The scientific study of socio-cultural phenomenon requires a translocation of topics elaborated from the social perspective of the individual to a rationally ordered rendition of processes suitable for comprehension from a scientific perspective. Scholarly curiosity seeded from exposure in the natural setting to economic, political, socio-cultural, evolutionary, processes dictates that study of the self, should be a science with a necessary place in the body of world literatures; yet it has proven difficult to find a perspective to contain discussions of (...) topics in a coherent manner for scientific approach: for example, anthropology, the study of mankind, finds difficulty elaborating definition for the orientation of study; it is a member of the same set that contains it. In this presentation, based on features indigenous to a supposed distant perspective that is exposed employing experiences of history and criteria of common sensory perception, it is conjectured that a civilization lifetime pathology is contemporarily active. Example is taken from philosophical and sociological discourses, modern science theory, medicine in pursuit of international health issues, to capture conceptually a role of motions of external agents occurred within the interval of observation, elaboration of concepts, choice of directions, as a source of paradox and confusion. In supposition that does not escape simple logic, ubiquitously appealing to the experience bound senses for understanding, hidden motions, common to both observer and observed, are hypothesized to render from a sense of familiarity, a continued frustration in attaining an understanding of the self and nature. A psychical seduction is proposed to exist, related to historical behaviors associated with centrism and asceticism, produces eccentric interpretations that are bound modernly to logical circular, centric geometrical reasonings; world conceptualizations are conjectured to acquire an avoidance of a state of ‘motionless’ rather than death within selection processes. Projection by the imagination upon the unknown is conjectured to result in a seduction by an active ‘live-wire” embodied to motions occurred to a distant surface. (shrink)
This chapter argues for a structural injustice approach to the governance of AI. Structural injustice has an analytical and an evaluative component. The analytical component consists of structural explanations that are well-known in the social sciences. The evaluative component is a theory of justice. Structural injustice is a powerful conceptual tool that allows researchers and practitioners to identify, articulate, and perhaps even anticipate, AI biases. The chapter begins with an example of racial bias in AI that arises from structural injustice. (...) The chapter then presents the concept of structural injustice as introduced by the philosopher Iris Marion Young. The chapter moreover argues that structural injustice is well suited as an approach to the governance of AI and compares this approach to alternative approaches that start from analyses of harms and benefits or from value statements. The chapter suggests that structural injustice provides methodological and normative foundations for the values and concerns of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. The chapter closes with an outlook onto the idea of “structure” and on responsibility. The idea of a structure is central to justice. An open theoretical research question is to what extent AI is itself part of the structure of society. Finally, the practice of responsibility is central to structural injustice. Even if they cannot be held responsible for the existence of structural injustice, every individual and every organization has some responsibility to address structural injustice going forward. (shrink)
What can we do—and what should we do—to fight against bias? This final chapter introduces empirically-tested interventions for combating implicit (and explicit) bias and promoting a fairer world, from small daily-life debiasing tricks to larger structural interventions. Along the way, this chapter raises a range of moral, political, and strategic questions about these interventions. This chapter further stresses the importance of admitting that we don’t have all the answers. We should be humble about how much we still don’t know and (...) dedicate efforts to gathering as much knowledge as possible. Even so, we know enough now to start making a difference, and this chapter ultimately aims to chip away at the gap between our abstract commitments to treat people fairly and our lived habits and experiences, which continue to be shaped by implicit and explicit prejudices and stereotypes about race, gender, and other social categories. (shrink)
This article explores the potential utility of the theory of Holism as developed by South African philosopher, British Commonwealth statesman and military leader, Jan Smuts, for philosophical counselling or practice. Central to the philosophical counseling process is philosophical counsellors or practitioners applying the work of philosophers to inspire, educate and guide their counselees in dealing with life problems. For example, Logic-Based Therapy, a method of philosophical counselling developed by Elliot Cohen, provides a rational framework for confronting problems of living, where (...) the counselor helps the counselee find an uplifting philosophy that promotes a guiding virtue that acts as an antidote to unrealistic and often self-defeating conclusions derived from irrational premises. We present the argument that Holism is one such uplifting philosophy which can be of utility to philosophical counselors or practitioners to help their counselees with confronting problems of living. Furthermore, we argue that Smuts’ articulation of freedom can act as a guiding virtue within this uplifting philosophy of Holism in accordance with the methodology of LBT. Smuts’ contribution to philosophy and psychology is arguably inadequately credited, and for this reason, and to the best of our knowledge, Smuts’ theory of Holism has