The Big Stick. "Social Action: A Teleological Account", by Seumas Miller. [review]
Explanation in social theory or social science must come down to the choices, decisions and actions of individual human beings and their reasons for acting. Obviously, this does not rule out earthquakes, floods and meteor storms as powerful causes of historical and social change; but they only change the human world via the agency of human beings. Seumas Miller’s book does not mention ‘methodological individualism’, and it is a gloss to relate it to that debate in philosophy of social science. Miller argues against the existence of any entities other than human beings (and some other animals) who have beliefs, intentions and ends. There are no irreducibly collective or corporate beliefs and intentions. What underlies the appearance of collective belief or intention are ‘joint actions’ and ‘collective ends’. A collective end is an end that a person has and cannot realise or bring about without engaging in joint action with beings who also have that end.