Archive for the ‘individualism’ Category

Man is nothing else but that which he makes of himself.

September 3, 2009

Man is nothing else but that which he makes of himself. That is the first principle of existentialism.

Jean-Paul Sartre, Existentialism and Humanism

…there is no human nature, since there is no God to conceive it. It is man who conceives himself, who propels himself towards existence. Man becomes nothing other than what is actually done, not what he will want to be.

Jean-Paul Sartre, Existentialism is a Humanism

Man is a useless passion.

Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness

Having no essence, man, so Sartre presupposed, was what he made himself through action. Such a life become authentic. But this left Sartre with the problem of how to protest ‘immoral’ action. After all, there is, according to him, only authentic and inauthentic action. Hitler was authentic, so too Mao, Pol Pot, Charles Manson perhaps.

Sartre hated Nazism but his philosophy had no antidote to it, no reason to resist it. He had no ‘man in the image of God’ to counter Hitler’s characterization of the Jews as untermensch (sub-human) and therefore disposable.

Sartre should have reexamined his presuppositions. Thereby he would have avoided the bind his philosophy will always have on those who seriously accept it.

Individualism in Political Theory

September 1, 2009

(Liberalism’s) essence lies in a respect for the autonomy of the individual. Because liberalism starts with the individual, the most characteristic liberal political doctrines are the social contract as the foundation of legitimate government and individual rights as the basis of liberty. Contemporary liberals will speak enthusiastically of natural rights, but they tend to reject the concept of natural laws, in the sense of obligations that are superior to those created by governments. Obligations in contemporary liberalism come not from nature…but from society, and they are clearly legitimate only to the extent that individuals have in some sense consented to be bound by them. Rights, on the other hand, are founded directly on our assumed status as autonomous beings.

Phillip E. Johnson, Reason in the Balance, 1995, p.46

And this raises the question how community life, marriage and its obligations etc. can be supported by social contract theory.
The only obligation I have a right to assume, is to do at any time what I think is right.
Henry Thoreau