also keep in mind a whole family, and also the individuals within it.

A Holarchy

A Holarchy

It should also be noted that the rules of each system – that is, each holon in the diagram above – are different, when new levels of complexity (and new systems) evolve and emerge. That is, the `rules’ (and behaviour) of organic molecules are different to those of a person; the `rules’ (and behaviour) of a family are different to those of a community; which again are different to those of a nation — when taken as a whole, or a part. (Holons are a part and a whole at the same time – as defined by Koestler 1964, 1967, 1978.)

Physico chemico bio psycho socio culturo politico directed evolution

Vertical integration (consilience): Physico-chemico-bio-psycho-socio-culturo-politico directed evolution (Velikovsky 2014)

And here is another diagram of the same thing:

Vertical Integration of the Sciences (Velikovsky 2015)

To summarize this view, it is helpful to quote at length from Arthur Koestler’s, Janus: A Summing Up (1978):

`All complex structures and processes of a relatively stable character display hierarchic organization, regardless whether we consider galactic systems, living organisms and their activities, or social organizations.

The tree diagram with its series of levels can be used to represent the evolutionary branching of species into the `tree of life’; or the stepwise differentiation of tissues and integration of functions in the development of the embryo…

[It is] an exercise in General Systems Theory – that relatively-recent interdisciplinary school, founded by von Bertalanffy, whose purpose is to construct theoretical models and discover general principles which are universally applicable to biological, social and symbolic systems of any kind – in other words, a search for common denominators in the flux of phenomena, for unity-in-diversity.


As early as 1936, Joseph Needham wrote:


“The hierarchy of relations, from the molecular structure of carbon compounds to the equilibrium of species and ecological wholes, will perhaps be the leading idea of the future.”


Even earlier Lloyd Morgan, C.D. Broad, and J. Woodger among others emphasized the importance of recognizing hierarchically ordered `levels of organization’ and the emergence on each higher level of new `organizing relations’ between (sub)wholes of greater complexity, whose properties cannot be reduced to, nor predicted from, the lower level.


To quote Needham again:


“Once we adopt the general picture of the universe as a series of levels of organization and complexity, each level having unique properties of structure and behaviour, which, though depending on the properties of the constituent elements, appear only when these are combined into the higher whole, we see that there are qualitatively different laws holding good at each level.”  


But such a multi-levelled view went against the materialist Zeitgeist, because it implied that the biological laws which govern life are qualitatively different from the laws of physics which govern inanimate matter, and that accordingly life cannot be `reduced’ to the blind dance of atoms; and similarly, that the mentality of man is qualitatively different from the conditioned responses of Pavlov’s dogs or Skinner’s rats, which the dominant school in psychology considered as the paradigms of human behaviour. Harmless as the word `hierarchy’ sounded, it turned out to be subversive. It did not even appear in the index of most modern textbooks of psychology or biology.

Yet there have always been voices in the wilderness, insisting that the concept of hierarchic organization was an indispensable prerequisite – a conditio sine qua non – of any methodological attempt to bring unity into the diversity of science, and might eventually lead to a coherent philosophy of nature – which at present is conspicuous by its absence.’

(Koestler 1979, pp. 31-2)

It should be noted that Koestler was writing this as recently as 1978 [and 1979], just 36 years ago.

Koestler also notes:

`Determinism fades away not only on the sub-atomic quantum level, but also in the upward direction, where on successively higher levels the constraints diminish, and the degrees of freedom increase, ad infinitum

Man is neither a plaything of the gods, nor a marionette suspended on his chromosomes.

To put it more soberly, similar conclusions are implied in Sir Karl Popper’s proposition that no information-processing system can embody within itself an up-to-date representation of itself, including that representation.

Somewhat similar arguments have been advanced by Michael Polanyi and Donald MacKay…

Infinity stares us in the face, whether we look at the stars or search for our own identities. Reductionism has no use for it, but a true science of life must let infinity in and never lose sight of it.’

(Koestler 1979, p. 239)

This resistance to holism is possibly also one of the reasons it has taken until now to identify the unit of culture or the meme, as the holon.

