On Groups, A Discussion

8/23/2018, 6:30 PM, Kelly’s Downtown

We spoke last night on groups. The following is a brief recapitulation of what we discussed. Hopefully I’ve accurately restated various arguments and provided them with their best justifications; if not, feel free to reach out at grplansing@gmail.com to request an adjustment. Interjections of comments are marked within em dashes.

The intent of these written follow-ups is to connect a few key statements from our conversations to previous philosophical work directly. For those interested, it will help place current thought within the history of philosophy and connect you with further resources that will clarify/refute thoughts. Let me know if it is helpful/not, or if the format should be adjusted. Sorry that this summary is more stream-of-consciousness style than those previous.

How do we define the differences between group, tribe, community, sect, or nation? How do we sort through the connotations of these words? To distinguish, we primarily looked at three characteristics of each: method of entry, the connections between members, and method of exit. I

Tribes were described as being used with negative connotations, in opposition to another tribe, with strong but narrow links between members. It is difficult to exit a tribe. The links between tribe members primarily centered around a few key connections with high intensity. Communities, however, generally have positive connotations, especially here in the U.S., generally with overarching ideals, geographical significance, or weaker internal bonds. The ability to enter and exit into a community varies widely, due to the variety of communities that exist.

Groups are the least salient, organized around few bonds that are generally weak in intensity. It seems that groups are an initial formation in the evolution of a community or tribe. Cost of entry and exit are low. Family, however, is the close opposite to this, with high entry and exit costs, and a large number of links with high intensity.

Overall, methods of entry were by deliberate choice, by accident, by force, and by instinct. Measures of connection were the number of shared dimensions amoung members and the intensity of those connections, i.e., the influence of the connection on the individuals. These links were generally described throughout the conversation as religious, value-based, issue-oriented, or desire-based. It was brought up that it is frequently the groups we find ourselves in by accident are those which have the most influence on us.

We’re malleable beings. Groups have the ability to change how we see the world. Pascal’s Wager was mentioned, as well as Alcoholics Anonymous, in referencing how we can fool ourselves into believing through action, a path that Infinite Jest fictionally recounts. Moreover, it seems that we are fairly elastic concerning group influence according to a number of psychology studies e.g. blue eyes vs. brown eyes, Robbers Cave, standing in an elevator.

Apparently we are attracted to groups, being social creatures.


Written on August 24, 2018