This collection of papers investigates the most recent debates about individualism and holism in the philosophy of social science. The debates revolve mainly around two issues: firstly, whether social phenomena exist sui generis and how they relate to individuals. This is the focus of discussions between ontological individualists and ontological holists. Secondly, to what extent social scientific explanations may and should, focus on individuals and social phenomena respectively. This issue is debated amongst methodological holists and methodological individualists. -/- In social (...) science and philosophy, both issues have been intensively discussed and new versions of the dispute have appeared just as new arguments have been advanced. At present, the individualism/holism debate is extremely lively and this book reflects the major positions and perspectives within the debate. This volume is also relevant to debates about two closely related issues in social science: the micro-macro debate and the agency-structure debate. -/- This book presents contributions from key figures in both social science and philosophy, in the first such collection on this topic to be published since the 1970s. -/- . (shrink)
The argument from multiple realization is currently considered the argument against intertheoretic reduction. Both Little and Kincaid have applied the argument to the individualism-holism debate in support of the antireductionist holist position. The author shows that the tenability of the argument, as applied to the individualism-holism debate, hinges on the descriptive constraints imposed on the individualist position. On a plausible formulation of the individualist position, the argument does not establish that the intertheoretic reduction of social theories is highly unlikely. Nonetheless, (...) the reductive project may run into other potential obstacles. For this reason, it is concluded that the prospect of intertheoretic reduction is uncertain rather than unlikely. Key Words: argument from multiple realization intertheoretic reduction reductionism individualism holism. (shrink)
In this article, I offer a partial analysis of the role of values in qualitative data collection in social research. The partial analysis shows that nonepistemic values have both required and permissible roles to play during this phase of research. By appeal to the analysis, I reject the ideal of value-free science as applied to qualitative data collection, and I demonstrate why two alternative ideals should likewise be dismissed as standards for values in qualitative data collection. Also, I briefly discuss (...) the extent to which the partial analysis carries over to quantitative data collection in social research. (shrink)
The introduction provides an overview of the ontological and the methodological individualism-holism debates. Moreover, these debates are briefly discussed in relation to two kindred disputes: The micro-macro and the agency-structure debates. Finally, the contributions to this book are briefly presented.
In the recent methodological individualism-holism debate on explanation, there has been considerable focus on what reasons methodological holists may advance in support of their position. We believe it is useful to approach the other direction and ask what considerations methodological individualists may in fact offer in favor of their view about explanation. This is the background for the question we pursue in this paper: Why be a methodological individualist? We start out by introducing the methodological individualism-holism debate while distinguishing two (...) forms of methodological individualism: a form that says that individualist explanations are always better than holist accounts and a form that says that providing intervening individualist mechanisms always makes for better explanations than purely holist ones. Next, we consider four lines of reasoning in support of methodological individualism: arguments from causation, from explanatory depth, from agency, and from normativity. We argue that none of them offer convincing reasons in support of the two explanatory versions of individualism we consider. While there may well be occasions in which individualists’ favorite explanations are superior, we find no reason to think this always must be the case. (shrink)
One issue of dispute between methodological individualists and methodological holists is whether holist explanations are dispensable in the sense that individualist explanations are able to do their explanatory job. Methodological individualists say they are, whereas methodological holists deny this. In the first part of the paper, I discuss Elder-Vass’ version of an influential argument in support of methodological holism, the argument from emergence. I argue that methodological individualists should reject it: The argument relies on a distinction between individualist and holist (...) explanations that they find unacceptable and Elder-Vass’ reasons in support of his way of drawing this distinction are not good ones. In the second part, I examine what, if anything, would be good reasons in support of a particular way of differentiating between individualist and holist explanations. I propose that a good reason is one which shows, in an acceptable manner, that the distinction, drawn in the same way in all contexts, is useful from the perspective of offering explanations of the social world. I show that if this criterion is adopted, it will result in a fruitful reorientation of the whole debate between methodological individualists and methodological holists. (shrink)
Institutions are normative social structures that are collectively accepted. In his book Making the Social World, John R. Searle maintains that these social structures are created and maintained by Status Function Declarations. The article’s author criticizes this claim and argues, first, that Searle overestimates the role that language plays in relation to institutions and, second, that Searle’s notion of a Status Function Declaration confuses more than it enlightens. The distinction is exposed between regulative and constitutive rules as being primarily a (...) linguistic one: whereas deontic powers figure explicitly in regulative rules, they feature only implicitly in constitutive rules. Furthermore, he contends that Searle’s collective acceptance account of human rights cannot adequately account for the fact that people have these rights even when they are not recognized. Finally, It is argued that a conception of collective intentionality that involves collective commitment is needed in order to do justice to the normative dimension of institutions. (shrink)
This article explores the characteristics of research sites that scientists have called “natural experiments” to understand and develop usable distinctions for the social sciences between “Nature’s or Society’s experiments” and “natural experiments.” In this analysis, natural experiments emerge as the retro-fitting by social scientists of events that have happened in the social world into the traditional forms of field or randomized trial experiments. By contrast, “Society’s experiments” figure as events in the world that happen in circumstances that are already sufficiently (...) “controlled” to be open for direct analysis without reconstruction work. (shrink)
Social scientists associate agent-based simulation models with three ideas about explanation: they provide generative explanations, they are models of mechanisms, and they implement methodological individualism. In light of a philosophical account of explanation, we show that these ideas are not necessarily related and offer an account of the explanatory import of ABS models. We also argue that their bottom-up research strategy should be distinguished from methodological individualism.