yet to be discussed in the context of philosophical counseling or practice. Given these omissions, we begin this article with a discussion of his influence on 20th Century Anglo-American psychology. We then provide a brief historical context, and an introduction to the central argument of Smuts’ Holism, as well as a brief overview of the origins of Smut’s Holism and an introduction to his book Holism and Evolution. In the remainder of the article, we discuss several foundational concepts that underlie Smuts’ theory of Holism, as articulated and developed in his book Holism and Evolution, to substantiate our arguments. We conclude by highlighting the limitations of our article, limitations to Smuts’ model, and the challenges inherent in the use of a now largely antiquated theory, even by Smuts’ own admission nineteen years after its publication, for the purposes of contextualizing and substantiating the arguments and recommendations presented herein. (shrink)
Agent-based models are increasingly important in social science research. They have two obvious apparent virtues: they can model complex macrosociological phenomena without strong assumptions about agents and without analytic solutions for models, and they seem to instantiate the methodological individualist program in a concrete way. We argue that the latter claim is false. After providing schematic accounts of ABM models and a first introduction to ways in which to characterize individualist explanations, we work through six conceptions of individualist explanations that (...) are decreasingly "less individualist" and argue that ABM-based explanations in the social sciences are not inevitably individualist in any of these senses. ABMs allow for explanatory relations among social entities and properties in the model environment and they are silent on what basic agents are, allowing social entities and properties to play basic explanatory roles. (shrink)
Scholars, journalists, and activists working on climate change often distinguish between “individual” and “structural” approaches to decarbonization. The former concern choices individuals can make to reduce their “personal carbon footprint” (e.g., eating less meat). The latter concern changes to institutions, laws, and other social structures. These two approaches are often framed as oppositional, representing a mutually exclusive forced choice between alternative routes to decarbonization. After presenting representative samples of this oppositional framing of individual and structural approaches in environmental communication, we (...) identify four problems with oppositional thinking and propose five ways to conceive of individual and structural reform as symbiotic and interdependent. (shrink)
Methodological individualists often claim that any social phenomenon can ultimately be explained in terms of the actions and interactions of individuals. Any Nagelian version of methodological individualism requires that there be bridge laws that translate social statements into individualistic ones. We show that Nagelian individualism can be put to logical scrutiny by making the relevant social and individualistic languages fully explicit and mathematically precise. In particular, we prove that the social statement that a group of agents performs a deontically admissible (...) group action cannot be expressed in a well-established deontic logic of agency that models every combination of actions, omissions, abilities, and obligations of finitely many individual agents. (shrink)
This article develops a diagnostic lens to make sense of the still baffling development of a ‘humanitarian marketplace’. Ambivalently hybrid initiatives such as volunteer tourism, corporate social responsibility or even fair trade do not strictly obey a distributive logic of market exchange, social reciprocity or philanthropic giving. They engender a type of ‘economy’ that must be apprehended in its own terms. The article argues that the large-scale collaborative effects of such a dispersed market can be theorized without resorting to the (...) classical biopolitical move of simplified agency/holistic reification. The argument proceeds counterintuitively, by appropriating the notion of symbiosis as redefined by contemporary biology, contending through historical contextualization and conceptual work that nature itself offers the best example to grasp spontaneous collaboration among unrelated human beings as a non-automatically balanced and intrinsically political affair that calls for critical management through an ex post facto interventionist policy of selective cultivation. (shrink)
Written by a diverse range of scholars, this accessible introductory volume asks: What is implicit bias? How does implicit bias compromise our knowledge of others and social reality? How does implicit bias affect us, as individuals and participants in larger social and political institutions, and what can we do to combat biases? An interdisciplinary enterprise, the volume brings together the philosophical perspective of the humanities with the perspective of the social sciences to develop rich lines of inquiry. It is written (...) in a non-technical style, using relatable examples that help readers understand what implicit bias is, its significance, and the controversies surrounding it. Each chapter includes discussion questions and additional reading suggestions. A companion webpage contains teaching resources. The volume will be an invaluable resource for students—and researchers—seeking to understand criticisms surrounding implicit bias, as well as how one might answer them by adopting a more nuanced understanding of bias and its role in maintaining social injustice. (shrink)
This volume contains the proceedings of the Social Ontology, Normativity, and Philosophy of Law conference, which took place on May 30–31, 2019 at the University of Glasgow. At the invitation of the Social Ontology Research Group, a panel of prominent scholars shed light on a range of key topics within social ontology, normativity, and philosophy of law from an interdisciplinary perspective.
