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does "society" exist?

 
 
Reply Sat 9 May, 2009 07:42 am
It was Margaret Thatcher that said "society doesn't even exist". In some definitions of what a "society" is, it is said to be "ontologically independent of the qualities of its constituent individuals". does that mean that a "society" is more than or over and above a group of people? it is spposedly "ontologically independent" due to the fact that it can be an obstacle and not just an advantage for the people who comprise it, but nevertheless, it seems strange to talk of "society" as being independent of "us".

its like when you say "I am in a society with other people", as if to say that if we all stepped out of society, it would still be there.

we are society aren't we?
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fresco
 
  1  
Reply Sat 9 May, 2009 08:38 am
@existential potential,
There is a "strong form" of argument for the ontological status of "society" which considers that "social reality" is the only reality there is. Briefly, language, the cuurency of social cohesion, underlies "thinking" including concepts of "self". Thus the ontology of "self" is predicated on the ontology of "the group/world".(If you look up my threads you will find an extensive discussion of this). Continental philosophers from Heidegger to Foucault have been keen to stress this position.

Such a view is opposed bythe Anglo-American "analytical philosophers" who tend to follow the Cartesian line of starting with "ego".
Foofie
 
  1  
Reply Sat 9 May, 2009 03:06 pm
Whose society? The society of "top dog winners," or the society of the masses?
0 Replies
 
OmSigDAVID
 
  1  
Reply Sat 9 May, 2009 03:22 pm
@existential potential,
existential potential wrote:

It was Margaret Thatcher that said "society doesn't even exist". In some definitions of what a "society" is, it is said to be "ontologically independent of the qualities of its constituent individuals". does that mean that a "society" is more than or over and above a group of people? it is spposedly "ontologically independent" due to the fact that it can be an obstacle and not just an advantage for the people who comprise it, but nevertheless, it seems strange to talk of "society" as being independent of "us".

its like when you say "I am in a society with other people", as if to say that if we all stepped out of society, it would still be there.

we are society aren't we?

IF individuals associate with one another
then there is a society.

If thay go their separate ways, ceasing association, then no society exists.
Individuals are the creators, the parents, of society, which is their child.





David
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Sat 9 May, 2009 04:01 pm
@OmSigDAVID,
David,

Quote:
If thay go their separate ways, ceasing association, then no society exists.
Individuals are the creators, the parents, of society, which is their child.


Sorry. but that doesn't make sense.

What do you think "conversations with yourself" are other than the mimicry of conversations with others ?
Even rebellion against society depends on that society for its significance.

Think about it.

Ashers
 
  1  
Reply Sat 9 May, 2009 06:19 pm
To what extent does any of this apply to a concept like government as well. I'm thinking of notions like "elected speakers" and the (problematic) idea of electing governments to fuel social change. Or partisanship as well. All of this seems to be predicated on similar ideas of constituent parts, invariably at odds, somehow forming a coherent whole?
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Sun 10 May, 2009 12:02 am
@Ashers,
Ashers,

That's an interesting point.

From the position of "selves" being a product of prevailing culture rather than vice versa, governmental structures will tend to work "naturally" because their acquiesent or supporting components are already in place via socialization. (I am speaking statistically).This would explain why "democracy" is doomed when it is imposed from without on those cultures with an authoritarian history. This is not to say that cultures do not change, but since commonalities of disposition are particular embedded in local language which underscores the contents of thought, this is going to take some time.

As far as "partisanship" is concerned, this seems to owe its origins to an evolutionary tribalism trait common amongst primates. Like the "self-other" dimiension,the "us-them" divide is also reified and exacerbated by language.In essence partisanship and religion are equivalent in that respect despite the lipservice paid by religion to "the brotherhood of man". (Interestingly, Islam more honestly restricts "brotherhood" to itself ).
Ashers
 
  1  
Reply Sun 10 May, 2009 06:56 am
@fresco,
Interesting. If that is democracy doomed with regards to change, where is the success to be seen/had and how might you compare it (if at all) to the psychological or "spiritual" shifts you often talk about? I'm thinking of Krishnamurti and "inward revolution" and his drawing attention to problems of changing the world externally.

Do you think there is another commonality also in terms of "lipservice" paid by political entities to the wellbeing of the state as a whole, "we're all americans!" etc?