Memes are Holons / Memeplexes are Holarchies (Velikovsky 2014)

Memes are Holons / Memeplexes are Holarchies (Velikovsky 2014)

In On The Origin Of Stories: Evolution, Cognition, and Fiction, Professor Brian Boyd (2009) also addresses the label of `reductionism’ sometimes levelled at the evolutionary perspective on literature:

Boyd (2009) writes:

`I recall a colleague asking, as academics do: “What are you working on?”

“I’m trying to figure out,” I answered, “an evolutionary – Darwinian – approach to fiction.”

Not waiting to hear more, he shut down his face and the conversation: “That must be very reductive.”

“No, not reductive, but expansive,” I might otherwise have answered: extending the historical context from decades to millions of years, and increasing the historical precision, from decades down to the moment of choice.

An evolutionary understanding of human nature has begun to reshape psychology, anthropology, sociology, philosophy, economics, history, political studies, linguistics, law, and religion. Can it also help explain even art, even human minds at their freest and most inventive?

In art, as in so much else we had thought uniquely human, like tool-using or tool-making, counting or culture, we have begun to find precursors elsewhere in nature. But can evolution account even for the one human art with no known precedent, the art of fiction? Can it show why, in a world of necessity, we choose to spend so much time caught up in stories that both teller and told know never happened and never will?

I want to show that it can, in ways far less reductive than much recent literary scholarship, in ways both wider in scope and finer in detail.’

(Boyd 2009, pp. 1-2)

In my view, Boyd very successfully demonstrates this, in the excellent On The Origin of Stories (Boyd 2009). Anyone who finds the consilient biocultural approach `reductionist’ may also benefit from reading the 35 works listed at (Velikovsky 2013d).[1]

As Dennett (1995) states:

`Although I will try to acquaint you with these ideas, you won’t really know them unless you study them in the primary literature.’

(Dennett 1995, p. 155)


Likewise, in Darwin’s Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life (1995) the philosopher and cognitive scientist Professor Daniel C Dennett also addresses “reductionism” more generally:

Dennett writes (also citing a passage from Dawkins 1982):

`Who’s Afraid of Reductionism?  –


“Reductionism is a dirty word, and a kind of `holistier than thou’ self-righteousness has become fashionable” (Dawkins, 1982, p 113)


The term that is most often bandied about in these conflicts, typically as a term of abuse, is `reductionism’…

But like most terms of abuse, `reductionism’ has no fixed meaning. The central image is of somebody claiming that one science “reduces” to another: that chemistry reduces to physics, that biology reduces to chemistry, that the social sciences reduce to biology, for instance…

Probably nobody is a reductionist in the preposterous sense, and everybody should be a reductionist in the bland sense, so the “charge” of reductionism is too vague to merit a response.

If somebody says to you “But that’s so reductionistic!” you would do well to respond “That’s such a quaint, old-fashioned complaint! What on Earth did you have in mind?”’

(Dennett 1995, pp. 80-1)

Dennett also cites Hofstadter (1979), Williams (1985), Dawkins (1986), and Weinberg (1992) for elucidations of reductionism that enable better understandings of why some reductionism is indeed useful, and not harmful (Dennett 1995, p. 81).

Indeed, without some form of reductionism, there is no theory, of: anything.

At the same time, as Dennett notes:

`Darwin’s dangerous idea is reductionism incarnate, promising to unite and explain just about everything in one magnificent vision. Its being the idea of an algorithmic process makes it all the more powerful, since the substrate neutrality it thereby possesses permits us to consider its application to just about anything.’

(Dennett, 1995, p. 82)

The algorithmic process is: selection, variation and transmission with heredity – of both memes and genes (see: Csikszentmihalyi and Wolfe, 2000).

On the fallacy of `Determinism’ in consilience and evocriticism

Jon Gottschall in Literature, Science, and a New Humanities (2008) addresses the idea of `biological and cultural determinism’ in the consilient biocultural approach:

`When forced to choose between what Mary Midgley calls “the rival fatalisms” of cultural and biological determinism, it is not surprising that literary scholars have virtually unanimously chosen the former alternative.

However, the choice between biological and cultural determinism has been definitively exposed as a false one. The biological determinism of Galton and Spencer, as well as the cultural determinism of the “Boasian” paradigm, are failed theories.