In recent years there has been an increased interest in applying the tools and methods of analytic metaphysics to the study of social phenomena. This essay examines how one such tool—the notion of metaphysical ground—may be used to elucidate some central notions, debates, and positions in the philosophy of race and gender, social ontology, and the philosophy of social science. Three main applications are examined: how the notion of social construction may be analyzed in ground-theoretic terms (§1); how debates over (...) the nature of social facts may be recast as grounding debates (§2); and how the doctrine of ontological individualism may be formulated using the notion of ground (§3). The essay concludes by considering a skeptical challenge concerning the usefulness of the grounding framework for social metaphysics (§4). (shrink)
Individualists claim that collective obligations are reducible to the individual obligations of the collective’s members. Collectivists deny this. We set out to discover who is right by way of a deontic logic of collective action that models collective actions, abilities, obligations, and their interrelations. On the basis of our formal analysis, we argue that when assessing the obligations of an individual agent, we need to distinguish individual obligations from member obligations. If a collective has a collective obligation to bring about (...) a particular state of affairs, then it might be that no individual in the collective has an individual obligation to bring about that state of affairs. What follows from a collective obligation is that each member of the collective has a member obligation to help ensure that the collective fulfills its collective obligation. In conclusion, we argue that our formal analysis supports collectivism. (shrink)
Much contemporary social epistemology takes as its starting point individuals with sophisticated propositional attitudes and considers (i) how those individuals depend on each other to gain (or lose) knowledge through testimony, disagreement, and the like and (ii) if, in addition to individual knowers, it is possible for groups to have knowledge. In this paper I argue that social epistemology should be more attentive to the construction of knowers through social and cultural practices: socialization shapes our psychological and practical orientation so (...) that we perform local social practices fluently. Connecting practical orientation to an account of ideology, I argue that to ignore the ways in which cognition is socially shaped and filtered is to allow ideology to do its work unnoticed and unimpeded. Moreover, ideology critique cannot simply challenge belief, but must involve challenges to those practices through which we ourselves become the vehicles and embodiments of ideology.V. (shrink)
I defend an empirically-oriented approach to the analysis and remediation of social injustice. My springboard for this argument is a debate—principally represented here between Tommie Shelby and Elizabeth Anderson, but with much deeper historical roots and many flowering branches—about whether racial-justice advocacy should prioritize integration (bringing different groups together) or community development (building wealth and political power within the black community). Although I incline toward something closer to Shelby’s “egalitarian pluralist” approach over Anderson’s single-minded emphasis on integration, many of Shelby’s (...) criticisms of integrationism are misguided, and his handling of the empirical literature is profoundly unbalanced. In fact, while both Shelby and Anderson defend the importance of social science to their projects, I’ll argue that each takes a decidedly unempirical approach, which ultimately obscures the full extent of our ignorance about what we can and ought to do going forward. A more authentically empirical tack would be more epistemically humble, more holistic, and less organized around what I’ll call prematurely formulated “Grand Unified Theories of Social Change.” I defend a more “diversified experimentalist” approach, which rigorously tests an array of smaller-scale interventions before trying to replicate and scale up the most promising results. (shrink)
How should we theorize about the social world? How can we integrate theories, models and approaches from seemingly incompatible disciplines? Does theory affect social reality? This state-of-the-art collection addresses contemporary methodological questions and interdisciplinary developments in the philosophy of social science. Facilitating a mutually enriching dialogue, chapters by leading social scientists are followed by critical evaluations from philosophers of social science. This exchange showcases recent major theoretical and methodological breakthroughs and challenges in the social sciences, as well as fruitful ways (...) in which the analytic tools developed in philosophy of science can be applied to understand these advancements. The volume covers a diverse range of principles, methods, innovations and applications, including scientific and methodological pluralism, performativity of theories, causal inferences and applications of social science to policy and business. Taking a practice-orientated and interactive approach, it offers a new philosophy of social science grounded in and relevant to the emerging social science practice. (shrink)
