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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Great Minds Think Alike...

and so do F.A. Hayek and I.

We think alike in that he, too, came to see that methodological individualism is an arbitrary restriction on social explanation. Here is Bruce Caldwell on the topic:
It may even be possible that, in the 1940s, [Hayek] actually believed that [individualistic] explanations were sufficient to cover all the sorts of social phenomena that were of interest.

But as he delved deeper into these issues, as he studied the early writers more thoroughly and simultaneously expanded into new areas of research, he began to find it necessary to broaden his explanatory framework... by 1960, he was no longer referring to the work of the Scottish philosophers as individualist; rather, he was referring to it as representing an "evolutionary conception." Later in the decade, he was able to write passages like the following: "[The] transmission of rules of conduct takes place from individual to individual, while what may be called the natural selection of rules will operate on the basis of the greater of lesser efficiency of the resulting order of the group." -- Hayek's Challenge, p. 284
So, our greatest Hayek scholar argues that Hayek abandoned methodological individualism, and I think he is correct in so arguing. If you expand your "methodological individualism" so much that it includes group selection, you have made the "individualism" part meaningless.

I now anxiously await commentary on how Hayek and Caldwell, also, never really understood methodological individualism, and are just critiquing a straw-man version of it.

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