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

Synthese:1-34 (forthcoming)
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.
Keywords social groups  metaphysics  group agency  shared intention  functionalism  norms  organizations  constitution  anchoring
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DOI 10.1007/s11229-017-1387-y
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