Advanced

Why the Social Sciences are Irreducible

Hansson Wahlberg, Tobias LU (2019) In Synthese 196(12). p.4961-4987
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.
(Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
keywords
Reduction, multiple realisation, Social ontology, Fodor, social sciences, levels of reality, grounding
in
Synthese
volume
196
issue
12
pages
4961 - 4987
publisher
Springer
external identifiers
  • scopus:85021697577
ISSN
0039-7857
DOI
10.1007/s11229-017-1472-2
project
Causation in the Social Domain
Social Ontology and Theories of Persistence
Metaphysics and Collectivity
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
38be60db-ac23-4614-9d5c-34c3e714f5fe
date added to LUP
2017-06-07 16:30:44
date last changed
2020-01-16 02:52:12
@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},
  number       = {12},
  pages        = {4961--4987},
  publisher    = {Springer},
  series       = {Synthese},
  title        = {Why the Social Sciences are Irreducible},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11229-017-1472-2},
  doi          = {10.1007/s11229-017-1472-2},
  volume       = {196},
  year         = {2019},
}