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Already Misleading in the first sentence
The first few sentences do not describe methodological individualism as social scientists use the term. Either what we've got is just plain wrong or we need to explain the multiple uses of the term and make sure the first few sentences do not imply such a narrow definition.
--RedHouse18 22:15, 31 October 2007 (UTC)
- On the contrary, I think it's a reasonably apt summary of how the term is understood in all the social science methology works I've read -- and pretty much how all the social scientists I've talked to understand it. -- Palthrow 15:31, 1 November 2007 (UTC)
- The idea has been used to attack ... the postmodern idea of social construction.
I'm not sure I follow. How? Lucidish 04:47, 21 Jul 2004 (UTC)
Good question. Personally, I'm confused by much in this article, and I don't think the problem is 100% a matter of my denseness. There's been no attempt to put this into a clear and analytically coherent exposition. --Christofurio 01:49, Jan 19, 2005 (UTC)
Philosophical individualism implies that reality can only be mediated (experienced) by the consciouness inherent in individuals. The corollary idea is that social entities like groups, nations, etc., are second level realities. For example a group cannot really be said to think or judge, or make decisions. It is the individuals composing a social entity that give the group a semblance of being real.
This line of reasoning is essential for maintaining the right of the individual not to be submerged by the group.
The classic lifeboat scenario can bring this dichotomy into relief: an overcrowded life boat will sink unless one person is thrown out (sacrificed) so that the rest can live. What is to be done? The most acceptable solution is to draw lots. But this still violates the right of the one who gets the "short straw" to decline dying so that the group can survive.
The most "ethical" solution is to ask if any one member is willing to volunteer, no? Such a solution is again an entirely individual issue. Individually and severally the question will be asked, "am I willing to die so that you lot can live"?
- Why methodological? Because that's what its called! Any number of views might be called individualism or philosophical individualism. But what is known in philosophy as methodological individualism is, as this article explains, a specific view about the best method for the study of society, history, etc. --Christofurio 14:42, Mar 9, 2005 (UTC)
the version I just edited had the following:>In science, methodological individualism has been used to claim an objective stance toward reality. Such claims have been criticised by postmodernists and feminists, amongst others.<
I dropped this from the current version. But it can and should be added back in if someone could point to an individual or school who embraces this view. Jim 16:46, May 12, 2005 (UTC)
- I wouldn't put it back in, because in the case of Weber at least, it is plainly false: for Weber, methodological 'objectivity' doesn't equal 'claim[ing] an objective stance toward reality', because such a stance is impossible (each agent projects onto concrete reality her own theoretical and cultural standpoints). Generally, methodological individualism is about avoiding metaphysics, not indulging in it. CCR 17:11, 23 August 2005 (UTC)
Moved from article
Some radical feminist and postmodern critics have argued that this kind of "rationality" is itself a typically male, Western construction, and that "common sense" varies among cultures. For example, common sense notions in the US, such as women's rights, are very different from those in Iran. Similarly, to Marxists, "common sense" represents the partial and necessarily incomplete and ideological vision of those looking at a social system from the inside and lacking any clear understanding of the system as a whole. Methodological individualism has also drawn philosophical critiques, especially from sociologists. But this is countered though by propopents of methodological individualism, claiming that one does not seek to give an explanation for every possible social situation.
In one alternative perspective, the dynamics of a society can be seen as involving a dialectic of three parts:
- heterogeneous members of society act, helping to create the structure and functioning of society as a whole;
- the society as a whole limits and shapes the perspectives, preferences, and in the end, actions of the individuals, while helping to determine which individuals' actions have the most impact; and
- the interaction between these two levels leads to changes in both individuals and society.
Consider a life-boat that is about to founder because there are too many occupants. (1) The actions (including words) of the individuals helps to create a fight or a consensus about what to do (or some in-between situation). (2) That social situation then "feeds back" to affect individual attitudes and actions. (3) The "dialectic" between these two forces eventually leads to either the abandonment of the boat by one or more individuals — or collective destruction in a watery grave.
The most neglected aspect of methodical individualism is the realisation that reality can only be experienced and mediated by an individual's consciousness, which in turn is shaped by the societal reality. That is, methodological individualism ignores or forgets the second part of the process limned above, overemphasizing the first. Each individual is assumed to be autonomous, an unmoved mover. This usually means that the third part is forgotten, so that a static perspective is embraced, so that society and humanity are unchanged over time.
That is an interesting post but it is mistaken. It mistakes methodological individualism for political individualism. The former need not lead to the latter. I suspect it does so, or is seen to do so, mainly because there is too much abstract philosophising about it. The proof of the pudding is in the eating: Weber's Verstehen looked into individual minds - his method was individualist. Yet I don't think anyone claims he neglected the effect of society on the individual, ie that his analysis was individualistic. - Pepper 22.214.171.124 00:00, 12 November 2006 (UTC)