© 2014

Rethinking the Individualism-Holism Debate

Essays in the Philosophy of Social Science

  • Julie Zahle
  • Finn Collin


  • Introduces and covers the newest developments in the individualism/holism debate

  • Offers the most recent collection of papers on this topic, since 1973

  • Presents papers by key figures within the debate, from both philosophy and social science


Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 372)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-vi
  2. Julie Zahle, Finn Collin
    Pages 1-14
  3. Ontological Individualism-Holism

  4. Methodological Individualism-Holism

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 137-137
    2. Mark Risjord
      Pages 219-236
    3. Mathew D. McCubbins, Mark Turner
      Pages 237-252
  5. Back Matter
    Pages 253-255

About this book


This collection of papers investigates the most recent debates about individualism and holism in the philosophy of social science. The debates revolve mainly around two issues: firstly, whether social phenomena exist sui generis and how they relate to individuals. This is the focus of discussions between ontological individualists and ontological holists. Secondly, to what extent social scientific explanations may, and should, focus on individuals and social phenomena respectively. This issue is debated amongst methodological holists and methodological individualists.

In social science and philosophy, both issues have been intensively discussed and new versions of the dispute have appeared just as new arguments have been advanced. At present, the individualism/holism debate is extremely lively, and this book reflects the major positions and perspectives within the debate. This  volume is also relevant to debates about two closely related issues in social science: the micro-macro debate and the agency-structure debate. 

This book presents contributions from key figures in both social science and philosophy, in the first such collection on this topic to be published since the 1970s.


Collective Responsibility Methodological Holism Methodological individualism Micro-Macro Relations Ontological holism Ontological individualism Social phenomena sui generis Supervenience

Editors and affiliations

  • Julie Zahle
    • 1
  • Finn Collin
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Media, Cognition and CommunicationUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark
  2. 2.Department of Media, Cognition and CommunicationUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark

Bibliographic information