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Reutlinger, Alexander and Koch, Heiner (2008): Methodological Individualism and the Epistemic Value of Macro-Explanations. In: Percipi, Vol. 2: pp. 1-14

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In this paper we want to analyze causal explanations in the social sciences. If we assume that the social sciences apparently do provide successful and autonomous explanations, this assumption raises fundamental problems for the standard theory of explanation. These problems especially refer to the following issues: (1) Which theory of causation is adequate in these contexts? And (2), how are we supposed to understand lawlike generalizations—which are often denoted by the name of ceteris paribus laws—that are essential to causal explanation in the social sciences? We answer these questions in favour of an interventionist account of causal explanation. Contrary to the ceteris paribus approach to social “laws” (and its severe problems) we propose to see generalizations in social science as causal dependencies between social variables that remain invariant (or stable) under a certain range of interventions. Further we argue against methodological individualism that there are some social macro-explanations, which are the best explanations for the occurrence of a social state of affairs. We call this position a pluralism or pragmatism of explanations.

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