Ten Modes of Individualism—None of Which Works—And Their Alternatives

Philosophy of the Social Sciences 30 (3):384-406 (2000)
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Abstract

Individualism comes in at least ten modes: ontological, logical, semantic, epistemological, methodological, axiological, praxiological, ethical, historical, and political. These modes are bound together. For example, ontological individualism motivates the thesis that relations are n-tuples of individuals, as well as radical reductionism and libertarianism. The flaws and merits of all ten sides of the individualist decagon are noted. So are those of its holist counterpart. It is argued that systemism has all the virtues and none of the defects of individualism and holism. One such virtue is the ability to recognize that individualism is a system rather than an unstructured bag of opinions--which raises the question whether thorough and consistent individualism is at all possible. Key Words: holism • individualism • system • systemism.

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Mario Bunge
Last affiliation: McGill University

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