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Why the Social Sciences are Irreducible

Hansson Wahlberg, Tobias LU (2017) In Synthese
Abstract
It is often claimed that the social sciences cannot be reduced to a lower-level individualistic science. The standard argument for this position (usually labelled explanatory holism) is the Fodorian multiple realizability argument. Its defenders endorse token-token(s) identities between “higher-level” social objects and pluralities/sums of “lower-level” individuals (a position traditionally called ontological individualism), 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... (More)
It is often claimed that the social sciences cannot be reduced to a lower-level individualistic science. The standard argument for this position (usually labelled explanatory holism) is the Fodorian multiple realizability argument. Its defenders endorse token-token(s) identities between “higher-level” social objects and pluralities/sums of “lower-level” individuals (a position traditionally called ontological individualism), 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(s) 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(s) identifications.
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epub
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in
Synthese
publisher
Springer
external identifiers
  • scopus:85021697577
ISSN
0039-7857
DOI
10.1007/s11229-017-1472-2
language
English
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yes
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38be60db-ac23-4614-9d5c-34c3e714f5fe
date added to LUP
2017-06-07 16:30:44
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2017-07-23 05:28:59
@article{38be60db-ac23-4614-9d5c-34c3e714f5fe,
  abstract     = {It is often claimed that the social sciences cannot be reduced to a lower-level individualistic science. The standard argument for this position (usually labelled explanatory holism) is the Fodorian multiple realizability argument. Its defenders endorse token-token(s) identities between “higher-level” social objects and pluralities/sums of “lower-level” individuals (a position traditionally called ontological individualism), 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(s) 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(s) identifications. <br/>},
  author       = {Hansson Wahlberg, Tobias},
  issn         = {0039-7857},
  language     = {eng},
  publisher    = {Springer},
  series       = {Synthese},
  title        = {Why the Social Sciences are Irreducible},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11229-017-1472-2},
  year         = {2017},
}