Social groups are a central topic in social ontology. This paper presents a systematic approach for analyzing and explaining their nature. I argue against prominent views that attempt to unify all social groups or to divide them into simple typologies. Instead I argue that social groups are enormously diverse, but show how we can investigate their natures nonetheless. I analyze social groups from a bottom-up perspective, constructing profiles of the metaphysical features of groups of specific kinds. We can characterize any given kind of social group with four complementary profiles: its “construction profile,” its “extra essentials” profile, its “anchor” profile, and its “accident” profile. Together these provide a framework for understanding the nature of groups, help classify and categorize groups, and shed light on group agency.
Synthese, DOI 10.1007/s11229-017-1387-y, 2017