The viability of metaphysics as a field of knowledge has been challenged time and again. But in spite of the continuing tendency to dismiss metaphysics, there has been considerable progress in this field in the 20th- and 21st- centuries. One of the newest − though, in a sense, also oldest − frontiers of metaphysics is the grounding project. In this paper I raise a methodological challenge to the new grounding project and propose a constructive solution. Both the challenge and its (...) solution apply to metaphysics in general, but grounding theory puts the challenge in an especially sharp focus. The solution consists of a new methodology, holistic grounding or holistic metaphysics. This methodology is modeled after a recent epistemic methodology, foundational holism, that enables us to pursue the foundational project of epistemology without being hampered by the problems associated with foundationalism. (shrink)
Rethinking the Individualism-Holism Debate edited by Julie Zahle and Finn Collin is reviewed. Each of the contributions contained in the volume is summarized. The review concludes by assessing the volume’s usefulness for bringing clarity into the debate in the light of the editors’ self-set goal of rethinking the individualism-holism debate as one of the more important yet confused debates in philosophy of the social sciences.
Are social practices actions, or institutional frameworks of interaction structured by common rules? How do social practices such as signing a cheque differ from international practices such as signing a peace treaty? Traversing the fields of international relations and philosophy, this book defends an institutionalist conception of practices as part of a general practice theory indebted to Oakeshott, Wittgenstein and Hegel. The proposed practice theory has two core aspects: practice internalism and normative descriptivism. In developing a philosophical analysis of social (...) practices that has a special relevance for international relations, Silviya Lechner and Mervyn Frost depart from Pierre Bourdieu's sociology of practice that dominates the current 'practice turn' in IR. The authors show that the contemporary global realm is constituted by two distinct macro practices - the practice of sovereign states and that of global rights. (shrink)
Current debates about the integration of traditional and academic ecological knowledge struggle with a dilemma of division and assimilation. On the one hand, the emphasis on differences between traditional and academic perspectives has been criticized as creating an artificial divide that brands TEK as “non-scientific” and contributes to its marginalization. On the other hand, there has been increased concern about inadequate assimilation of Indigenous and other traditional perspectives into scientific practices that disregards the holistic nature and values of TEK. The (...) aim of this article is to develop a practice-based account of the epistemic relations between TEK and AEK that avoids both horns of the dilemma. While relations between TEK and AEK are often described in terms of the “holistic” nature of the former and the “mechanistic” character of the latter, we argue that a simple holism–mechanism divide misrepresents the epistemic resources of both TEK and AEK. Based on the literature on mechanistic explanations in philosophy of science, we argue that holders of TEK are perfectly capable of identifying mechanisms that underlie ecological phenomena while AEK often relies on non-mechanistic strategies of dealing with ecological complexity. Instead of generic characterizations of knowledge systems as either mechanistic or holistic, we propose to approach epistemic relations between knowledge systems by analyzing their heuristics in practice. (shrink)
This article argues that the tradition within the individualism-holism debate of importing arguments from the micro–macro discussion in other disciplines significantly has hampered our understanding of the “individual-social” relationship. While, for example, the “neural-mental” and “atomic-molecular” links represent empirical “gives rise to” relationships, in the social sciences the micro–macro link is a purely analytical “qualifies as” type of relationship. This disanalogy is important, since it has significant implications for the individualism-holism debate: it implies a phenomenally monist social ontology and it (...) disqualifies the notion of social macro causation. (shrink)
The purpose of _Towards a Revival of Analytical Philosophy of History: Around Paul A. Roth's Vision of Historical Sciences_ is to discuss the revival of analytical philosophy of history proposed by Paul A. Roth. The authors characterize the status of philosophy of history and discuss its ontological, epistemological and explanatory dimensions.