As Derek Freeman concludes in his history of twentieth century nature-nurture debates:


“We may thus identify biological determinism as the thesis to which cultural determinism was the antithesis. The time is now conspicuously due for a synthesis in which there will be, in the study of human behavior, recognition of the radical importance of both the genetic and the exogenetic and their interaction, both in the past history of the human species and in our problematic future.” (1983, p. 302)


Modern evolutionary approaches to human mind and behavior stress the fully coequal roles of genetic and environmental (read sociocultural) influences and are thus seeking to embody this synthesis. Critics often accuse evolutionists of hungrily conquesting through the disciplines, seeking to place all aspects of human behavior and culture within a biological framework. Indeed, they are not wrong. Making sense of all human behavior and culture from a biological perspective is the ambitious goal of the “adaptationist program.”

But this does not mean that all other approaches are thus subsumed and rendered irrelevant. Nor does it mean renouncing or demoting “nurture.” An evolutionary biology that ignores or de-emphasizes the importance of physical and sociocultural environments is, in fact, profoundly un-biological.

Environments – social and physical – shape, constrain, and elicit the behaviors of organisms. Adopting this “biosocial” stance does not represent a retreat into wishy-washy platitudes for the sake of keeping everyone happy. Rather, it is based on scientific information about how genes interact with environments: genes have a strong influence on behavior, yes, but behavior and environment also exert strong influence over genes (a classic example of the latter fact is adult lactose tolerance in populations with a history of herding dairy animals, and lactose intolerance in populations lacking this cultural practice; see Richardson and Boyd 2005 for more examples).

As Matt Ridley writes in Nature Via Nurture,

“The more we lift the lid on the genome, the more vulnerable to experience genes appear to be . . . Genes are not puppet masters or blueprints. Nor are they just carriers of heredity. They are active during life; they switch each other on and off; they respond to the environment . . . They are both cause and consequence of our actions” (2003, 4).

(Gottschall 2008a, pp. 32-3)

The biocultural view – including meme-gene coevolution (Wilson & Lumsden 1981), (Csikszentmihalyi 1985) – posits that biology, society, and culture are all enabling constraints.

Some scholars also apparently do not understand that the theory of evolution (whether applied to biology, or to culture) involves no strict determinism, but rather, probabilities.

Systems: New Paradigms for the Human Sciences (by Altmann & Koch, 1998)

In the chapter `Self-organization of culture’ in Systems: New Paradigms for the Human Sciences (1998), Nobis states:

`Evolution is not a choice from a fixed potential of possibilities. It is creation of new possibilities, new levels or dimensions of freedom or indeterminism. It is characterised by an increasing phase space (Brooks, Wiley, 1988: 38). The openness of evolution and evolving systems is based on that.’

(Nobis in Altmann & Koch 1998, p. 466)

Further to this, in How The Mind Works (1997) Steven Pinker notes that:

`The geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky famously wrote that nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution. We can add that nothing in culture makes sense except in the light of psychology.

Evolution created psychology, and that is how it explains culture.’

(Pinker 1997, p. 210)

Additionally, in The Clockwork Muse: The Predictability of Artistic Change, Martindale (1990) likewise notes:

`As the geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky remarked, “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution” (1973, p. 125). It could just as well be said that nothing in art or literature makes sense except in the light of evolution.’

(Martindale 1990, p. 18)

DK Simonton (2010) also notes:

`The geneticist and evolutionary biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky is often quoted as saying that “nothing in biology can be understood except in the light of evolution” (e.g., [187, p. 36]).

Something similar may eventually be said of creativity: Nothing about creativity can be comprehended except in the light of blind-variation and selective-retention. Adaptive originality requires blind variations no matter it takes the form of ideas or species.

Even so, it took evolutionary biologists more than a century since the publication of Origin before Dobzhansky could make that claim. Hence, Campbell’s own theory should be granted at least another 50 years to attain the same status.’

(Simonton 2010, p. 174)

Further to this – to append to Pinker, Martindale, Simonton and Dobzhansky – we can also add that “Nothing in biology or culture – or biocultural evolution – makes sense except in the light of integrated holonic systems theory.” (Velikovsky 2014)

A holarchy of holons

A holarchy of holons

Evolution is systems theory, and it is to systems theory in general that we will soon turn… (in the next post, StoryAlity #113)

On Evolutionary Psychology and “reductionism and determinism”

There is also a common misconception about `reductionism’ and `determinism’ in the consilient approach, whereby evocriticism (or literary Darwinism, or biopoetics) draws on evolutionary psychology.

