I may be prone to subjecting my audience to raw, obscure philosophical questions, but even I am loathe to write in-depth concerning mereology... at least for a blog post. I think we can make do with just the question of this post and the paradigm established in previous posts. I trust that you can keep up and, if not, that you will email me or comment below and let me know.
As I have argued in the last two posts, collectives do not exist. If collectives don't exist, how can I begin speaking on the relationship between the individual and his community? I did leave the door open for communities to exist, within a narrow definition. As a matter of fact, I left the door open for three types of community to exist. Before getting into a taxonomy, though, I need to define what I mean by “community” and how it is distinct, ontologically, from “collective”. For now, I believe a sufficient definition of “community” is “a series of interpersonal relationships-” or, rather, “a series of individuals who hold a series of interpersonal relationships centered on one or more commonality.”
One will notice, if reading with an eye trained by my previous ontological discussions, that this would make a “community” an abstraction akin to a collective: something which exists only as an idea or a concept with no impetus of its own and serves only to inform one in a manner consistent with one's epistemic limitations. In exploring the taxonomy of communities, I hope to explore the specifics of the role such an abstraction plays and why I would grant it a stronger ontology than a mere collective.
The commonalities on which a community may be centered can range from something so banal as a common geographic location, common interest, common heritage... to something as intense and significant as a common life-altering event, vocational encounter, or a common goal, method, and discipline. These commonalities seem to be divisible into three types of character. By virtue of their definition, communities grounded in these commonalities can be said to have such character. These three types of character would be incidental, practical, and intentional. Based on the names I have chosen, I assume that many preconceptions and questions have already formed in your mind. I'll try to assuage such activities, now.
Let's just start with descriptions. An incidental community is just that: a series of individuals who hold relationships of coincidence. The easiest example is one of locality, especially in the postmodern age. Even if they are incredibly transient and flimsy, I have a number of relationships with people who live in my apartment complex. The sole basis of these relationships is proximity (and the friction it entails):competing for decent parking, upholding lease policies, random polite (and not-so-polite) encounters, etc. This same sort of coincidence exists on the freeway/highway, at the grocery store or bank, and perhaps even people that share similar attributes to myself, such as gender, skin color, geography of birth, height, or other inheritances.
I think that the most immediate observation one can make concerning incidental relationships, especially when looking with an ethical eye, is the total lack of homogeneity between individuals in the community. A brief survey of the bumper stickers seen at the common geographic locations, the Denver facebook network, a survey of white people, etc. will quickly indicate only a few minor statistical trends, all of which are better explained by external factors as opposed to the nature of the community itself (again,it's an abstracted tool). Due to this phenomenon, one cannot speak knowledgeably about specific individuals within an incidental community, even when armed with statistics, nor can one speak of them categorically. Not everyone at my apartment complex is poor, not all blacks are criminals, not all whites like Phish, not all Denverites smoke pot, and not everyone in Nagasaki are militaristic imperialists who deserve to be irradiated or vaporized.
That description sounds like one that could be called “practical”, I must admit. If any readers have a suggestion for a better nomenclature to differentiate between incidental communities and those which I am about to describe, please let me know.
A community of practical character could be considered “a series of individuals who hold relationships entered into or maintained due to practical considerations”. This involves business relationships, to be sure; doctors and patients, contractors and property owners, student's/families and school teachers/administrators are good examples, too. These considerations could also be centered on internet forums, conventions centered on a particular interest, or any club of one sort or another.
These commonalities are also quite transient. One anime convention is more-or-less interchangeable with another, one school is interchangeable with another (or any number of alternatives), employees and employers as well as clubs or stores (like Costco or Sam's Club) are equally so. Because an incidental relationship or community is merely a matter of coincidence, relationships or communities which are matters of active choice (aka. practical considerations) are marginally more tangible and representative of the individuals involved. One can speak semi-intelligently about metalheads, people who hang out at Hot Topic, or engineers. A lot of (frankly, true) stereotypes are a result of statistical trends in these self-selecting communities.