And what do you suppose are the dynamics at work that lead Islam to restricting "brotherhood"? Does Islam, where it is most prominantly found at least, possess the "acquiesent or supporting components (that) are already in place via socialization" that blurs the line between it being a religious and political force? And in so doing does this allow for such a restriction of brotherhood, i.e. it already has the substantial base of adherents at it's call to happily make a still sizeable portion of the world population the "enemy"?
OmSigDAVID
 
  1  
Reply Sun 10 May, 2009 07:25 am
@fresco,
fresco wrote:
David,

Quote:
If thay go their separate ways, ceasing association, then no society exists.
Individuals are the creators, the parents, of society, which is their child.

fresco wrote:
Quote:
Sorry. but that doesn't make sense.

I 'm sorry if u fail to see it.
Society can exist only if individuals associate with one another.
By agreement among themselves,
the individuals can regulate and control their creation.





fresco wrote:
Quote:

What do you think "conversations with yourself" are
other than the mimicry of conversations with others ?

Y r we discussing talking to yourself ?
What is your point ?









fresco wrote:
Quote:

Even rebellion against society depends on that society for its significance.

Admittedly, rebellion cannot exist unless there is something against which to rebel; so what ?





David
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Sun 10 May, 2009 10:35 am
@OmSigDAVID,
Quote:
Y r we discussing talking to yourself ?
What is your point ?


My point is that the very tools of thought - LANGUAGE - comes from society.
Thinking is the functioning of a "society of one" !

Of course I "get" your point. Philosophically you take the position that the whole is the sum of its components. This is called a "bottom-up" approach, which unfortunately doesn't work very well when discussing structures larger than molecules. Bodily cells for example cannot be "understood" except in relationship to the whole body...and by analogy nor can "individuals" except with respect to social groups. I'm taking a "top-down" view, in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
0 Replies
 
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Sun 10 May, 2009 11:30 am
@Ashers,
Ashers,

Krishnamurti implies that "spirituality" begins with seeing that "one is the world", i.e. a microcosm of society. One then attempts to "escape the conditioning" by the "cessation of thought" or engage in "non-judgmental awareness".
Whether this is feasible is another matter.

As far as politics is concerned, this usually involves the anthropomorphization of "society" such that psychological aims and goals are attributed to groups. Such "galvanization" is perhaps only valid in times of war where "common survival" becomes the focus. Altuism indeed may come to the fore involving actual self-sacrifice.

The dynamics of Islam as a politico-religious force encompass the fact that its originators, the Arabs, have had no historical concept of "nationhood". There is a de facto mistrust between them which operates at the secular tribal level such that "brotherhood" takes on a non-secular/religious aspect, and precludes a cooperative practical one. This point may explain their relative organizational disfunctionality in secular terms, and their pre-occupation with jihad (there's war again) with respect to "the infidel".


0 Replies
 
NAACP
 
  1  
Reply Sat 13 Nov, 2010 05:59 pm
There's no such thing as society, it's a human abstract. There are only individuals.
Foofie
 
  1  
Reply Sat 13 Nov, 2010 07:13 pm
@NAACP,
NAACP wrote:

There's no such thing as society, it's a human abstract. There are only individuals.


I do not agree, since we are partial copies of earlier living people. So, whether one calls the amalgam of people society, or a human anthill, we are more than just individuals, since we usually do not live on the top of a mountain alone, and we reproduce sexually, rather than splitting in half. But, it can also be argued that thinking that we are only individuals is a human abstraction, since many people cannot conceive of a life lived only as an individual.
NAACP
 
  1  
Reply Sat 13 Nov, 2010 07:17 pm
@Foofie,
The idea of a society is just that(an idea), people feel better about themselves if they're part of a group. This is an easy one.

End of story.
JLNobody
 
  2  
Reply Sat 13 Nov, 2010 11:04 pm
@NAACP,
Both perspectives have value (and limitations). In his holistic/structuralist point of view Emile Durkheim agued that while individuals reside in society it's more important to realize that society resides in them (I suspect he tended to confound society with culture and language).
"Methodological individualists" are those students of social phenomena who argue that "society" denotes the social processes expressing the practical actions, strategies, values, practiced by individuals. The difference is as Fresco suggests between a top-down and bottom-up approach. Each model is incomplete without the other, structure without process may be elegant but it lacks dynamic force and process without structure lacks organization. I guess it's like the need for both anatomy and physiology in the description of a living organism.
NAACP
 
  1  
Reply Sat 13 Nov, 2010 11:56 pm
@JLNobody,
So, what you're saying is without a concept of a society the individual wouldn't exist? Or perhaps, without the concept of others there is no concept of the 'self"?
Just trying to understand.
Razzleg
 
  1  
Reply Sun 14 Nov, 2010 01:29 am
@fresco,
fresco wrote:

There is a "strong form" of argument for the ontological status of "society" which considers that "social reality" is the only reality there is. Briefly, language, the cuurency of social cohesion, underlies "thinking" including concepts of "self". Thus the ontology of "self" is predicated on the ontology of "the group/world".(If you look up my threads you will find an extensive discussion of this). Continental philosophers from Heidegger to Foucault have been keen to stress this position.

Such a view is opposed by the Anglo-American "analytical philosophers" who tend to follow the Cartesian line of starting with "ego".


Frankly, i find your assertion slightly hyperbolic. It isn't as simple as the concept of "self" being predicated on the "ontology of the group/world". On the contrary, the concepts of "self" and "society" are each, even based on your own oft cited sources, reciprocal. Your allusions to Heidegger and Foucault might be impressive to some, but the reference is empty without an ample illustration of their phenomenological similarities and contrasts. To depict their works as if in agreement is otherwise somewhat ludicrous.

Your top-down argument is a fair balance to the Anglo-American "analytical philosopher's" (although i'm curious as to the significance of those scare quotes) and OmSigDAVID's remarks, but that does not mean that your views are fair or balanced or accurate.
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Sun 14 Nov, 2010 02:36 am
@Razzleg,
Razzleg,

This is not the place to go into illustrations. To take one example, the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, which explains Rorty's "neopragmatic position" based on Heidegger, Kuhn,Wittgenstein and Quine runs to seventeen pages ! Rorty stresses the societal paradigm as the linguistic substrate on which what we call "thinking" is based, as opposed to Descarte's cogito.

But a less technical issue is the fact that Thatcher's statement of "the non-existence of society" must be taken with a particular political context and zeitgeist. Some of those writers mentioned above might be moved to point out that the apparent contradiction between "the society" which elected Thatcher, and "the society" which she denies, is resolved by recognizing that ontological status (existence) of any entity is determined by shifting functional utility between communicators. The "communicability" factor is the one that points to the top-down position.
fresco
 
  1  
Reply Sun 14 Nov, 2010 03:22 am
@NAACP,
Your assumption is correct. "Selves" are predicated on the distinction from "others" with whom we communicate via "a language" involving actors/doers (selves/others) as "grammatical subjects".
Razzleg
 
  1  
Reply Sun 14 Nov, 2010 03:44 am
@fresco,
fresco wrote:
This is not the place to go into illustrations. To take one example, the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, which explains Rorty's "neopragmatic position" based on Heidegger, Kuhn,Wittgenstein and Quine runs to seventeen pages ! Rorty stresses the societal paradigm as the linguistic substrate on which what we call "thinking" is based, as opposed to Descarte's cogito.


i confess that i am largely unacquainted with Rorty, and cannot comment on how successful his synthesis of the above mentioned thinkers would seem to me. I don't enjoy being ignorant, so you can safely assume that some research is in the offing on this end. Nonetheless, this seems like the perfect place for some illustrations; given both EP's OP and my own profession of confusion: please, feel free to illustrate!

fresco wrote:
But a less technical issue is the fact that Thatcher's statement of "the non-existence of society" must be taken with a particular political context and zeitgeist. Some of those writers mentioned above might be moved to point out that the apparent contradiction between "the society" which elected Thatcher, and "the society" which she denies, is resolved by recognizing that ontological status (existence) of any entity is determined by shifting functional utility between communicators. The "communicability" factor is the one that points to the top-down position.


Perhaps, due to my ignorance of your first point, i am missing some subtlety in your second. But it seems to me that your point is this (i paraphrase because your verbiage goes over my head) Thatcher's statement that society doesn't exist is only meaningful because society does exist. Correct me if i'm wrong. If i am getting at the same thing that you are getting at, then i have no argument at hand. i am not commenting to defend Margaret's statement. i am merely pointing out that "society's" meaning is intrinsically caught up in the meaning of "the individual", and vice versa.

Appealing to a third-party observer's perspective may reveal the reciprocal value of each, but it certainly does not privilege one above the other. "Communicability " may be a necessary feature of public proclamations, but it is also a feature of private whispers. Both instances of communication presume both "self" and "others".
 

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