In the early 1990s evolutionary psychology also was also accused of reductionism:

`At present, crossing such boundaries is often met with xenophobia, packaged in the form of such familiar accusations as “intellectual imperialism” or “reductionism”. But by calling for conceptual integration in the behavioural and social sciences we are neither calling for reductionism nor for the conquest and assimilation of one field by another…

Instead, conceptual integration simply involves learning to accept with grace the irreplaceable intellectual gifts offered by other fields. To do this, one must accept the tent of mutual consistency between disciplines, with its allied recognition that there are causal links between them.’

(Barkow, Cosmides and Tooby 1992, p. 12)

Overlaps - and causal links - in scientific disciplines / domains (Velikovsky 2013)

Overlaps – and causal links – in scientific disciplines / domains (Velikovsky 2014)

In The Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology (Buss 2005),Tooby and Cosmides also make a very important clarification on fallacies of determinism:

`The Twin Fallacies of Genetic Determinism and Environmental Determinism – Traditional researchers hold a series of beliefs that are widely accepted and that sound eminently reasonable but are based on a series of fallacies about how development works. The first belief is that some behaviours are genetically determined whereas others are environmentally determined.

The second is that evolutionary psychology deals only with behavior that is genetically determined, not the much larger set of behaviours that is environmentally determined.

These beliefs are wrong for many reasons… Evolution acts through genes, but it acts on the relationship between the genes and the environment, choreographing their interaction to cause evolved design. Genes are the so-called units of selection, so they are indeed something that evolves. But every time one gene is selected over another, one design for a developmental program is selected as well.

(We all start as a single cell – brainless, limbless, gutless. Every cell and organ system subsequently develops from that cell, nonrandomly climbing toward specific organizational forms despite the onslaughts of entropy. For manifest organization to occur, there must be naturally selected processes that cause this to happen: developmental processes).’

(Tooby & Cosmides, in Buss 2005, pp. 34-5)

Notably in their chapter `The Psychological Foundations of Culture’ in The Adapted Mind (1992), Tooby and Cosmides criticize the Standard Social Science Model (the `blank slate’ theory) which – as they note – is very different from evolutionary psychology’s consilient Integrated Causal Model (ICM):

`Standard Social Science Model advocates, such as [Steven Jay] Gould, tend to equate evolved biological design with immutability without any logical or empirical warrant. As Gould expresses his rather magical belief, “If we are programmed to be what we are, then these traits are ineluctable. We may, at best, channel them, but we cannot change them either by will, education or culture”(Gould 1977c, p. 238).’

(Tooby and Cosmides 1992, p. 80)     

The SSSM view is what many – erroneously – assume evolutionary psychology shares.

Regarding reductionism, there is also good and bad reductionism; in Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, Daniel Dennett (1995) refers to:

`the preposterous forms of reductionism; of course you can’t explain all the patterns that interest us at the level of physics (or chemistry, or any one low level).’

(Dennett 1995, p. 102).

At the same time it also seems preposterous to ignore the lower levels of reality, if and when they have an effect on higher levels (for example, on the domains of filmmaking and screenwriting), particularly when the structure and laws of each domain (physics, chemistry, biology, culture) are consistent, for example in their organization into holarchies.

Holarchy of the Film Field and Domain (Velikovsky 2013)

Holarchy of the Film Field and Domain (Velikovsky 2013)

I suggest that there are at least two major causes of the mistaken assumptions made by many that consilient approaches (for example to film, and literature, and the arts in general) are `reductionistic and/or deterministic’: Buss (2012) notes that human cognition is often riddled with bias and error, citing (Tooby & Cosmides 1998) on ecological rationality (Buss 2012, pp. 395-99), which I would also infer, most likely results in `single-cause fallacies’: a belief some hold, for example, that certain films were successful for one single reason alone, rather than due to a confluence of multiple causes in complex systems.

