It is often claimed that the social sciences cannot be reduced to a lower-level individualistic science. The standard argument for this position is the Fodorian multiple realizability argument. Its defenders endorse token–token identities between “higher-level” social objects and pluralities/sums of “lower-level” individuals, but they maintain that the properties expressed by social science predicates are often multiply realizable, entailing that type–type identities between social and individualistic properties are ruled out. In this paper I argue that the multiple realizability argument for explanatory (...) holism is unsound. The social sciences are indeed irreducible, but the principled reason for this is that the required token–token identifications cannot in general be carried through. In consequence, paradigmatic social science predicates cannot be taken to apply to the objects quantified over in the lower-level sciences. The result is that typical social science predicates cannot even be held to be co-extensive with individualistic predicates, which means type–type identifications are ruled out too. Multiple realizability has nothing to do with this failure of co-extensiveness, because the relevant social science predicates are not multiply realized in the sense intended by the explanatory holists, a sense which presupposes reductive token–token identifications. (shrink)
In this review essay, I examine the central tenets of sociologist Dave Elder-Vass’s recent contribution to social ontology, as put forth in his book The Causal Power of Social Structures: Emergence, Structure and Agency. Elder-Vass takes issue with ontological individualists and maintains that social structures exist and have causal powers in their own right. I argue that he fails to establish his main theses: he shows neither that social structures have causal powers “in their own right” (in any sense of (...) this expression) nor that they exist. (shrink)
In Elder-Vass’s response to my critical discussion of his social ontology, it is maintained (1) that a social object is not identical with but is merely composed of its suitably interrelated parts, (2) that a social object is necessarily indistinguishable in terms of its causal capacities from its interrelated parts, and (3) that ontological individualism lacks an adequate ontological justification. In this reply, I argue that in view of (1) the so-called redescription principle defended by Elder-Vass ought to be reformulated (...) and renamed; that the conjunction of (1) and (2) renders social objects causally redundant; and that ontological individualism can be coherently formulated and theoretically justified within Elder-Vass’s own metaphysics of objects with causal powers. (shrink)
It is argued that philosophers who adopt the perdurance theory of persistence and who subscribe to the principle of Unrestricted Mereological Composition (UMC) are in a position to regard “Phosphorus is Hesperus” as false.
Several philosophers have maintained in recent years that the endurance/perdurance debate is merely verbal: these prima facie distinct theories of objects’ persistence are in fact metaphysically equivalent, they claim. The present paper challenges this view. Three proposed translation schemes are examined; all are shown to be faulty. In the process, constructive reasons for regarding the debate as a substantive one are provided. It is also suggested that the theories may have differing practical implications.