Methodological Individualism, the We-mode, and Team Reasoning

In Gerhard Preyer & Georg Peter (eds.), Social Ontology and Collective Intentionality: Critical Essays on the Philosophy of Raimo Tuomela with his Responses. Cham, Switzerlan: Springer. pp. 3-18 (2017)
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Raimo Tuomela is one of the pioneers of social action theory and has done as much as anyone over the last thirty years to advance the study of social action and collective intentionality. Social Ontology: Collective Intentionality and Group Agents (2013) presents the latest version of his theory and applications to a range of important social phenomena. The book covers so much ground, and so many important topics in detailed discussions, that it would impossible in a short space to do it even partial justice. In this brief note, I will concentrate on a single, though important, theme in the book, namely, the claim that we must give up methodological individualism in the social sciences and embrace instead irreducibly group notions. I wish to defend methodological individualism as up to the theoretical tasks of the social sciences while acknowledging what is distinctive about the social world and collective intentional action. Tuomela frames the question of the adequacy of methodological individualism in terms of a contrast between what he calls the I-mode and the we-mode. He argues that we-mode phenomena are not reducible to I-mode phenomena, and concludes that we must reject methodological individualism. I will argue that the irreducibility of the we-mode to the I-mode, given how the contrast is set up, does not entail the rejection of methodological individualism. In addition, I will argue that the three conditions that Tuomela places on genuine we-mode activities, the group reason, collectivity, and collective commitment conditions, if they are understood in a way that does not beg the question, can plausibly be satisfied by a reductive account. Finally, I will argue that the specific considerations advanced in the book do not give us reason to think that a reductive account cannot be adequate to the descriptive and explanatory requirements of a theory of the social world
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