The Storytelling Animal (Gottschall 2012)

Secondly, Gottschall in The Storytelling Animal (2012) also notes that parts of the evolved human mind work rather like the fictional Sherlock Holmes (whose deductive methods are spurious at best):

`…the storytelling mind is imperfect. After almost five decades of studying the tale-spinning homunculus who resides in the left brain, Michael Gazzaniga has concluded that this little man – for all his undeniable virtues – can also be a bumbler. The storytelling mind is allergic to uncertainty, randomness, and coincidence. It is addicted to meaning. If the storytelling mind cannot find meaningful patterns in the world, it will try to impose them. In short, the storytelling mind is a factory that churns out true stories when it can, but will manufacture lies when it can’t.’

(Gottschall 2012, pp. 99-103)

It is perhaps for reasons such as these, that some assume consilience to be “reductionist and determinist”: that is itself (ironically), a simple case of reductionism and determinism. In short, it is erroneously “reductionist and determinist” to view consilience (or literary Darwinism) as a bad form of “reductionism and determinism”.

Another key point to note is that since at least 1960, it has been clear that determinism – of any kind – is in fact contradicted by subatomic physics (Campbell, DT 1960, p. 386); it is therefore, a fallacy to view anything as deterministic. The Merriam-Webster dictionary (2014) defines `determinism’ as:

`a theory or doctrine that acts of the will, occurrences in nature, or social or psychological phenomena are causally determined by preceding events or natural laws’

(Merriam-Webster 2014)

Acts of the will are caused by the free will of agents; evolutionary psychology is clear on this point. Another key irony of irrelevant claims (or: invalid `criticisms’) of “reductionism” and “determinism” in the consilient approach is that, ironically, they are only true in ways that are positive, or in other words, useful in solving problems. (See: Karl Popper’s “All Life Is Problem Solving” Popper 1999).

Evocriticism (biopoetics, literary Darwinism) for example is not more – or less – “reductionist” than any other process that examines causes and effects and probabilities; the causes of complex artifacts – such as, successful feature films – are multiple, systemic, and multi-layered.

Certainly, one necessary and sufficient cause of human culture is human society, and moving down one level in the holarchy, one necessary and sufficient cause of human society is: humans, and one necessary and sufficient cause of humans is: biology.

Biology, Society, Culture

Biology, Society, Culture

Yet there remain many frequent misunderstandings of evocriticism, such as that it collapses or `reduces’ all causes to biology, or even to genetics; even genes only operate with respect to – and in confluence – with their environment, and environments and environmental conditions vary, in polysystems.

In short, Biological Evolution explains some things; Cultural Evolution explains some other things; Biological and Cultural Evolution together (BioCultural Evolution) explain some things; there are also many things humans do, not yet explained by any of these things. Sometimes the two overlap, but – we cannot `reduce’ all Culture to Biology. (See also: Csikszentmihalyi & Massimini 1985).

One reason is, the rules and characteristics of systems change on different levels of hierarchies (or: holarchies).

Evolution involves systems.

Also, at any rate as Dennett (1995) notes, to reduce the causes of everything to levels on lower hierarchies would be reductionist and determinist in a way that isn’t very useful or helpful.

For example – a person – of their own free will – may decide to spend time doing some activity (say, to go for a walk, or, to make a movie); some or even all of the atoms in their body certainly enable them to do so, but the atoms did not necessarily cause them to: go for a walk.[2]

Consciousness gives people control over their own bodily atoms.

BioCultural Evolution

Causality: Biological, Cultural, BioCultural Evolution, and Neither. (Velikovsky 2014)

The reasons individual people make individual films can be many and varied; likewise, the reasons people (audiences) like certain films can also be many and varied and may be different in every case, with some overlaps. People are able do things because they evolved; but evolution does not explain causally why people do certain random things; probabilities come into play, as does agency and structure in systems.

Why do some people like movies and others not?

A normal curve of movie viewers

A normal curve of movie viewers

Why are some movies popular, and others not?

StoryAlity Theory - Comparing the Top and Bottom 20 RoI Films (Velikovsky 2014)

StoryAlity Theory – Comparing the Top and Bottom 20 RoI Films (Velikovsky 2014)

In short, the consilient biocultural approach to examining, studying and analyzing: film, literature, and culture is both reductionist and expansionist – and also, determinist and indeterminist.

It is: evolution, systems theory, probabilities, agency and structure, and free will. (And other things.)

