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Paul Brenek

This is a really interesting concept. I wonder though, do people not naturally coalesce into groups of so called “like-minded” individuals, and in doing so, does not this “like-mindedness” imbue the collective with a life imprinted with that identity? I think that what I am try g to get at is that at the core, the group does have an identity that is shared by the people who make up the group. Thus, when we refer to the group, are we not simply referencing that common shared trait or identity?

EricR

Thanks Paul. Yes, identifying with others based on like-mindedness is a natural tendency. Identifying them via conceptually aggregating them under single name is a convenient way to reference them.

But the group label is a conceptual convenience, not an independently existing entity. As mentioned in my post, remove all the individuals from any group and show me the group.

The people one has grouped may well have shared traits, values, etc. but the group cannot because it does not independently exist. Any group value one assigns is only for the convenience of one’s thinking. The group exists in our minds as conceptual shorthand.

As for your last question, we can refer to shared traits as long as one keeps in mind that these traits are part of each individual. Also, this helps assign responsibility where it belongs. With each person who makes choices and acts. No more blaming “those _____s” for anything.

Rich

I had never heard of this term, but it clearly helps explain how easily people adopt a significance to some words. I’ve often heard people try to argue that “society doesn’t exist” or “government is really just people,” not addressing the underlying tendency that led us to view these things in that way.

Anonymous

I agree that hypostatizing leads to flawed attribution such as in the example you give about attributing the actions of someone with power to those that person holds power over. However, I can think of an argument for stating that a group does in fact refer to something objectively real. When individuals band together because of shared values and or purpose, certain phenomena may occur. Groupthink is such a phenomenon, where individual critical thinking is overwhelmed by belief in the shared purpose.Consider mob behaviour. Normally peaceful individuals can and do engage in aggressive or even violent behaviour when they are part of a mob (i.e.a sub-category of “group”). So, while a group can simply refer to a gathering of individuals, when groups are formed they have emergent properties such as mob behaviour under certain circumstances. In this way a group is a thing, but only as long as it exists, of course.