Lecture 014

Reading: Philosophy of Social Science






Definition and Theoretical Reduction

How do social-level theories relate to psychological-level theories?

reductionism: each term of social-level theory would be defi ned in terms of individual-level theory

type: in programming, class token: in programming, instance


Supervenience: The dependency of higher-level properties on lower-level properties

Non-reductive individualism: The combination of supervenience and multiple realizability permits a sophisticated holist position which admits that there are no social objects, but insists that there are non-reducible social properties.

Reading: Societal Facts

Social Science: explanatory Can't be reducible:


Why not reducible:

It is necessary to translate into partial psychological concepts: to verify


  1. problem of multiple realizability The holist's argument is not compelling. The holist holds that since a social-level explanation can be reduced to different sets of individual-level explanation based on different contextual factors, the attempts reduce the social-level explanation will complicate the explanation (page 125). This argument is supposed to undermine an individualist's methodology because a complicated explanation has less explanatory value than a simple social-level explanation (page 125). In fact, by making this claim, the holist assumes that a type (in other words: a social-level terminology) can have different realizations (in other words: definitions in terms of individual-level terminology). With this assumption, since there exists some social-level terminology that is ambiguous, a social-level explanation with ambiguous social-level terminologies will remove all explanatory value from the social-level explanation. On the contrary, to solve the problem above, the holist would assume that there exists one single universal definition for any social-level terminology, making all social-level terminology well-defined and unambiguous indifferent to their context. Then, since social-level terminologies are context-independent, all social-level explanations can be reduced to one single unambiguous individual-level explanation, removing the problem of multiple realizability. In both cases, the holist's self-destructive argument would not hold.

  2. social phenomena "supervene" on thoughts and actions of all the individuals?

  3. The dependency of higher-level properties on lower-level properties has been called “supervenience”

  4. Yes. The term "Our President" can mean different things every 4 year: the meaning depends on all historical and current president.

  5. Explain handshake.

  6. prove by example

  7. both person believes that shaking one's hand means the hand-shaker has no negative attitude on the hand-shakee. Since they both desire the other to know this fact, the shake each other's hand to transport this idea.

  8. partial reduction?

  9. partial reduction to "verify"?

  10. how can you verify if you think any reduction have multiple realizability? One cannot "verify" something in social-level only by example of individual-level

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