What are social groups? Their metaphysics and how to classify them

Synthese 196 (12):4899-4932 (2019)
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Abstract

This paper presents a systematic approach for analyzing and explaining the nature of social groups. I argue against prominent views that attempt to unify all social groups or to divide them into simple typologies. Instead I argue that social groups are enormously diverse, but show how we can investigate their natures nonetheless. I analyze social groups from a bottom-up perspective, constructing profiles of the metaphysical features of groups of specific kinds. We can characterize any given kind of social group with four complementary profiles: its “construction” profile, its “extra essentials” profile, its “anchor” profile, and its “accident” profile. Together these provide a framework for understanding the nature of groups, help classify and categorize groups, and shed light on group agency.

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Brian Epstein
Tufts University

Citations of this work

Social Structures and the Ontology of Social Groups.Katherine Ritchie - 2020 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 100 (2):402-424.
Artifactual Normativity.Christopher Frugé - 2022 - Synthese 200 (2):1-19.
The Metaphysics of Injustice.Robin Dembroff - forthcoming - In Ruth Chang & Amia Srinivasan (eds.), New Conversations in Philosophy, Law, and Politics. Oxford University Press.
Social Ontology.Brian Epstein - 2018 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Anchoring Versus Grounding: Reply to Schaffer.Brian Epstein - 2019 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 99 (3):768-781.

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