Do Mechanism-Based Social Explanations Make a Case for Methodological Individualism?

  • Jeroen Van BouwelEmail author


Recently, we notice an increasing support for mechanism-based social explanations. Earlier pleas for social mechanisms were often closely linked to defenses of methodological individualism. However, more recent contributions by, e.g., Daniel Little and Petri Ylikoski, seem to be loosening that link and develop a more sophisticated account. In this paper, we review the impact of the social mechanisms approach on methodological individualism and draw conclusions regarding the individualism/holism debate, severing the link between the social mechanisms approach and individualism. Four steps will be taken: (a) there are more than two levels of social explanation; (b) levels of explanation are perspectival, neither absolute, nor unique; (c) seeking microfoundations has value, but so has seeking macrofoundations; (d) there are no general preference rules with respect to the level of social explanations. In conclusion, the answer to the title question is that the social mechanisms approach does not strengthen the case for methodological individualism.


Methodological individualism Social mechanisms Scientific explanation Social explanations 



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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Logic and Philosophy of ScienceGhent UniversityGhentBelgium

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