Different understanding on Aristotelian distributive justice results in two main factions: holism and egalitarianism. Dennis McKerlie, one of the representatives of holism, criticized Martha Nussbaum's interpretation as an egalitarian. McKerlie argued that Nussbaum did not attach enough importance to the Proportional equality and Aristotelian Common good, as well as a deviation in the understanding of the concept of distribution. The defense of egalitarianism is that Aristotle's emphasis on the rational equality of citizens and the ontological presupposition of primal equality show (...) Aristotelian egalitarian tendencies. (shrink)
The predictive inadequacy of the social sciences is well documented, and philosophers have sought to diagnose it. This paper examines Brian Epstein’s recent diagnosis. He argues that the social sciences treat the social world as entirely composed of individual people. Instead, social scientists should recognize that material, non-individualistic entities determine the social world, as well. First, I argue that Epstein’s argument both begs the question against his opponents and is not sufficiently charitable. Second, I present doubts that his proposal will (...) improve predictive success for the social sciences, which I support with Edith Penrose’s resource-based theory of the firm. (shrink)
The category of anarchy is conventionally associated with the emergence of an autonomous discipline of International Relations. Recently, Donnelly has argued that anarchy has never been central to IR. His criticism targets not just concepts of anarchy but theories of anarchy and thereby expresses an anti-theory ethos tacitly accepted in the discipline. As a form of conceptual atomism, this ethos is hostile to structuralist and normative theories. This article aims to reinstate theoretical holism against conceptual atomism and to defend the (...) enduring relevance of theories of international anarchy for IR. This is done by revisiting two classic, structuralist accounts of international anarchy articulated in Kenneth Waltz’s Theory of International Politics and Hedley Bull’s Anarchical Society. It will be shown that both represent coherent theoretical ‘wholes’ which reveal a more complex relationship between anarchy and hierar... (shrink)
Kirk Ludwig presents a philosophical account of institutional action, such as action by corporations and nation states. He argues that it can be fully understood in terms of the agency of individuals, and concepts derived from our understanding of individual action. He thus argues for a strong form of methodological individualism.
In recent decades, a number of authors have relied on the multiple realizability argument to reject methodological individualism. In this article, I argue that this strategy results in serious difficulties and makes it impossible to identify social entities and phenomena.
