Functional explanation and metaphysical individualism

Philosophy of Science 60 (2):278-301 (1993)
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G. A. Cohen defends and Jon Elster criticizes Marxist use of functional explanation. But Elster's mechanical conception of explanation is, contrary to Elster's claims, a better basis for vindication of functional explanation than Cohen's nomological conception, which cannot provide an adequate account of functional explanation. Elster also objects that functional explanation commits us to metaphysically bizarre collective subjects, but his argument requires an implausible reading of methodological individualism which involves an unattractive eliminativism about social phenomena

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Justin Schwartz
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (PhD)


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