It is to systems and evolution that we now turn. (i.e. – in: StoryAlity Post #113). Not least as, Evolution involves, systems, (such as ecosystems: biological, and cultural, and biocultural)

And – for more detail on the evolutionary systems (or, complexity) view of narrative and bioculture in general, see, this book chapter:

StoryAlity #132The holon/parton structure of the Meme, the unit of culture – and the narreme, or unit of story – book chapter (Velikovsky 2016)

And for a great consilience & creativity & evolution reading list, see:

StoryAlity #71On Consilience in the Arts / Humanities / Communication

Comments, always welcome.


JT Velikovsky

High-RoI Story/Screenplay/Movie and Transmedia Researcher

The above is (mostly) an adapted excerpt, from my doctoral thesis: “Communication, Creativity and Consilience in Cinema”. It is presented here for the benefit of fellow screenwriting, filmmaking and creativity researchers. For more, see https://aftrs.academia.edu/JTVelikovsky

JT Velikovsky is also a produced feature film screenwriter and million-selling transmedia writer-director-producer. He has been a professional story analyst for major film studios, film funding organizations, and for the national writer’s guild. For more see: http://on-writering.blogspot.com/



Csikszentmihalyi, M & Massimini, F (1985), ‘On The Psychological Selection Of Bio-Cultural Information’, New Ideas in Psychology, vol. 3, no. 2, pp. 115-38.

Csikszentmihalyi, M & Wolfe, R (2000), ‘New Conceptions and Research Approaches to Creativity: Implications for a Systems Perspective of Creativity in Education’, in KA Heller, FJ Mönks, R Subotnik & RJ Sternberg (eds), International Handbook of Giftedness and Talent, 2nd ed. edn, Elsevier, Amsterdam; Oxford.

Velikovsky, J. T. (2016). `The Holon/Parton Theory of the Unit of Culture (or the Meme, and Narreme): In Science, Media, Entertainment and the Arts.‘ In A. Connor & S. Marks (Eds.), Creative Technologies for Multidisciplinary Applications. New York: IGI Global.


[1] `Consilience in the Arts’ (Velikovsky 2013): https://storyality.wordpress.com/2013/08/23/storyality-71-consilience-is-coming-read-all-about-it/

[2] Of course it may be argued that there is indeed causation at every level. E.g.: Q: Why did this person go for a walk? A: Because they felt like it. But – Why did they feel like it? Because the human body (as a system) likes exercise now and then, and, a walk can be both pleasurable, and healthy. So, possibly their biology, and psychology, and physiology, indeed caused them to go for a walk, as they felt like it, and then (using their free will) chose to go and do it. Arguably, the movement of atoms in their brain were caused – by their physiology – to fire neurones, that resulted in the system, suggesting (subliminally at first perhaps, then consciously) that, maybe they should get some exercise, and thus, maybe go for a walk. Viewed in this way, we are all just the result of many systems in operation, and their feedback processes. But, systems include a lot of randomness; so we can’t predict much with great accuracy, except to say: IF [a certain set of conditions] THEN [a possible set of results] BUT [possible complications]. And we need to remember there are lots of IFs all taking place at the same time. For example: IF [a person feels like going for a walk] THEN [they may indeed, choose to do so, and indeed, may do so] BUT [something might also interfere with that outcome, such as, a long, urgent and important phone call ensuing on their home landline, just as they were about to walk out the door, due to an event in the social system they are also a part of]. In this sense, everything can be reduced to physics, as EO Wilson suggests in Consilience (1998), if we just view: all the atoms, and their physics, in all of the systems. However, this view makes many people feel uncomfortable for many reasons, and also tends towards Democritus’ “Nothing exists, except atoms and the void” which, as Popper notes in Conjectures and Refutations (1963) has since been disproved.


2 thoughts on “StoryAlity #112 – On Reductionism and Determinism – and Expansionism and Indeterminism

  1. Pingback: StoryAlity#137 – Culturology & the CES (Cultural Evolution Society) | StoryAlity

  2. Thank you for this!
    Its so awesome. Why aren’t we taught this shit in University? Anyone doing any science should know this? Jesus Christ. It hit me like an atomic bomb (see what I did there, winkwink).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.