Mind & Society

, Volume 1, Issue 2, pp 3-16

First online:

Individualism and holism: New controversies in the philosophy of social science

  • Pierre DemeulenaereAffiliated withMaître de conférences à l'Université de Paris-Sorbonne

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The concept of holism is of great use in philosophy of science. But its meaning does not correspond to the traditional use of holism in social sciences. The aim of the paper is to criticize an attempt to link the two meanings. Such a confusion derives from a misunderstanding of methodological individualism which is erroneously considered to be an atomism. Since the concepts of holism can be related to many different meanings, and since there are many different models of action (including different models of rationality) behind the concept of methodological individualism, the debate should be cautious of all those differences. The papers gives a brief survey of these and discusses specific theses expressed by Vincent Descombes to support holism in social sciences.


Atomism holism methodological individualism rationality rules