Philosophical Studies

, Volume 173, Issue 1, pp 113–130 | Cite as

What is a (social) structural explanation?



A philosophically useful account of social structure must accommodate the fact that social structures play an important role in structural explanation. But what is a structural explanation? How do structural explanations function in the social sciences? This paper offers a way of thinking about structural explanation and sketches an account of social structure that connects social structures with structural explanation.


Social structure Explanation Structural explanation Practices Individualism 



Thanks to Elizabeth Anderson, Dylan Bianchi, Brendon Dill, Jerome Hodges, Adam Hosein, Peter Railton, Brad Skow, Amie Thomasson, Stephen Yablo, and other participants at the Oberlin Colloquium for discussion and suggestions that improved this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ford Professor of Philosophy and Women’s and Gender StudiesMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA

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