Library Header Image
LSE Theses Online London School of Economics web site

Social ontology and agency. Methodological holism naturalised.

Saaristo, Antti Jussi (2007) Social ontology and agency. Methodological holism naturalised. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

Download (10MB) | Preview


Contemporary philosophy of the social sciences is dominated by methodological individualism. Intentional agency is assumed to be conceptually and explanatorily prior to social facts and social practices. In particular, it is generally thought that denials of methodological individualism are bound to include ontologically unnatural and, thereby, unacceptable views. This dissertation provides a comprehensive criticism of this orthodoxy. Part I argues that social facts do not have to be understood as aggregates of actions and attitudes of essentially asocial individuals. Rather, the construction of social facts requires that acting as a member of a group rather than as a disparate individual is a fundamental building block of social reality and social facts. This idea is explicated in the anti-individualistic terms of the theory of collective intentionality. Part II tackles the accusation that the theory of collective intentionality is indefensibly anti-naturalistic in the sense that its picture of humans is essentially incompatible with evolutionary biology. This accusation is answered in terms of detailed analyses of evolutionary models of human sociality and empirical studies of the nature of social action. Part II concludes that it is actually the methodologically individualistic picture of social action as strategic individual action that is unacceptable. The theory of collective intentionality is compatible with and supported by scientific naturalism. Part III, then, defends full-blown methodological holism. It is argued that intentional action and agency as we know them actually require that individual agents (qua agents and not qua physical objects) are essentially constituted by social practices. Intentional action must be explained and understood in terms of social practices. However, this view is argued to be perfectly naturalistic both in the sense of not assuming any ontologically suspect entities and in the sense of being supported by the natural sciences. Indeed, it is the individualistic orthodoxy that has to apply unnatural notions.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Philosophy
Sets: Collections > ProQuest Etheses
Departments > Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method

Actions (login required)

Record administration - authorised staff only Record administration - authorised staff only


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics