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

Brian Epstein, Synthese, Apr 20, 2017
Commentary by Stephen Downes

At a webinar yesterday we had some fun with different terms for groups of people (herds, swarms, flocks...) and this let to a but of a discussion of the considerations behind the naming of different types of groups (and objects). Here's a longish paper (49 page PDF) that thoroughly explores this sort of question. Worth noting: "Ritchie proposes... organized groups must have collective intentionality.... But according to most prevailing theories, many organized groups do not have them." Indeed, in my own 'groups versus networks' work the former has collective intentionality while the latter does not. The result of the paper is a four-element typology based on construction, anchor, extra essentials, and accidentals profile (see p. 41).

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