6 Pages

Integrative Levels

The levels concept is an alternative to reductionism that seeks to understand the whole in terms of its constituent parts. Although reductionistic thinking has been a major factor in the enormous success of the natural philosophy un­ derlying Western science (Cohen &; Stewart, 1994), its utility depends on the questions being asked. Thus in particle and quantum physics (Davies, 1979), molecular biology (Stebbins, 1982), and biochemistry (Williams, 1956), reductionistic thinking has been essential to achiev­ ing understanding. In psychology, however, where context is crucial (e.g., Kantor, 1984; Lerner, 1995), reductionism impedes understanding (Peele, 1981).