Ontology, methodological individualism, and the foundations of the social sciences

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This is a review essay, based on a critical assessment of The Ant Trap by Brian Epstein. Epstein argues that models in the social sciences are inadequate because they are based on a false ontology of methodological individualism, and proposes a new model of social ontology. I examine this model and point to flaws in it. More generally, I argue against Epstein’s methodological approach, which treats social ontology as prior to social scientific modelling and as certifying the ‘building blocks’ that modellers then use. I argue that modellers can legitimately shape the building blocks for their own models.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1377-1389
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Economic Literature
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016


  • ontology
  • methodological individualism
  • social fact
  • collective intention

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