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Social Mechanisms. What Social Sciences Can Learn From Natural Sciences. LORENZO CASINI [email protected] Philosophy, Kent. Where This Fits in my Thesis. What is causality in complex systems? Tentative answer : the link between prediction & explanation

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Social Mechanisms.What Social Sciences Can LearnFrom Natural Sciences.LORENZO [email protected] Philosophy, Kent

Where this fits in my thesis
Where This Fits in my Thesis

  • What is causality in complex systems?Tentative answer: the link between prediction & explanation

    • causality is ascribable to those mechanisms which are representable by predictive & explanatory models

  • A mechanism is (roughly)system of parts + relations + organisation phenomenon

  • A complex system is (roughly)system of parts + relations + organisation emergent phenomenon

  • Cell’s DNA repair

    DNA damaged bases, enzymes, chemical reactions, spatiotemporal organisation

  • I’ll proceed under 2 working hypotheses:

    • complex systems sciences use mechanistic approach to analyse phenomena in their fields;

    • mechanisms are cashed out in causal terms, thus can say something interesting about what causality is, in general.

  • But first.. I need to establish foundations:Rule out that natural and social mechanisms are qualitatively (ontologically) differentThen, characterisation of causality in complex systems is applicable toall complex systems sciences.

Are social mechanisms different
Are social mechanisms different ?

  • Potential differences:

    • Emergence

    • Intentionality

    • Downward Causation

  • My claim: These do not constitute ontological differences between social and natural mechanisms

  • Downward causation
    Downward Causation

    • E.g. ‘Democratic institutions promote individual participation’

    • Macro-micro-Macro model (Hedstrøm & Swedberg 1998):

      • Macro-to-micro (downward)

      • micro-to-micro

      • micro-to-Macro

        (i) & (ii): “internal” - (iii): “external” (‘aggregative’ (Little 2005))

        Some: everything happens in (ii) (macro-properties are fiction, there are no macro-mechanisms, etc.)

        Others: there are social properties and DC (Sawyer 2004)

  • Still, DC and MmM are offered as peculiar to the social.

  • Ontological difference from natural mechanisms?

  • Emergence

    • For some, there are no social mechanisms over and above individual actions and interactions(Hedstrøm and Swedberg 1998; Bunge 2004; Little 2005)

    • emergence constitutes a difference only if either of these:

      • There is emergence at any level but the social level

      • There is emergence only at the social level and at no other level

        I dub (1)Issue of Emergence and (2)Issue of Intentionality

    • (1) is on whether higher-level properties/powers are reducible to (alternatively, over-and-above) lower-level ones

    The issue of emergence
    The Issue of Emergence

    • What could possibly determine ontological emergence?

      The dependence of the entity’s capacity to exercise a power on the entity’s figuring in a certain mechanism

      i.e. entity doesn’t have the capacity outside the mechanism

    • What could actually determine ontological emergence?

      E.g.: “fusion” (Humphreys 1997a, 1997b)

    • Is the social (and only the social) non-ontologically-emergent?Implausible..Evidence would be fusion (or the like) applying at all natural levels but stopping at the social level

    • If there is emergence, no account suggests this is absent from the social domain but present at all underlying levels(Kim 2005; O’Connor & Wong 2005; Humphreys 1997a,b; Campbell 2009)

    • On the contrary, some suggest plausibility of ontological emergence at all levels

      (Campbell 2009)  

    Intentionality non-ontologically-emergent?

    • Social scientists:

      intentional character of social mechanisms

      agents “intend” social structures and consequences of actions to conform/change these structures

    • Intentionality can be interpreted in two ways:

    • consciousness’ activity of giving meaning to content of mental states (e.g. desires, beliefs)

    • goal-oriented activity from system’s interactions with environment

      intentional systems are ‘self-directed’ (Christensen and Hooker 2001),

      ‘self-organised’ (Atlan 1998),

      ‘autonomous-adaptive’ (Bechtel and Abrahamsen 2007)

    The issue of intentionality
    The Issue of Intentionality non-ontologically-emergent?

    • Is the social (and only the social) ontologically emergent?With reference to (1) or (2), this question becomes:Does intentionality emerge

    • just at the level of “socially constituted” individuals (not at lower or higher levels)

    • in a non mechanistically explainable way?

