Methodological individualism, explanation, and invariance

Philosophy of the Social Sciences 36 (4):440-463 (2006)
This article examines methodological individualism in terms of the theory that invariance under intervention is the signal feature of generalizations that serve as a basis for causal explanation. This theory supports the holist contention that macro-level generalizations can explain, but it also suggests a defense of methodological individualism on the grounds that greater range of invariance under intervention entails deeper explanation. Although this individualist position is not threatened by multiple-realizability, an argument for it based on rational choice theory is called into question by experimental results concerning preference reversals. Key Words: methodological individualism • mechanisms • explanation • invariance • preference reversal.
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DOI 10.1177/0048393106293455
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