The question “What is the meaning of life?” is longstanding and important, but has been shunned by philosophers for decades. Instead, contemporary philosophers have focused on other questions, such as “What gives meaning to the life of a person?” According to James Tartaglia, this research on “meaning in life” is shallow and pointless. He urges philosophers to redirect their attention back to the fundamental question about “meaning of life.” Tartaglia argues that humanity was not created for a purpose and, therefore, (...) is meaningless. He assumes that humanity could not be meaningful unless we were created for a purpose. I will outline a different way that humanity could become meaningful. In addition, I will explain how the research on “meaning in life” is important for understanding how humanity could become meaningful. (shrink)
A traditional social scientific divide concerns the centrality of the interpretation of local understandings as opposed to attending to relatively general factors in understanding human individual and group differences. We consider one of the most common social scientific variables, race, and ask how to conceive of its causal power. We suggest that any plausible attempt to model the causal effects of such constructed social roles will involve close interplay between interpretationist and more general elements. Thus, we offer a case study (...) that one cannot offer a comprehensive model of the causal power of racial categories as social constructions without careful attention both to local meanings and more general mechanisms. (shrink)
Popper’s theory of World 3 is often regarded as incongruent with his defense of methodological individualism. This article criticizes this widespread view. Methodological individualism is said to be at odds with three crucial assumptions of the theory of World 3: the impossibility of reducing World 3 to subjective mental states because it exists objectively, the view that the mental functions cannot be explained by assuming that individuals are isolated atoms, and the idea that World 3 has causal power and influences (...) both individual minds and actions. This article demonstrates that the inconsistency thesis stems from a confusion between methodological individualism as understood by Popper and reductionism. The reasons for this confusion are analyzed and clarified. It is argued that two variants of methodological individualism can be distinguished, and that unlike psychologistic individualism, Popper’s nonatomistic individualism is fully consistent with his theory of World 3. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that while Noë’s actionist approach offers an excellent elaboration of classical approaches to conceptual understanding, it risks underestimating the role of social interactions and relations. Noë’s approach entails a form of body-based individualism according to which understanding is something the mind does all by itself. I propose that we adopt a stronger perspective on the role of sociality and consider the human mind in terms of socially enacted autonomy. On this view, the mind depends constitutively (...) on engaging with and relating to others. As a consequence, conceptual understanding must be seen as a co-achievement. It is a fragile endeavour precisely because it depends not only on the individual but also on the continuous contribution of other subjects. (shrink)
This essay seeks to expose readers from the social sciences to current debates in their fields, beyond the discussions of induction and deduction one learns about in a typical research methods course. It provides glimpses of social science from its dawn in 17th century empiricism, through the rise of postpositivism and antipositivism, to the infamous “science wars” in the 1990s, and expresses a hope for a broader and more inclusive future. Specifically, the paper compares the traditional positivist method of scientific (...) inquiry to a phenomenological approach, and attempts to demonstrate the relevance of philosophical investigation in social science research. (shrink)
Some people think that the inevitability of human extinction renders life meaningless. Joshua Seachris has argued that naturalism can be conceptualized as a meta-narrative and that it narrates across important questions of human life, including what is the meaning of life and how life will end. How a narrative ends is important, Seachris argues. In the absence of God, and with knowledge that human extinction is a certainty, is there any way that humanity could be meaningful and have a good (...) ending? I will distinguish between two conceptions of how humanity could be meaningful: the traditional view and an alternative view, which I will outline. I will argue that this alternative view provides a plausible explanation for how humanity could become meaningful. I will also argue that coming to terms with our mortality and other limitations would add meaning to human life and provide humanity with a good ending. (shrink)