The article makes four interrelated claims: The mechanism approach to social explanation does not presuppose a commitment to the individual-level microfoundationalism. The microfoundationalist requirement that explanatory social mechanisms should always consists of interacting individuals has given rise to problematic methodological biases in social research. It is possible to specify a number of plausible candidates for social macro-mechanisms where interacting collective agents form the core actors. The distributed cognition perspective combined with organization studies could provide us with explanatory understanding of the (...) emergent cognitive capacities of collective agents. (shrink)
This paper discusses the so-called non-interference assumption grounding causal inference in trials in both medicine and the social sciences. It states that for each participant in the experiment, the value of the potential outcome depends only upon whether she or he gets the treatment. Drawing on methodological discussion in clinical trials and laboratory experiments in economics, I defend the necessity of partial forms of blinding as a warrant of the NIA, to control the participants’ expectations and their strategic interactions with (...) the experimenter. (shrink)
Qualitative researchers sometimes talk about objectivity in relation to qualitative data sets. In this paper, I defend a reconstructed notion of objective qualitative data sets that may serve as a useful and reachable guiding ideal in qualitative data generation. In the first part of the paper, I develop the ideal. According to it, a qualitative data set is objective to the extent that it, in conjunction with true assumptions, possesses a combination of good-making features in virtue of which the data (...) set is suited to serve as evidence base for a satisfying answer to the research question under study. In the second part of the paper, I examine and reject two possible lines of objection to this ideal: One is that it picks out the wrong good-making features. The other is that the very focus on good-making features is misguided: the objectivity of a qualitative data set should instead be seen as a matter of how it was generated or evaluated. (shrink)
The common assumption is that if a group comprising moral agents can act intentionally, as a group, then the group itself can also be properly regarded as a moral agent with respect to that action. I argue, however, that this common assumption is the result of a problematic line of reasoning I refer to as “the collective fallacy.” Recognizing the collective fallacy as a fallacy allows us to see that if there are, in fact, irreducibly joint actors, then some of (...) them will lack the full-fledged moral agency of their members. The descriptivist question of whether a group can perform irreducibly joint intentional action need not rise and fall with the normative question of whether a group can be a moral agent. (shrink)
The overall aim of this two-part article is to provide a supplement to ability theories of practice in terms of a defense of the following thesis: In situations of social interaction, individuals’ ability to act appropriately sometimes depends on their exercise of the ability directly to perceive normative states. In this Part I, I introduce ability theories of practice and motivate my thesis. Furthermore, I offer an analysis of normative states as response-dependent properties. Last, I work out and defend an (...) account of direct perception that is compatible with individuals being able directly to perceive various everyday phenomena. Drawing on this account, I show in part II, that normative states are sometimes directly perceptible too. (shrink)
Abstract An important strand of theories of practice stress that individuals' practical knowledge, i.e., their ability to act in appropriate and/or effective ways, is mainly tacit. This means that the social scientist cannot find out about this knowledge by simply asking the individuals she studies to articulate how it is appropriate and/or effective to act in various circumstances. In this paper, I pursue the proposal that the method of participant observation may be used to find out about individuals' practical knowledge. (...) Surprisingly, the literature does not contain any systematic and comprehensive discussion of this suggestion. I distinguish and exemplify four types of observation that are indicative of individuals' practical knowledge. The observations may serve as a basis for the social scientist's formulations of this knowledge. Further, I point to two main ways in which things may go wrong when the social scientist uses participant observation to find out about individuals' practical knowledge. I argue that the social scientist can make reasonably sure to avoid these two potential difficulties. Accordingly, I conclude that these difficulties do not undermine the effectiveness of the method. In this sense, social scientists are right to use the method of participant observation to find out about individuals' practical knowledge. (shrink)
The conference “The Special Role of Science in Liberal Democracy” was held November 21–22 2013 at the University of Copenhagen. The conference was organized by Julie Zahle and Klemens Kappel as part of a research project on this topic, funded by the Carlsberg Foundation.There were six plenary speakers: James Bohman, Heather Douglas, Harold Kincaid, Martin Kusch, Eleonora Montuschi and Erik Weber. The other speakers at the conference were: Manuela Fernandez-Pinto, Anton Froeyman, Heidi Grasswick, Rico Hauswald, Oier Imaz, Kristen Intemann, Saana (...) Jukola, Klemens Kappel, Arnon Keren, Loren King (Wilfrid Laurier Un.. (shrink)
In this paper, we offer an introduction to case study research in the social sciences. We begin with a discussion of the definition of case study research. Next, we point to various purposes that case study research may serve in the social sciences and then turn to outline the main philosophical issues raised by case study research. Finally, we briefly present the papers in this special issue.
