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The Largest Things Are the Realest

Posted in Levels of Reality, and Technical Philosophy

Idea: There are a mix of reasons for believing that more inclusive things are realer.

At the societal level, or the historical level, or the cosmic level, you don’t exist. An analysis of society, or history, or the universe would have no need to mention you. And it’s those higher levels of reality that are most real. The lower levels are just manifestations of the wholes to which they belong — of how things at the higher levels behave and develop. Because it’s the opposite of “reductionism,” let’s call this theory “unificationism.”

Unificationism’s Theme Song

Why believe it?

The Body Metaphor

Just as you continue — you’re the real thing — even as your cells come and go, the larger wholes to which you belong are the real thing even as their parts come and go.

Physics and Philosophy

Things seem to inherently tend toward forming larger wholes. That’s how stars and planets, families and cities form. Things seem to want to settle down together. The “equilibrium point” is always some form of aggregate.

Furthermore, a society lasts much longer than any of its members. The same goes for a solar system, or galaxy, or the universe itself. And things that are more permanent, more lasting, are more significant, more substantial, more real.


Any racist or nationalist will be happy to explain to you that it’s not the individual, but the race or nation that matters. Your personal qualities are overridden by your race’s or nation’s qualities, for good or ill.

Cosmopolitanism counters that it’s not the race or nation that matters; it’s the species as a whole. The fact that we’re all human overrides any of our personal qualities, for good or ill.

Environmentalism disagrees. It’s the ecosystem as a whole that matters, not the species. It’s the climate as a whole that matters, not today’s weather.

But mysticism trumps them all. The highest truth is that everything is one.

Reality Is at the Top

Unificationism argues that the things we see around us are just parts of larger wholes. This is just one way of saying that reality is at the top, and thus of disagreeing with reductionism. We’ll talk about other options next time.

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