Giancarlo Ianulardo ; Aldo Stella - Towards a unity of sense: A critical analysis of the concept of relation in methodological individualism and holism in Economics

jpe:10013 - Journal of Philosophical Economics, December 15, 2022, Volume XV - https://doi.org/10.46298/jpe.10013
Towards a unity of sense: A critical analysis of the concept of relation in methodological individualism and holism in EconomicsArticle

Authors: Giancarlo Ianulardo 1; Aldo Stella 2

In social sciences and, in particular, in economics the debate on the most adequate model of explanation of social phenomena has been centred around two models: Methodological Individualism and Holism. While Methodological Individualism claims to be the most rigorous attempt to explain social phenomena by reducing them to their ultimate components, Holism stresses the primacy of the social relation, outside of which individuals cannot be understood as analytical units. In the analysis, we will refer to the way the debate has influenced economics education too through the debate on microfoundations and the role of individual preferences. In synthesis, we aim to show that the two explanatory models, rather than being opposed, need to be integrated, because they need each other. But for this to be done, we need to reflect on the role that the concept of “relation” plays in our understanding of the social structure and of the dynamics that characterises it. Indeed, the holistic-systemic model, though privileging the relation, must acknowledge that the relation needs some ultimate elements (the individuals), which in turn are prioritised by methodological individualism. But these entities, the individuals, in order to be what they are, i.e., each a determinate identity, need each to be referred to other individuals, which are essential to determine the single determinate identity. This means that each individual needs the relation. To prevent a circular explanation, we claim that a correct methodology should understand both the individual and society in the light of the unity of sense that emerges at the end of the process, rather than focusing on its starting point.


Volume: Volume XV
Section: The Economists’ Philosophy Day – A Journal of Philosophical Economics celebration of philosophical reflection in the economic science
Published on: December 15, 2022
Accepted on: December 8, 2022
Submitted on: September 7, 2022
Keywords: Methodological Individualism,holism,systemism,relation,unity,[SHS.PHIL]Humanities and Social Sciences/Philosophy,[SHS.ECO]Humanities and Social Sciences/Economics and Finance

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