The aim of this paper is to provide a characterization of ability theories of practice and, in this process, to defend Pierre Bourdieu’s ability theory against Stephen Turner’s objections. In part I, I outline ability theorists’ conception of practices together with their objections to claims about rule following and rule explanations. In part II, I turn to the question of what ability theorists take to be the alternative to rule following and rule explanations. Ability theorists have offered, and been ascribed, (...) somewhat different answers to this question, just as their replies, or positive accounts, have been heavily criticized by Turner. Due to this state of the debate, I focus on the positive account advanced by a single—and highly famous—ability theorist of practice, Pierre Bourdieu. Moreover, I show that despite Turner’s claims to the contrary, his arguments do not refute Bourdieu’s positive account. (shrink)
In “Redescription, Reduction, and Emergence: A Response to Tobias Hansson Wahlberg,” Elder-Vass takes the opportunity to reply to my criticism of his theory in “Holism, Emergence, and the Crucial Distinction.” In this response, I show how methodological individualists may respond to his argument against their position and I argue that Elder-Vass fails to provide reasons as to why his particular distinction between individualist and holist explanations should be adopted.
It is currently common to conceive of the classic methodological individualism–holism debate in level terms. Accordingly, the dispute is taken to concern the proper level of explanations in the social sciences. In this paper, I argue that the debate is not apt to be characterized in level terms. The reason is that widely adopted notions of individualist explanations do not qualify as individual-level explanations because they span multiple levels. I defend this claim relative to supervenience, emergence, and other accounts of (...) the social world as levelled. Moreover, I discuss the consequences of this finding for the ongoing methodological individualism–holism debate. (shrink)
This paper examines the methodological anti-naturalist claim that social scientists make indispensably use of a method that is distinct to the social sciences, when studying norms by way of participant observation. Based on a detailed examination of how social scientists use participant observation to study norms, I argue that, on diverse specifications of “method”, the methodological anti-naturalist contention should be rejected.
The overall aim of this two-part paper is to provide a supplement to ability theories of practice in terms of a defense of the following thesis: Individuals’ ability to act appropriately sometimes depends on their exercise of the ability directly to perceive normative states. In part I, I presented the account of direct perception. In this part II, I argue that, by the lights of this account, normative states are sometimes directly perceptible. Also, I show that the ability directly to (...) perceive normative states is a commonly possessed—and exercised—ability. On this basis, I establish the conclusion that, in situations of social interaction, individuals’ ability to act appropriately is sometimes underwritten by their exercise of the ability directly to perceive normative states. By way of ending, I briefly explain the different ways in which my discussion constitutes both a useful supplement to ability theories of practice and a reply to an important objection raised against these theories. (shrink)
In the literature on social research, adherence to the principle of informed consent is sometimes recommended on the ground that the privacy of those being studied is hereby protected. The principle has it that before becoming part of a study, a competent individual must receive information about its purpose, use, etc., and on this basis freely agree to participate. Joan Sieber motivates the employment of informed consent as a way to safeguard research participants' privacy as follows: "A research experience regarded (...) by some as a delightful opportunity for self-disclosure could constitute an unbearable invasion of privacy for... (shrink)
In this paper, I examine the early history of discussions of participant observation and objectivity in anthropology. The discussions resolve around the question of whether participant observation is a reliable method for obtaining data that may serve as the basis for true accounts of native ways of life. I show how Malinowski in 1922 introduced participant observation as a straightforwardly reliable method and then discuss how—and why—most of the discussants in the 1940s and 1950s maintained that the method is reliable (...) only if the researcher takes a whole number of precautionary measures. (shrink)