Let's say I have a 'group of people', let's call it 'Group A'. Group A consists of people (concrete) suggesting it is concrete, yet any member of Group A can be at any place in the world, and their membership of Group A implies its existence, however in this case Group A has no physical spatial location, suggesting an abstract nature.

Is there a way we can determine this metaphysically?

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    Can you explain how you think the locations effect whether the group is abstract or not? Are you thinking the group would be concrete when they're all in the same room and abstract when they aren't? Feb 13, 2023 at 21:51
  • The standard position is that sets (even of concrete objects) are abstracta. However, Maddy proposed a realist account of sets where some of them (namely, finite sets of concrete objects) are, in some ways, concrete. In particular, they are not causally inert and we can perceive them, see Maddy, Perception and mathematical intuition.
    – Conifold
    Feb 14, 2023 at 1:25

3 Answers 3


The group does have a physical spatial location (aka a location), namely the Earth, so your supposed reason for considering the group to have an abstract nature does not apply. Lest you still think otherwise, imagine a thought experiment in which the scattered members of the group are asked to head for the room- at what point in their individual journeys toward the room would they morph from being abstract to concrete?

  • I had to post the opposite view point in an answer below, but upvoted your reply :-) Only the particulars are real.
    – Frank
    Feb 13, 2023 at 23:42
  • @Frank cheers! In my answer I dodged the issue of whether the group was abstract or concrete, and just focussed on a critique of the OP's reason for supposing it was abstract, largely because I was in two minds about it! Feb 14, 2023 at 6:21
  • Debatable... what about a football team? Is e.g. Arsenal the same "entity" also when a player changes team? Feb 14, 2023 at 7:28
  • @MauroALLEGRANZA I can answer that one! Arsenal is a label used for two purposes- 1) is to refer to the collection of players in the current team-2) is to refer to the set of different teams that have played for the Arsenal club. In sense 1) Arsenal is not the same entity; in sense 2) Arsenal is. Feb 14, 2023 at 7:32
  • You make a point, but I would argue, the fact I cannot specify any place on earth that the 'group' exists suggests that to say it is on earth is not correct, the thing with physical objects is nearly all of them its possible to know a specific location for the object, this is my opinion as there are lots of abstract things which could be described as 'on earth' but don't exist in any particular place due to abstract nature.
    – Confused
    Feb 14, 2023 at 19:37

The group is purely abstract: it is a convenient name we give for a collection of particular people. We use that name "group A" in communications and reasoning to avoid having to explicitly list the particulars each time, but only the particulars exist, and the group is a pure subject-side abstraction that does not "exist" outside our minds.

In the thought experiment in which the scattered members of the group are asked to head for the room, there is no "group" entity that physically enters the room, but only particular individuals.


The term:

A group of people

is an abstract noun as it does not refer to any concrete individuals.

Whilst saying:

James, John, Abdul & Mary is a group of people

Is a concrete phrase as it refers to concrete individuals and also refers to them collectively.

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