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What is society?
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Society is defined by its participants

The participants of a society define its role and definition.


The participants or members of a society are not passive. They define themselves through a series of self-observations and self-definitions which are constantly shifting.

The Argument

The members of a society define what that society becomes. They have the agency to build the society they want. For example, if the individuals in society decide that they want a society that constrains the worst of human behavior, they may pass laws and socially condemn those behaviors. However, if they want to establish a nationalist society that derives its value from a shared territory, they may establish a very different society.

Counter arguments

A society is not reducible to individual behavior. It is greater than the sum of its individual parts. This is evident in the role society plays in modifying the individual’s behavior. We change our behavior according to the rules of a society. We adopt the conventions of the society we are in. This ‘collective conscious’ shows that the individual does not define the society, the society defines the individual. The individual does not decide to pass laws that reflect their values, the collective consciousness passes laws that shape the individuals’ values.



The individual is not a passive actor in society. They have agency and shape the space that the 'society' occupies.


[P1] The participants of a society set the role and definition of that society. [P2] Therefore, there is no universal definition of society. [P3] Therefore, society means different things to different people.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P1] The collective shapes the individual, not the other way around.


This page was last edited on Friday, 6 Mar 2020 at 12:16 UTC

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