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Ambiguous Individuality: Georg Simmel on the "Who" and the "What" of the Individual

Olli Pyyhtinen
Human Studies
Vol. 31, No. 3 (Sep., 2008), pp. 279-298
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40270662
Page Count: 20
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Ambiguous Individuality: Georg Simmel on the
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Abstract

The essay discusses the philosopher and sociologist Georg Simmel's theorizing about the individual. Whereas it is typically within the context of the modern metropolis and the mature money economy that Simmel's ideas have been discussed in the secondary literature, I render those ideas in another light by addressing the ontological and existential issues crucial to his conception of the individual. In Simmel, the individual is divided between the "what" and the "who," between the qualities which make one something individual and one's nonrepeatable and finite existence which makes one someone singular. I argue that whereas the first dimension can be understood sociologically, in terms of social relations, the latter is not accessible to sociology as such, but must be treated philosophically. Therefore, if we wish to address this duality that lies at the heart of individuality, a "philosophical turn" for sociology is called for.

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