PSA 1972 pp 209-216 | Cite as

Monistic Theories of Society

  • Laird Addis
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 20)


Given their importance in the history of ideas, monistic theories of society have received little serious attention in the literature. By a monistic theory, I mean one which holds that in a given area, one factor (or variable, as I shall usually call it) determines everything that happens; or, less strictly, that the one variable is the most important or crucial one in determining what happens in the given domain. There are social theories which hold, for example, that ideas are the only or crucially determining factor in history and theories which hold that certain ones among our ideas — religious or philosophical or scientific — constitute that factor. Other theories have maintained that a certain biological factor such as race or size is the major factor in the social process. And yet other, more modern, theories have insisted that certain technological features such as the forces of production or the media of communication is the single exclusive or dominant determinant of human affairs. Each of these is what I shall call a monistic theory of society. I shall undertake a logical analysis of this notion of a monistic theory of society even though, or so I believe, its crucial features have nothing to do with the fact that the theory is a theory of society. All that is required for most of what I want to say is that the theory be a scientific theory or the prolegomenon to a scientific theory.


Social Process Scientific Theory Social Theory Computable Function Social Variable 
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  1. 1.
    Sidney Hook, ‘Dialectic in Society and History’, Readings in the Philosophy of Science (ed. by Herbert Feigl and May Brodbeck), Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1953, pp. 711–712.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht-Holland 1974

Authors and Affiliations

  • Laird Addis
    • 1
  1. 1.University of IowaUSA

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