A sort of “practical community on steroids”, intentional communities now become our focus. Intentional communities are best described as “as series of individuals who hold relationships centered on common purposiveness, intention, and approach to such.” If teachers and families are practical communities in schools, the PTA/PTOs student councils, teachers' unions, etc. are intentional communities. Hippie communes; anarchist “collectives”; charities; governments, mafia, and other gangs; even some religious sects are examples of other forms of intentional communities.
Where a practical community, say, a gun show, is centered on a common utility (such as being able to buy or sell guns, exchange information, or not be reviled as a criminal for merely voicing an interest in self-defense), it lacks a certain intention or purposiveness. For example, one wouldn’t expect everyone, or even most of the people, at a brony convention to agree that they must all work towards the creation of GMO purple ponies with unicorn horns, or the extermination of all non-bronies. The KKK or (neo-)Nazis, however, gather around a central intention of exterminating or enslaving an entire group of people (usually members of certain incidental communities), evangelical Christians wish to “Baptize all nations”, communes exist for whatever commie/naturalist lifestyle one pursues, police exist to enforce laws, the Bloods exist to kill the Crips (and vice-versa), and the government exists to govern.
I used slightly different verbs when describing these different communities. It's ok, though, because the important mereological point to remember is that a “community” is merely individuals maintaining relationships betwixt themselves., not an entity existing in its own right. However, where the incidental communities likely only provide categorical claims that are tautological (“The black community is black”), and the practical communities present only statistical correlations (“people who tend to purchase Maseratis tend to be upper-middle class”), intentional communities provide more opportunity for both generalization and categorical claims. For instance, the claim “KKK members are racist,” is effectively incontestable; someone may find an instance which appears to be a non-racist KKK member, but such a circumstance would require detailed examination.
The “non-racist”individual could either be considered a “bad KKK member” (in the socratic vein) or not really a KKK member (due to definitions), but a more likely and more easily defensible claim would be the case which claims that the very membership in the KKK is an endorsement of the KKK's intention, therefore it is impossible to be in the KKK and not be racist. Even in the case of someone “going undercover” to break up the KKK, they are acting in bad faith, which presents its own series of issues which we don't have time for today.
What I mean to express by exploring this taxonomy of communities is that the first two types lack any ontology beyond being a mere abstraction, much like the collectives I addressed a few posts ago. An intentional community, while still lacking ontology in itself, does influence reality in a tangible way, unique from the other two. This influence takes the form of social, ethical, and moral qualifiers included in interpersonal interaction. Where a series of employers and employees is typically to be considered a practical community, if the employers have a stated intent, purpose, or method and are hiring employees for the sake of which, any employee which enters into that relationship is doing so in the same manner one would enter into the KKK or a commune.
In other words, one cannot be pro-life and work for Planned Parenthood or the US Military, one cannot join a hippie commune and not be a hippie, nor can one become a cop and not endorse coercion and theft, or any other example that may come to mind. Any seemingly contradictory instance is merely a case of an individual acting out of ignorance or bad faith. Ultimately, this is the reason there is no such thing as a “good cop” or an “egalitarian neo-nazi”; in choosing to join a community centered on the purpose of enforcing laws or eliminating Jews, one demonstrates a preference for such criminal actions, even if they are unaware of that reality.
TL;DR; Merelology is the study of the relationship between parts and wholes. This field of study applies when looking at the relationship between individuals and the abstract concepts called “communities”. In the case of coincidental and unintentional relationships, one could consider such a community an “incidental community”. In the case of a relationship entered into voluntarily, often out of practical considerations, one could consider it a “practical community”. Most interesting would be the “intentional community”, which would be entered into with the intent of fulfilling a particular goal or furthering a particular cause, held by all members of that community. Such a joining of an intentional community is an endorsement of the intent and methods implemented by other individuals within the community, insofar as they align with the community's intent. Awareness of this taxonomy is important when one makes statistical or categorical observations concerning various communities.