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1993

Social Science Explanation

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Functional Explanation And Metaphysical Individualism, Justin Schwartz Jan 1993

Functional Explanation And Metaphysical Individualism, Justin Schwartz

Justin Schwartz

A number of (present or former) analytical Marxists, such as Jon Elster, have argued that functional explanation has almost no place in the social sciences. (Although the discussion is framed in terms of a debate among analytical Marxists, the point is quite general, and Marxism is used for illustrative purposes.) Functional explanation accounts for what is to be explained by reference to its function; thus, sighted organism have eyes because eyes enable them to see. Elster and other critics of functional explanation argue that this pattern of explanation is inconsistent with "methodological individualism," the idea, as they understand it, that ...