Social Groups, Explanation and Ontological Holism

Philosophical Papers 32 (2):193-224 (2003)
Abstract Ontological holism is the thesis that social groups are best understood as composite material particulars. At a high level of taxonomic classification groups such as mobs, tribes and nations are the same kind of thing as organisms and artefacts. This holism is opposed by ontological individualism, which maintains that in our formal and folk social scientific discourse we only really refer to individuals and the relations in which they stand. The paper begins from the claim that ontological holism is given prima facie plausibility by the apparently ineliminable role of groups in some descriptions and explanations of the social domain. If the individualist accepts the link between indispensabilty and realism, then individualism must show that groups cannot play the role the holist requires. Three arguments are considered which aim to show that groups are indeed unfitted for this ineliminable role: the appeal to reduction-in principle, the claim that groups cannot possess the causal powers attributed to them by holism, and the view that holism is committed to the attribution of mental properties to groups. Each is rejected as a basis for undermining holism. The paper concludes that this leaves holism in a position to be articulated within a framework that supports a broadly naturalist conception of the social sciences.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1080/05568640309485123
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 23,201
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

View all 24 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles
Paul Sheehy (2006). Holding Them Responsible. Midwest Studies in Philosophy 30 (1):74–93.
Elliott Sober (1980). Holism, Individualism, and the Units of Selection. PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1980:93 - 121.
Henry Jackman (1999). Moderate Holism and the Instability Thesis. American Philosophical Quarterly 36 (4):361-69.
Kirk A. Ludwig (1993). Is Content Holism Incoherent? Grazer Philosophische Studien 46:173-195.
Michael Esfeld (1999). Holism in Cartesianism and in Today's Philosophy of Physics. Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 30 (1):17-36.

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

30 ( #158,618 of 1,940,948 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

5 ( #197,835 of 1,940,948 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.