the body and the individual, river and tarantula tree wallpaper

eight individuals wallpaper

I wanted to continue this discussion of individualism. The kind of individualism I talked about in that post, which I am not walking back, is what might be called a individualism that one subscribes to. That is the kind that fuels the culture of  me that permeates much of western civilization’s concept. Not all of its bad, but like being health conscious ( anti-smoking for instance), being fugal with money or being positive, the concept can be carried to extremes that range from merely pretentious to destructive.  There is also an intrinsic individualism that derives from the physical reality of our discrete existence. While existential philosophers Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Satre seemed direct enough in their philosophy dealing with the inner conflicts and the individual’s struggle with ambiguity in a vast seemingly indifferent universe, they did not address the consequences of individual as a discreet physical entity head on. To the existentialist, human beings were containers of the all important consciousness. It Maurice Merleau-Ponty (March 14, 1908 – May 3, 1961) that insisted we recognize that ephemeral consciousness, the plain on which many philosophers  had placed human beings, should not be separated from our physical bodies. Merleau-Ponty was a Newtonian of philosophy in recognizing that no two people could occupy the same body, nor the same space at the same time and thus individuals each experienced the universe in a unique way. For a multitude of reasons from one’s genetic make-up, our parents religion, whether we were raised on a land locked farm or a coastal fishing town, speaking Spanish or Mandarin, male or female, each of us would filter experience and apprehend the world and life events differently from each other. Regardless of how similar two people might be they cannot separate experience from their physical beings. Those differences are obviously minuscule in many ways, but the physicality of human existence cannot be ignored. That is not to say that our bodies dictate reality – though it does it many ways – we cannot know what our experience and perception of the world would be like if we were an orangutan or a space alien with a human’s brain, only that reality cannot be separated from our bodies – our containers as it were. One should be careful in assuming humans are thus reduced to physical experience, but rather for us to perceive the world we cannot do so without physical existence hand in hand with the opportunities and limitations imposed by our biology. We are and are not mere objects. There is us, the physical mass that operates for large part without conscious thinking – even our brains operate and manage our biological survival without being told to do so, but there is also us the self-aware physical person constantly having a sense of ourselves and the world around us. That same us never stops and becomes a final product – until death of course – we are always ourselves yet always a changing self because our consciousness is always accumulating more experiences. Our basic biology being the same this accounts in some ways for the history of mankind’s struggle to get along with each other and to settle on some ultimate objective truths. So yes there is something called individualism, but it has to do with the implications of our existence as discreet beings, not a group we decide to join.

This gentleman has gone to the the other extreme. We are so ensconced in our individuality that we are incapable of genuinely thinking of others, You, yourself and you: Why being self-centered is a good thing

So if we think our self-interest is singularly significant, we are not being fooled. Instead, the fact that we know ourselves best reinforces our sense of individuality over time; we do have stable identities, and our minds are more than a shifting kaleidoscope of impressions. Our ability to make moral judgments flows from this fact.

On the other hand, Hare asserts, our minds are independent enough from the rest of the world that, when other people state their pleasures and pains are present, we should not regard their statements as true. Instead, Hare writes, we should regard those claims as “false, but rightly so.”

In so arguing, Hare is reviving the philosophical concept of solipsism — the notion that one’s own self has a special status in the world. More specifically, Hare claims in his book that we exist in a mildly solipsistic state he calls “egocentric presentism.” To make sound moral judgments despite this condition, Hare asserts, just takes an act of imagination.

Hare is proof of concept. One can take almost any concept and corrupt it. The core of Hare’s argument and a dangerous one is to regard other people’s claims of pain as false. That is pretty much the core text book definition of a sociopath. Empathy and sympathy are to a large part learned behaviors, as is assigning values. Though they are not simply hat tricks of our imagination. That these mental abilities are so pervasive in every human civilization means they also have concrete repercussions for our survival as a species.

river and tarantula tree wallpaper

Anyone interested in further reading about Maurice Merleau-Ponty this is good place to start. As most summaries of a philosophy inevitably do I have left out many of the intricate facets to Merleau-Ponty’s writings.


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