Ambiguous individuality: Georg Simmel on the “who” and the “what” of the individual [Book Review]

Human Studies 31 (3):279 - 298 (2008)
The essay discusses the philosopher and sociologist Georg Simmel’s theorizing about the individual. Whereas it is typically within the context of the modern metropolis and the mature money economy that Simmel’s ideas have been discussed in the secondary literature, I render those ideas in another light by addressing the ontological and existential issues crucial to his conception of the individual. In Simmel, the individual is divided between the “what” and the “who,” between the qualities which make one something individual and one’s non-repeatable and finite existence which makes one someone singular. I argue that whereas the first dimension can be understood sociologically, in terms of social relations, the latter is not accessible to sociology as such, but must be treated philosophically. Therefore, if we wish to address this duality that lies at the heart of individuality, a “philosophical turn” for sociology is called for.
Keywords Individuality  Philosophy  Singularity  Simmel  Sociology  Type
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DOI 10.2307/40270662
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