    Mechanistic strategy 1
    Mechanistic strategy (1) non-ontologically-emergent?

    • hypothesise psychological functions

    • localise biological structures responsible for them

    • Unsatisfying for mechanistic explanation:explaining is more than mapping (1) doesn’t explain dynamics of development of intentionality in individual and species through relations with environment

    Mechanistic strategy 2
    Mechanistic strategy (2) non-ontologically-emergent?

    • If intentionality is (2) plausible mechanistic storyability to anticipate goals as emergence of attractor patterns for potential behavioural options out of interactions between system’s components

    • At several levels (not just humans) in different degrees, providedlearning from experience, modifying behaviour, and interpreting intentional content as success/failure of adaptive strategy(also societies (Gibbs and Van Orden 2001) )

    The issue of downward causation
    The Issue of Downward Causation non-ontologically-emergent?

    • Do downward mechanisms mark ontological difference?

    • In natural domain, downward mechanism can be uncoupledintra-level causal relation + inter-level constitutional relation(Craver and Bechtel 2007)

      No reason why same cannot be done in the social

    • MmM is just practical representation and says nothing on ontologyNatural (cell types) and social (organisations, institutions) structures are real insofar as attractors “governing” lower-level patterns (Emmeche et al 2000)But this doesn’t entail ontological emergence.

    Summary non-ontologically-emergent?

    • If there (really) is ontological emergence in the natural, this plausibly propagates in the social

    • Intentionality is mechanistically explainable and emerges also at lower and higher levels than the individual

    • Downward causation is not a new kind of mechanism

    • Natural and social mechanisms are not ontologically different

    References non-ontologically-emergent?

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    BECHTEL, W. AND ABRAHAMSEN, A. (2007). Mental Mechanisms, Autonomous Systems, and Moral Agency. Proceedings of the Cognitive Science Society, 95-100.

    BUNGE, M. (2004). How Does It Work? The Search for Explanatory Mechanisms. Philosophy of the Social Sciences, 34:182-210.

    CAMPBELL, R. (2009). A Process-Based Model for an Interactive Ontology. Synthese 166: 453-477.

    CHRISTENSEN, W.D. AND HOOKER, C.A. (2001). Self-Directed Agents. In McIntosh, J.S. (ed.): Naturalism, Evolution, and Intentionality. Canadian Journal of Philosophy, Supplementary Volume 27:19-52.

    ELSTER, J. (1989). Nut and Bolts for the Social Sciences. Cambridge University Press.

    ELSTER, J. (1998). A Plea for Mechanisms. In Hedstrøm, P. and Swedberg, R. (eds.): Social Mechanisms: An Analytical Approach to Social Theory. Cambridge University Press, 45-73.

    EMMECHE, C., KØPPE, S. AND STJERNFELT, F. (2000). Levels, Emergence, and Three Versions of Downward Causation. In Andersen, P. B., Emmeche, C., Finnemann, N. O. and Christiansen, P. V. (eds.), Downward Causation. Minds, Bodies and Matter. Århus: Aarhus University Press, 13-34.

    GIBBS, R.W. AND VAN ORDEN, G.C. (2001). Mental Causation and Psychological Theory. Human Development, 44:368–374.

    GLENNAN, S. S. (1996). Mechanisms and the Nature of Causation. Erkenntnis, 44: 49-71.

    GLENNAN, S. S. (2008). Mechanisms, Causes, and the Layered Model of the World. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.

    HEDSTRØM, P. AND SWEDBERG, R. (1998). Social Mechanisms: An Introductory Essay. In Hedstrøm, P. and Swedberg, R. (eds.): Social Mechanisms: An Analytical Approach to Social Theory. Cambridge University Press, 1-31.

    HUMPHREYS, P. (1997a). How Properties Emerge. Philosophy of Science, 64: 1-17.

    HUMPHREYS, P. (1997b). Emergence, Not Supervenience. Philosophy of Science, 64: S337-S345.

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    O’CONNOR, T., AND WONG, H. Y. (2009). Emergent Properties. In: Edward N. Zalta (ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, forthcoming.

    SAWYER, R. K. (1999). The Emergence of Creativity. Philosophical Psychology 12: 447–69.

    SAWYER, R. K. (2004). The Mechanisms of Emergence. Philosophy of the Social Sciences, 34: 260-282.

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