The individual is not some well defined reality in this world. He is a person, who can be defined from different perspectives.
Therefor individualism can refer to a lifestyle, a psychology, a moral stance, political philosophy, ideology, or social outlook that emphasizes the moral worth of the individual.
Individualists promote the exercise of one's goals and desires and so value independence and self-reliance
and advocate that interests of the individual should achieve precedence over the state or a social group,
while opposing external interference upon one's own interests by society or institutions such as the government.
We met Thomas Hobbes, who kicked off the debate by elaborating on his rather cynical view of the human condition.
Fortunately homo sapiens had at least the ability to come to a mutual understand, a social contract, so that survival was ensured.
This all happens at an interesting crossroad in our culture. The period between 1600 and 1700 has been crucial to our development.
On the Continent philosophers like Descartes, Leibniz and Spinoza were struggling with god and the individual mind, more or les dominated by theological considerations.
In England, however, Hobbes and after him philosophers like John Locke (1632 -1704), David Hume (1711 - 1776) focused on the individual and his socio-political setting.
Furthermore Locke and Hume zoomed in on the phenomenon of human understanding. When you have only your senses, then, how do you relate to the world around you?
For the individual, Locke wants each of us to use reason to search after truth rather than simply accept the opinion of authorities or be subject to superstition. He wants us to ask first of all for the evidence for them.
On the level of institutions it becomes important to distinguish the legitimate from the illegitimate functions of institutions
and to make the corresponding distinction for the uses of force by these institutions.
Locke believes that using reason to try to grasp the truth, and determine the legitimate functions of institutions will optimize human flourishing for the individual and society both in respect to its material and spiritual welfare.
This in turn, amounts to following natural law and the fulfilment of the divine purpose for humanity.
If god had an active role then it was at the moment of creation, at which he installed this natural law in man.
Thus Locke writes: “The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges everyone: and reason which is that law,
teaches all mankind who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions…”
According to Locke, God created man and we are, in effect, God's property. The chief end, which is set us by our creator, as a species and as individuals, is survival. But in a much more friendlier way than Hobbes imagined it.
If one takes survival as the end, then we may ask what are the means necessary to that end. On Locke's account, these turn out to be life, liberty, health and property.
Since the end is set by God, on Locke's view we have a right to the means to that end. So we have rights to life, liberty, health and property.
These are natural rights, that is they are rights that we have in a state of nature before the introduction of civil government, and all people have these rights equally.
Thus John Locke can be seen as the father of liberal individual, like he was an inspiration to the founding Fathers of the USA.
Thank you…if you have any questions or remarks, feel free. The floor is yours.
MacMillan The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2nd edition
Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 1995
[13:20] Max Chatnoir: Too bad we didn't put health into the Declaration of Independence.
[13:21] herman Bergson: indeed
[13:21] Max Chatnoir: WB Gemma
[13:21] CB Axel: What if my right to health interferes with someone else's right to property.
[13:22] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): crash
[13:22] CB Axel: wb, Gemma. I though you had left.
[13:22] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): big crash
[13:22] herman Bergson: awww...what a pitty...Gemma
[13:22] Max Chatnoir: Want the chat?
[13:22] CB Axel: Gemma, would you like me to put Herman's lecture on a notecard for you?
[13:23] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): i can get it on teh blog ty.
[13:23] Mikki Louise (mikkilouise): but 'the end' of survival is for the species, not the individual
[13:23] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate): imay have to run off anyway waiting for a workman
[13:23] herman Bergson: central point of today is the idea of John Locke: If one takes survival as the end, then we may ask what are the means necessary to that end. On Locke's account, these turn out to be life, liberty, health and property.
[13:24] herman Bergson: What if my right to health interferes with someone else's right to property.....what would be an example of this, CB?
[13:24] CB Axel: I think so.
[13:24] Chantal (nymf.hathaway) is offline.
[13:25] CB Axel: We have a situation here in the states where a pharmaceutical company just increased the cost of a medication from about $13 per pill to over $700 per pill.
[13:25] herman Bergson: How can my health interfere withthe right on property of someone else?
[13:25] Max Chatnoir: Seems more likely to go the other way.
[13:26] CB Axel: Is the company's right to property more important than people's health?
[13:26] herman Bergson: Interesting point there...
[13:27] Max Chatnoir: I guess the argument is that if they give it away, they can't stay in business and nobody gets the pills.
[13:27] herman Bergson: What is missing in this issue of rights is a discussion on ethics...
[13:27] CB Axel: Do those rights: life, liberty, health and property have different priorities?
[13:27] CB Axel: Hello, bombadail.
[13:27] herman Bergson: That is an often heard story Max....but can we believe it?
[13:28] Max Chatnoir: Oh, what a good question, Axel.
[13:28] bombadail: hello
[13:28] CB Axel: But, Max, the company was making a profit before the cost was increased.
[13:28] CB Axel: But they want more.
[13:28] Max Chatnoir: I think we can believe it up to a point. The problem is identifying the point.