“Di Iorio offers a new approach to Hayek’s Sensory Order, linking neuroscience to the old Verstehen tradition and to contemporary theories of self-organizing systems; this should be on the reading list of everyone who is interested in Hayek’s thought.” Barry Smith University at Buffalo, editor of The Monist “This impressive and well-researched book breaks new ground in our understanding of F.A. Hayek and of methodological individualism more generally. It shows that methodological individualism sanctions neither an atomistic view of society nor (...) a mechanical determinism. The book carefully analyzes an important tradition in the social sciences, and compares it to many important philosophical, sociological and economic systems of thought. This is an enlightening book for all scholars interested in the methodological problems of the social sciences.” Mario J. Rizzo New York University “One of Hayek’s most important contributions is his linking of complex methodological individualism, which deals with the emergence of spontaneous orders and unintended collective structures in complex self-organizing social systems, with a cognitive psychology. What makes Francesco Di Iorio’s book of great interest is that, by building on Hayek’s seminal book The Sensory Order, it deepens the connections between cognition and rules of just conduct, taking into account relevant theories on subjectivity and consciousness such as phenomenology, hermeneutics and enactivism.” Jean Petitot École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, EHESS, Paris “In this thoughtful and enlightening book Francesco Di Iorio uses Hayek’s cognitive psychology as the starting point for investigation of the relationship between the autonomy of the agent and socio-cultural influences within methodological individualism. The book provides an illuminating and innovative analysis of a central issue in the philosophy of social science by setting Hayek’s view on mind and action in fruitful relation to approaches such as Gadamer’s hermeneutics, Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology, Varela’s and Maturana’s enaction, Boudon’s interpretative sociology, Popper’s fallibilism and Mises’ praxeology. One of the most interesting aspects of this book is its argument that hermeneutics and fallibilism refer not to two different methods but to the same one.” Dario Antiseri Emeritus Professor at LUISS University, Rome “Francesco Di Iorio’s book explores, in an original way, the connections between Hayek’s methodological individualism and his fascinating idea that human mind is both an interpretative device and a self-organizing system. It is a brilliant, clearly written work, characterized by a certain intellectual courage, which makes a remarkable contribution to the sociology of knowledge.” Gérald Bronner Paris Diderot University. (shrink)
Integral Theory as developed by Ken Wilber and other contemporary Integral scholars acknowledge many antecedent foundational influences, and proto-Integral thinkers. Curiously, the philosopher-statesman Jan Smuts’ theory of Holism is seldom acknowledged, although it has significantly contributed, albeit often implicitly, to the development of Integral Theory. This paper and presentation has two central aims: To point out that Smuts can be counted amongst one of the great Integral thinkers of the 20th Century; that Smuts’ notion of Holism had a significant influence (...) on the development of Integral Theory. This paper and presentation will provide a brief outline of Smuts’ theory of Holism as developed in his book Holism and Evolution and other philosophical essays. (shrink)
We live in a world of crowds and corporations, artworks and artifacts, legislatures and languages, money and markets. These are all social objects — they are made, at least in part, by people and by communities. But what exactly are these things? How are they made, and what is the role of people in making them? In The Ant Trap, Brian Epstein rewrites our understanding of the nature of the social world and the foundations of the social sciences. Epstein explains (...) and challenges the three prevailing traditions about how the social world is made. One tradition takes the social world to be built out of people, much as traffic is built out of cars. A second tradition also takes people to be the building blocks of the social world, but focuses on thoughts and attitudes we have toward one another. And a third tradition takes the social world to be a collective projection onto the physical world. Epstein shows that these share critical flaws. Most fundamentally, all three traditions overestimate the role of people in building the social world: they are overly anthropocentric. Epstein starts from scratch, bringing the resources of contemporary metaphysics to bear. In the place of traditional theories, he introduces a model based on a new distinction between the grounds and the anchors of social facts. Epstein illustrates the model with a study of the nature of law, and shows how to interpret the prevailing traditions about the social world. Then he turns to social groups, and to what it means for a group to take an action or have an intention. Contrary to the overwhelming consensus, these often depend on more than the actions and intentions of group members. (shrink)
