METHODOLOGICAL INDIVIDUALISM (MI) in the social sciences is the view that human social behavior can be explained as a function of only individualistic, non-social motivations of the members of the group.

A METHODOLOGICALLY INDIVIDUALISTIC (MI) explanation of the social behavior of the members of a group G requires an explanation of the behavior of each member of group G based solely on individualistic, non-social factors.


In this course, we will critically evaluate what is generally taken to be the most promising type of MI explanation in the social sciences. We will refer to this form of MI in the social sciences as RATIONAL SELF-INTEREST THEORY (RST). RST attempts to explain human social behavior as a function of the behavior of the each member of the group, where each member's behavior is itself explained completely as a function of individualistic (non-social) factors.. RST has two parts:

(a) an individualistic model of rationality, which I refer to as INDIVIDUALISTIC RATIONALITY (IR), that includes both PARAMETRIC (NON-STRATEGIC) RATIONALITY (usually Subjective Expected Utility Theory) and STRATEGIC RATIONALITY (Non-Cooperative Game Theory).

(b) a model of human motivation that includes only SELF-INTERESTED MOTIVATION.

NOTE: It is possible to combine IR (e.g., Subjective Expected Utility theory and Non-Cooperative Game Theory) with a theory of motivation that allows for non-self-interested motivations.