Tuesday, October 6, 2015

590: Locke on individuality

What we are discussing here is the cultural fact that we take the human individual as a central unit of analysis.
This focus on the individual is not at all an obvious matter. It is often rejected by collectivist, Islamic, or confucian societies in Asia or the Middle East.
The American Declaration of Independence includes the words, which echo Locke, "all men are created equal; 
that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; 
that to insure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."
However, our situation is now maybe this: like Bush declared war on terrorism, thus declared collectivist and Islamic societies war on individualism.
In our discussion of last Tuesday Max remarked, that it was a pity that health was not included in the Declaration of Independence.
The Declaration echos Lockes words, although his words were, that “no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions…”
Maybe the founding Fathers believed that they enclosed that subject in the expression “the pursuit of happiness”.
However, it is my belief, that nowadays what is meant by “the pursuit of happiness” is something quite different. Today it seems to mean  “the accumulation of wealth and property”.
So, Locke defined the individual as a person with these natural rights, like the Declaration does. But this can not be the whole story about the individual.
CB hit on this issue already in our previous discussion with here question: “What if my right to health interferes with someone else's right to property.”
The news item that in the US a pharmaceutical company just increased the cost of a medication - production costs $1.00 - from  $13.50 to over $750 a pill, has also reached my news-programs.
Is this what Locke must have had in mind, when he described the natural rights for the individual: life, health, liberty or possessions?
People, who emphasize their right on property, tend to overlook the fact that rights exist in a moral, social and political context.
You can interpret Locke’s ideas also from a different angle. Then it is natural law, not natural rights, that is primary. 
This would mean that when Locke emphasized the right to life, liberty, and property he was primarily making a point about the duties we have toward other people: duties not to kill, enslave, or steal. 
Most scholars also argue that Locke recognized a general duty to assist with the preservation of mankind, including a duty of charity to those who have no other way to procure their subsistence.
One important observation is that Locke explicitly freed the individual of claims that God had made all people naturally subject to a monarch. 
Locke used the claim that men are naturally free and equal as part of the justification for understanding legitimate political government as the result of a social contract 
where people in the state of nature conditionally transfer some of their rights to the government in order to better ensure the stable, comfortable enjoyment of their lives, liberty, and property. 
Since governments exist by the consent of the people in order to protect the rights of the people and promote the public good, governments that fail to do so can be resisted and replaced with new governments.
This right to revolution shows clearly how Locke liberated the individual and his rights from the coercive powers churches try to have over their members.
Thank you....Feel free to ask questions or add your remarks. The floor is yours...

Main Sources:
MacMillan The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2nd edition
Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 1995

The Discussion

 [13:18] Daruma Hermine Boa (daruma): thank you herman
[13:19] Mariella Diesel (mariella.deezul) is online.
[13:20] herman Bergson: Locke was  one of the first writers, who was so openly for the freedom of the individual
[13:20] herman Bergson: The british philosophers took a completley different route than those on the continent
[13:21] bombadail: As far as health is concerned I think about smoking and the exhaust fumes of passing cars....some laws are in place now regarding smoking....but not much concern to cars when in truth we could have clean non-polluting transport if there was a will to protect health
[13:21] herman Bergson: Leibniz was still pondering about the problem of evil...:-)
[13:21] CB Axel: And Locke was writing in what era again? 18th century?
[13:21] Daruma Hermine Boa (daruma): true bombadail
[13:22] herman Bergson: True...
[13:22] CB Axel: bombadail, we can't pass those laws if the CEO's of car manufactures just cheat to get around them for the sake of profit.
[13:22] bombadail: Awareness then of what influences well being matters
[13:22] CB Axel: Well, I guess we can pass the laws. The just get ignored.
[13:22] Max Chatnoir: We made our campus nonsmoking a couple of years ago.
[13:23] Max Chatnoir: I have to say it is a lot more pleasant.
[13:23] CB Axel: I got our ambulances non-smoking about 20 years ago or more.
[13:23] bombadail: You tell somebody driving by you that they don't have the right to pollute your air and see what kind of nut you are accused of being
[13:23] Max Chatnoir: I remember how nasty the air used to get by the end of the afternoon.
[13:23] Maya Phoenix (140726): England recently banned smoking in cars, which is great for protecing children from second hand smoke.
[13:23] Max Chatnoir: Good idea around sick people especially.
[13:24] CB Axel: The patient compartment was always smoke-free (oxygen and flame don't mix), but the cabs were filthy and smelled aweful.
[13:24] herman Bergson: I think we have to keep in mind that the definition of health has changed over the years
[13:24] Maya Phoenix (140726): CB Axel, to pass laws that cut the profit of businesses, we would need governments who care and who do not get the share of the profit themselves.
[13:25] Max Chatnoir: I think the whole idea of common spaces has also changed.
[13:25] CB Axel: I agree, Maya. Hence my backing of Bernie Sanders. °͜°
[13:25] herman Bergson: That is the pursuit of happiness....which is equivaltn to gathering as much money as you can
[13:26] herman Bergson: Just look around you....
[13:26] herman Bergson: how is the individual defined today?
[13:26] herman Bergson: As HOMO ECONOMICUS
[13:26] herman Bergson: as a source of profits and costs
[13:26] herman Bergson: not as a goal
[13:26] Max Chatnoir: Well, money isn't happiness, and I don't care what the republicans say, money isn't speech.  So buying stuff isn't defensible as free speech.
[13:27] CB Axel: Studies have shown that wealth buys happiness only to a certain extent and that the super wealthy are no more happy than the well-to-do.
[13:27] Max Chatnoir: Including buying influence.
[13:27] herman Bergson: So true CB
[13:27] CB Axel: We just can't seem to convince the super wealthy that they are not happier.
[13:27] herman Bergson: No, but they have power....
[13:27] herman Bergson: that is the addictive drug
[13:27] Max Chatnoir: Yes, they do, but who gives it to them?
[13:28] herman Bergson: the money, Max
[13:28] CB Axel: Yes. They buy the power.