Collectivist accounts of the ethics of war have traditionally dominated just war theory (Kutz 2005; Walzer 1977; Zohar 1993). These state-based accounts have also heavily influenced the parts of international law pertaining to armed conflict. But over the past ten years, reductive individualism has emerged as a powerful rival to this dominant account of the ethics of war. Reductivists believe that the morality of war is reducible to the morality of ordinary life. War is not a special moral sphere with (...) its own special moral rules. Reductivists typically reject a collectivist approach to the morality of war in favor of an individualist view, according to which individuals (rather than states or other collectives) are the proper focus of moral guidance and evaluation. This view holds that the rules governing killing in war are simply the rules governing killing between individuals, most obviously the rules of self-defense and other-defense (Fabre 2009; Frowe 2014; McMahan 2009; Tadros 2014). -/- This chapter defends reductive individualism against the claim that it is unable to sanction wars of national defense that seek to protect non-vital interests. These non-vital interests include political goods such as the defense of sovereignty—that is, of political and territorial integrity. (shrink)
The purpose of this paper is to show that the work of Alfred Schutz, mostly neglected by the current representatives of the social scientific movement of methodological individualism, can provide a foundation for an alternative methodological individualist programme, which instead of building on the presumed rationality of action, starts from the subjective consciousness of the actor, thus can overcome the objectivist bias characterizing most other variants. Following the Schutzian guidelines, this individualist approach can avoid the error of introducing elements incompatible (...) with the individual level of explanation, and also can avoid the conflict between the principle of the freedom of choice, assumed by the action theoretical point of departure, and the implicit determinism of the theories grounded on the idea of rational action. Adopting the results on the fields of the definition of the situation and intersubjective understanding, provided by the phenomenologically grounded interpretive theory of Schutz, methodological individualist theory can also overcome some of its serious defi ciencies. (shrink)
I briefly argue that some issues in the individualism-holism debate have been fairly clearly settled and other issues still plagued by unclarity. The main argument of the paper is that there are a set of clear empirical issues around the holism-individualism debate that are central problems in current social science research. Those include questions about when we can be holist and how individualist we can be in social explanation.
In this article I consider what the implications of ubuntu, interpreted as an African moral philosophy, are for self-expression as a value that the media could help to promote. In contrast to the natural hunches that self-expression is merely a kind of narcissism or makes sense for only individualist cultures to prize, I argue that an attractive construal of ubuntu entails that self-expression can play an important communitarian role. The mass media can be obligated to enable people to express themselves (...) since doing so can be one way for people to share with and care for others. (shrink)
Abstract: In questo saggio, dopo una rapida delineazione dei caratteri positivi dell’individualismo contemporaneo (I), descrivo due forme di pseudoindividualizzazione che si stanno imponendo nelle società sviluppate: il fenomeno dell’«autoinvenzione eterodiretta delle identità» (II) e quello degli «imprenditori di se stessi» (III). Entrambi i processi, dietro l’apparenza di una promozione delle possibilità di autodeterminazione e autorealizzazione degli individui, celano forme di omologazione e di eterodirezione. Attraverso l’analisi delle loro cause concludo che solo abbinandosi all’espansione di rapporti di reciproco riconoscimento l’individualismo potrà (...) realizzare appieno le sue promesse normative. Abstract (English): in this essay, after briefly delineating the positive features of contemporary individualism (I), I describe two forms of pseudoindividualization that characterize todays’ developed societies: the «heterodirected self-invention of personal identity» (II) and the phenomenon of the «entrepreneurs of themselves» (III). Both processes, behind the appearance of promoting the individual’s chances of self-determination and self-realization, conceal forms of homologation and heterodirection. Through the analysis of their causes, I draw the conclusion that contemporary individualism will be able to keep its normative promises only if paired with the development of relationships of mutual recognition. (shrink)
Individualists about social ontology hold that social facts are “built out of” facts about individuals. In this paper, I argue that there are two distinct kinds of individualism about social ontology, two different ways individual people might be the metaphysical “builders” of the social world. The familiar kind is ontological individualism. This is the thesis that social facts supervene on, or are exhaustively grounded by, facts about individual people. What I call anchor individualism is the alternative thesis that facts about (...) individuals put in place the conditions for a social entity to exist, or the conditions for something to have a social property. Examples include conventionalist theories of the social world, such as David Hume’s theories of promises, money, and government, and collective acceptance theories, such as John Searle’s theory of institutional facts. Anchor individualism is often conflated with ontological individualism. But in fact, the two theses are in tension with one another: if one of these kinds of individualism is true, then the other is very unlikely to be. My aim in this paper is to clarify both, and argue that they should be sharply distinguished from one another. (shrink)