Spring 2000

Life Is a Miracle

Wendell Berry

"It is clearly bad for the sciences and the arts to be divided into 'two cultures. . . .' It is bad for both of these cultures to be operating according to 'professional standards,' without local affection or community responsibility, much less any vision of an eternal order to which we all are subordinate and under obligation. It is even worse that we are actually confronting, not just 'two cultures,' but a whole ragbag of disciplines and professions, each with its own jargon more or less unintelligible to the others, and all saying of the rest of the world, 'That is not my field.'"

Reductionism, like materialism, has uses that are appropriate, and it also can be used inappropriately. It is appropriately used as a way (one way) of understanding what is empirically known or empirically knowable. When it becomes merely an intellectual "position" confronting what is not empirically known or knowable, then it becomes very quickly absurd, and also grossly desensitizing and false. Like materialism, reductionism belongs legitimately to science; as an article of belief, it causes trouble. 


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