[13:28] herman Bergson: A simple example...
[13:28] Max Chatnoir: Well, Donald Trump put it pretty clearly.
[13:28] Maya Phoenix (140726): CB, don't know much about Sanders, but I hope what wikipedia states about him, he'll be able to own up to when it comes to decision making
[13:28] herman Bergson: When a government does something unpleasant for a multinational...like Shell...
[13:28] Max Chatnoir: He gives somebody a lot of money and they have to be nice to him.
[13:29] CB Axel: He has so far, Maya.
[13:29] herman Bergson: I still believe there is just one phonecall.....watch out...we'll increase the price for gazoline...!
[13:29] CB Axel: Even if Trump gave me money, I couldn't be nice to such an a**hole.
[13:30] Max Chatnoir: But what if they just said, oh, thanks so much, and just went on as they thought best?
[13:30] Max Chatnoir: Of course you wouldn't get that money again, but you might get somebody else’s.
[13:30] herman Bergson: They cant, Max....
[13:30] bombadail whispers: There is also confusion in our economic system about merit being tied to money and the acceptance of you get the amount of money you deserve which is not true and so governments are failing the contract Locke Speaks about
[13:30] herman Bergson: rising prizes cause social upheaval....
[13:30] CB Axel: Herman, that hasn't worked for Shell recently. They had to give up exploring in the Arctic because the price of petrol is too low to justify the cost of drilling.
[13:31] herman Bergson: Indeed , CB :-)
[13:32] herman Bergson: Anyway Locke, born in 1632, put the individual as a political being  on the map
[13:32] Max Chatnoir: Yes, that was interesting, CB.
[13:33] herman Bergson: Maybe he even is the father of the French revolution :-)
[13:33] Maya Phoenix (140726): I would say that I can see a trend of rising disengagement with politics
[13:33] Max Chatnoir: Two revolutions, maybe.
[13:34] herman Bergson: At least he was at the craddle of US Independance
[13:34] CB Axel: Was he a protestant? I imagine he was, since the Catholic church is good at suppressing new ideas and always has been.
[13:34] Maya Phoenix (140726): which could be due to both the powerlessness of the voters in finding individuals who do trully represent them and are held accountable for their decisssions
[13:34] herman Bergson: England had no catholic church anymore in his days...
[13:34] CB Axel: Right
[13:34] herman Bergson: There was a Church of England...
[13:35] herman Bergson: Most interesting aspect of this is that England freed itself from the Pope
[13:35] Maya Phoenix (140726): and also, media focusing on materialism and gain, reinforcing the public disengagement
[13:35] herman Bergson: In fact the church became individualized in a way
[13:36] herman Bergson: that is...in England
[13:36] Maya Phoenix (140726): Yes, it's interesting. But since money is the new God, no country is trully emancipated in religious sense.
[13:37] CB Axel: I remember a TV show called Connections. In it, the presenter James Burke showed how innovation in science came from protestant countries.
[13:37] herman Bergson: The ne w religion of today is called ECONOMICS
[13:37] herman Bergson: The basic belief is the belief in unlimited grows of material wealth
[13:37] CB Axel: Economics, yes, but personal economics. Not necessarily the economics of the general population.
[13:37] bombadail: Did you guys get my comment....money is necessary for securing the individual in today's society...but money although can be attained through merit is not always, and many that merit it don't have it, and the government is not doing a great job....they end up legislating and acting in ways that are preferring special interests
[13:38] CB Axel: Yes. Personal economics. Not the common good.
[13:38] bombadail: instead of legislating to support the individual in the "contract"
[13:39] herman Bergson: Yes Bombadail..the individual as Locke so it, has almost left the stage
[13:40] herman Bergson: Life , liberty, health and possesions aren't the goals for th eindividual in genaral today
[13:40] Anna Adamant Albion (anna.adamant) is offline.
[13:40] Daruma Hermine Boa (daruma): too dangerous for the power of the government... °°
[13:41] herman Bergson: I sometimes get the feeling as an individual that they only ask me "How much do you cost"
[13:41] Daruma Hermine Boa (daruma): true herman and very sad
[13:42] herman Bergson: What expenses do you create...
[13:42] Daruma Hermine Boa (daruma): we lost the true things in life.
[13:42] Maya Phoenix (140726): Yes, that's true.
[13:42] CB Axel: Yes. I often said that in my job, we were all just expensive pieces of equipment that complain.
[13:42] Maya Phoenix (140726): Even education has turned to a business.
