John Winthrop Was No Methodological Individualist

"Now the onely way to avoyde this shipwracke and to provide for our posterity is to followe the Counsell of Micah, to doe Justly, to love mercy, to walke humbly with our God, for this end, wee must be knitt together in this worke as one man, wee must entertaine each other in brotherly Affeccion, wee must be willing to abridge our selves of our superfluities, for the supply of others necessities, wee must uphold a familiar Commerce together in all meekenes, gentlenes, patience and liberallity, wee must delight in eache other, make others Condicions our owne rejoyce together, mourne together, labour, and suffer together, allwayes haveing before our eyes our Commission and Community in the worke, our Community as members of the same body..."

This is from the "city on a hill" speech.  By the way, Winthrop meant by that that the Puritans would be under a lot of scrutiny!


  1. Did Winthrop use siri to write his speeches ?

  2. Except that he's appealing to each person hearing his words to act a certain way. I never heard the Borg announcing on their ship, "We must attack the Enterprise now, no shirking!"

    1. Except that is not an except at all! From these posts, it seems that many people think they only alternative to MI is some kind of holism that DENIES the existence of individuals. Bob's invocation of the Borg illustrates this perfectly: "Either MI, or individuals don't exist at all and are just a big social blob."

      Not so! Different levels can exist, and they can all be real. MI is the DENIAL of the reality of groups, not merely the assertion of the reality of individuals.

      Winthrop is speaking to individuals, but telling them they must become one mind.

      A good methodological pluralist, I say.

    2. Gene it sounds like you are saying the 3 Musketeers would stump Mises. If that's what you think, then you are using MI in a weird way.

      If you think we're using MI in a way that is vacuous, like "Duh, who doesn't believe MI in that sense?!" then I would just refer you to the people Mises was arguing with.

    3. But Mises says much more than "Individual explanations are valid." He says, "ONLY individual explanations are REALLY valid." For him, larger-scale explanations are just shorthand for individual explanations. There are no "emergent phenomena."

  3. I'd want to refine your analogy, Gene. A basic understanding of a single atom of iron won't give you an understanding of an iron bar. But a comprehensive understanding of an iron atom and the forces to which it's subject, primarily electromagnetism, would tell you all you needed to know about an iron bar's properties.

    The trouble with methodological individualism is that it's like a theory of atoms without an understanding of the electromagnetism and other forces that shape both individual atoms and aggregate substances. MI treats individuals as discrete wholes, but in fact they are also aggregations of ideas (including language) picked up from other minds--that's what's analogous to electromagnetism, except that ideas outside the self do not determine individuals in quite the way that fundamental physical forces determine the behavior of iron atoms, alone or in aggregate.


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