Re: The "Group-Entity" Illusion
Wed, 20 Jan 1999 09:04:34 -0700

Ian writes:
The ordering of individuals in a system creates a de facto collective entity, be that entity real or an illusion. The main actor in Adam Smith's "Wealth of Nations" was in fact a collective entity that's widely know as "the invisible hand."

"Collective entity" seems to involve a contradiction, since a collection of
objects can't itself be a physical object, it exists solely as a concept. But I suspect we're once again embroiled in more a semantic than a substantive disagreement here. It all hinges on your definition of
"entity". To me an entity is a "thing", a physical existent that can be
perceived via the senses (or extensions of the senses). Apparently you wish
to include concepts such as sets, relations and systems under the definition of "entity". But this usage generates confusion, since there are obvious basic differences between physical things on the one hand and arrangements of things on the other, and grave errors ensue from failing to distinguish different categories.

Smith's famous invisible hand - virtually synonymous with the extropian principle of spontaneous organisation - is the internal organizing principle of a complex relational nexus. It is not by any stretch of the imagination a "thing". As evidence that Smith himself had no illusions about it being an entity in the strict sense, observe that he used the phrase in a simile (" if by an invisible hand") and not as a metaphor as in common usage nowadays.