georg simmel on association
I was recently thumbing through my heavily marked-up copy of Simmel’s On Individuality and Social Forms (ed. Levine) and I ran into this curious passage again:
Mankind has created association as its general form of life. This was not, so to speak, the only logical possibility. The human species could just as well have been unsocial; there are unsocial animal species as well as social ones. Because of the fact of human sociality, however, we are easily misled into thinking that categories which directly or indirectly are sociological ones are the only, and universally applicable, categories in terms of which we may contemplate the contents of human experience. This notion, however, is completely erroneous. That we are social beings subjects these contents to a certain point of view, but it is by no means the only possible one. To name a completely different contrasting point of view, one can observe, study, and systemize the contents which, to be sure, exist and are realized only within society purely in terms of their objective content. The inner validity, coherence, and objective significance of all sciences, technologies, and arts are completely independent of the fact that they are realized within and find their preconditions in a social life, just as independent as their objective sense is of the psychological processes through which their discoverers found them. They can naturally also be considered under the latter psychological or the former social point of view.