[13:28] herman Bergson: Difficult question CB....and again...we need to add ethics to this discourse here...
[13:29] CB Axel: I would add ethics if the business community would. But they don't seem interested in ethics.
[13:29] Max Chatnoir: I guess you heard the VW story?
[13:29] CB Axel: Yes.
[13:29] Max Chatnoir: Nice collision of health and property.
[13:29] herman Bergson: For instance you claim the right on liberty and life...but what when you are asked to defend your country...your liberty?
[13:29] CB Axel: Yet another example.
[13:30] herman Bergson: One thing becomes clear here....
[13:30] herman Bergson: a society is not the sum of all individuals with their private rights
[13:31] herman Bergson: It means that we have to add more to this collection of individuals to create a society
[13:31] herman Bergson: And in Locke's days the social contract theory was prevailing...
[13:33] CB Axel: Mr. Spock in Star Trek says, "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few." °͜°
[13:33] CB Axel: That's where I get my philosophy. lol
[13:33] herman Bergson: So claiming the absolute right to your natural right on health, liberty or property isn't going to work
[13:34] herman Bergson: Locke wrote a number of essays on this question, in fact....
[13:34] herman Bergson: how can institutions have rights over individual rights
[13:35] Max Chatnoir: consent of the governed.
[13:35] CB Axel: Because the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.
[13:35] herman Bergson: Maybe that is where extreme republicans make a mistake...
[13:36] Max Chatnoir: say some more, Herman.
[13:37] herman Bergson: So asserting that we have a natural right to life, freedom, health an property as Locke suggests is only a part of the story
[13:37] Gemma (gemma.cleanslate) is online.
[13:38] herman Bergson: If every single person in a society would do that and ignore the option of shared interests, or sharing in general....there would not be a society, but a Hobbesian world probably
[13:39] CB Axel: But many of our shared interests are also in the interest of each individual.
[13:39] herman Bergson: yes CB
[13:40] herman Bergson: But the first step is to recognise the individual interests as "shareable"
[13:40] CB Axel nods
[13:40] herman Bergson: which protects the individual interests more than when you do not share
[13:41] herman Bergson: so we have to add this ability to share to this individualism
[13:41] herman Bergson: and this as in the works of Locke leads to political philosophy and ethics
[13:42] herman Bergson: the main theme there will be the justification of our sharing and its consequences
[13:43] herman Bergson: But that is beyond our topic of this project.....
[13:43] CB Axel: Like forming an army for mutual protection but taking away rights of individuals in the army.
[13:43] herman Bergson: our main question here is how the individual defined himself through history....
[13:44] herman Bergson: his willingness to subordinate himself to the values of religion, tribe , nation, family....or to plain rationality
[13:45] herman Bergson: Yes CB....within that context you organise an army for instance and you justify the subordination to the general command based on such aspects like religion etc.
[13:46] herman Bergson: Wel...I guess plenty enough to think about here
[13:47] herman Bergson: so ...if you have no further questions or remarks....?
[13:47] Max Chatnoir: Interesting can of worms, Herman. :-)
[13:47] herman Bergson: Class dismissed and thank you all for your attention....^_^
[13:47] CB Axel: Thank you, Herman.
[13:48] CB Axel: It is quite the can of worms, Max.
[13:48] Max Chatnoir: Thanks, Herman.
[13:48] herman Bergson: yes it is CB.. :-)
[13:48] Max Chatnoir: That's the experiment of democratic societies.
[13:48] Max Chatnoir: and why they fight so much.
[13:49] herman Bergson: Yes..and eventually we try to justify our choices there by rational argument...
[13:49] CB Axel: I was just thinking this morning about how communism failed, but democracy is in the process of failing in the US.
[13:49] Max Chatnoir: One hopes.
[13:49] CB Axel: At least, that's how it seems to me.
[13:49] Max Chatnoir: You might have a point, Axel. We've certainly been at an impasse for decades.
[13:49] herman Bergson: Because of a lot of irrationality to begin with
[13:50] Max Chatnoir: the "one hopes" was about rationality, not about democracy failing.
[13:50] CB Axel: I assumed that, Max. °͜°
[13:50] CB Axel: And please, call me CB.
[13:50] Max Chatnoir: Oh, I'm sorry.
[13:51] CB Axel: No problem.
[13:51] CB Axel: Well, I guess I'll fly away home.
[13:51] Max Chatnoir: I have a student named Axelrod. I think it made that part of your name pop up in my head.
[13:52] CB Axel: Thank you all for the good discussion.
[13:52] Mikki Louise (mikkilouise): thank you Herman, bye everyone
[13:52] herman Bergson: Bye Mikki :-)
[13:52] Max Chatnoir: Very good discussion. I'll hope to hear more on Thursday.
[13:52] Max Chatnoir: Bye, all.
[13:52] CB Axel: My "cousin" in sl, RF Axel gets people calling her Axel, too. °͜°
[13:52] herman Bergson: Yes Max...we'll go on...
[13:52] CB Axel: See you all on Thursday.
[13:53] Max Chatnoir: Bye.