Hands are made of thumb, fingers, palm! There is no hand!

Well, of course there are hands. Hands are a simplification inside our heads (in the map, not in the territory), and it's useful to speak of hands even if there's no singular irreducible entity in reality that maps to what we mean by that word.

Airplanes are made of fuselage and wings. Wings are made of atoms, atoms are made of quarks etc. All these levels are mental simplifications. There is no observable in reality that would distinguish one object as an airplane and another as a collection of atoms configured as what we'd call an airplane. If you were using words imprecisely, you might say that they're the same thing. But more precisely, reality contains only the latter, but in our mind we represent it only as the former because that's simpler to work with. Reality is a sea of quarks and we see patterns in that sea, but that doesn't mean the patterns exist as irreducible wholes.

A hands is just a thumb, fingers and palm. There is no hand.

Once you've separated mental buckets for these ideas, that sentence shouldn't feel confusing or paradoxical. You can truthfully say there is a hand – if you mean that there is one in our mental reality. There isn't even thumb or fingers or palm either.

Reductionism is the refusal to project our mental maps out into the territory, so we don't insist the scribble in our map is a Thing out there.

What links here

  • *Hand vs. Fingers
Created (16 months ago)