[13:42] Max Chatnoir: sadly.
[13:42] herman Bergson: Well...maybe not in my small private life, but in our society in general....
[13:42] CB Axel: Sad but true, Maya.
[13:43] Daruma Hermine Boa (daruma): but there will be one day... where all will cry about what went wrong.
[13:43] herman Bergson: Just look how we are dealing with all these refugees to Europe....
[13:43] herman Bergson: A lot of people only think of the costs....
[13:44] Max Chatnoir: We had Naomi Tutu on campus yesterday -- Desmond Tutu's daughter.  She was talking about reconciliation.
[13:44] Daruma Hermine Boa (daruma): ja thats true. and they are afraid.
[13:44] herman Bergson: they  gonna steal our jobs and houses!
[13:44] Max Chatnoir: And she said "wise people build bridges.  foolish people build walls."
[13:44] Daruma Hermine Boa (daruma): thats also a problem. mostly humans are afraid of things, which are in the future and not sure
[13:45] herman Bergson: So we have to believe in the further evolution of the individual...the homo sapiens :-)
[13:45] Max Chatnoir: You can't deal with the world's problems by isolating yourself from them.
[13:45] Maya Phoenix (140726): Churches didn't own the media or the police. How does anyone rebel if any signs of opposition to the government are not shown in the mass media. I mean you need collective action for any revolution.
[13:45] Daruma Hermine Boa (daruma): not only believe, we must train to be the best human ever lived on earth;-))
[13:45] Max Chatnoir: individuals have to deal with one another somehow without one of them killing the other.
[13:45] Daruma Hermine Boa (daruma): and not only shop shoes and watch tv
[13:46] herman Bergson: Welll...as I said in the lecture....it seems today to be a war agains individualism...
[13:46] herman Bergson: on an international cultural level
[13:46] CB Axel: I can't help but think we'd have another revolution if we all weren't being sedated by cheap TV shows and restrained by a fear of God.
[13:46] herman Bergson: In that sense Huntington was right, I think
[13:46] Daruma Hermine Boa (daruma): yes cb
[13:47] Kai Mundo (kaimundo): CB, and a fear of being shot.
[13:47] Maya Phoenix (140726): Hmm... very good point. All the events are actually turning people against each other, the stress making us selfish and apathetic
[13:47] herman Bergson: And the hedonistic inclinations of the organism :-)
[13:47] Daruma Hermine Boa (daruma): ja maya, thats the point
[13:48] herman Bergson: The fear is also related to the possible loss of our comforable life
[13:48] Maya Phoenix (140726): CB, what you said.
[13:49] Daruma Hermine Boa (daruma): they think they have a comfort life. but i think real comfort is giving to others and share. you feel comftable in yourself and not only around you
[13:49] CB Axel: It's hard to feel completely comfortable when you see the suffering of others around you.
[13:50] Max Chatnoir: Yes.
[13:50] herman Bergson: yes...
[13:50] Daruma Hermine Boa (daruma): yes and for that you must do something to feel better. helping and sharing
[13:50] CB Axel: But if all you see is the Kardashians, it's easier to feel good about the world.
[13:50] Maya Phoenix (140726): Daruma, comfortable it may be, but can't see consumerist life particularly fulfilling.
[13:50] Daruma Hermine Boa (daruma): so perhaps you have then less for living but more in your heart
[13:50] herman Bergson: Or building walls around you!
[13:50] CB Axel: Although, all I see is stupidity.
[13:51] Daruma Hermine Boa (daruma): true maya. its only to fill holes in your soul.
[13:52] Maya Phoenix (140726) nods at Daruma
[13:52] herman Bergson: Where has that crispy idea anbout life. liberty, health and possesions of John Locke gone????:-)
[13:53] herman Bergson: I think by now you have enough to think about
[13:53] Daruma Hermine Boa (daruma): john wuold love this conversation. i am sure...°°
[13:53] herman Bergson: So, may I thank you all for this great discussion....
[13:53] Daruma Hermine Boa (daruma): ja same from my side
[13:53] CB Axel: This was good. This has been a good topic.
[13:53] herman Bergson smiles
[13:54] CB Axel: Thank you, Herman.
[13:54] herman Bergson: Class dismissed...
[13:54] Kai Mundo (kaimundo): thank you , herman, sorry I was late but what a great place youhave here!
[13:54] Maya Phoenix (140726): The real individual never gives up all his power to circumstance. So I believe these are to be found, but with great difficulty
[13:54] herman Bergson: Thank you Kai
[13:54] Maya Phoenix (140726): rather than given or granted by the government

[13:54] herman Bergson: You're always welcome here

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