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Reduction, Explanation, and Individualism

Harold Kincaid
Philosophy of Science
Vol. 53, No. 4 (Dec., 1986), pp. 492-513
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/187903
Page Count: 22
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Reduction, Explanation, and Individualism
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Abstract

This paper contributes to the recently renewed debate over methodological individualism (MI) by carefully sorting out various individualist claims and by making use of recent work on reduction and explanation outside the social sciences. My major focus is on individualist claims about reduction and explanation. I argue that reductionist versions of MI fail for much the same reasons that mental predicates cannot be reduced to physical predicates and that attempts to establish reducibility by weakening the requirements for reduction also fail. I consider and reject a number of explanatory theses, among them the claims that any adequate theory must refer only to individuals and that individualist theory suffices to explain fully. The latter claim, I argue, is not entailed by the supervenience of social facts on individual facts. Lastly, I argue that there is one individualist restriction on explanation which is far more plausible and significant than one would initially suspect.

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