By Definition

A comment at TGGP’s caught my eye recently. It addresses (rather drolly) the idea that ‘over-simplification can be bad’.

But of course, over-simplification is necessarily bad in some important way, because otherwise it would just be simplification. ‘Over’ conveys excessiveness, missing a target of some kind, and that implies a value judgment.

A common rhetorical strategy is to confuse a value-neutral concept with a value-laden one, particularly through substitution; I can’t even count the number of times I’ve heard someone argue that ‘reductionism is bad’ who follows it up with examples of gross over-reductionism.

(Note: there is no argument which attempts to accurately portray some aspect of the world that is not reductionist. Breaking the holistic universe into discrete elements is what perception is all about, after all, and no mental representation can match the full complexity of the systems it’s embedded in.)

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