Individualism

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(from L. individuus, individual, indivisible). A moral position that places the highest absolute priority on the personal, private interest over interpersonal, collective, or social interest. The positive aspect of this orientation consists in the affirmation of individual liberty. The negative aspect is apparent in its selfishness and disregard for the interests of others. I. takes as absolute the biological dimension of the human being, at the expense of the spiritual or social; it overlooks or undervalues the difference between the concepts of “individual” and “personality.” However, the opposition between personal interest and social interest is not in fact insoluble because these interests coincide in what is essential, because social interest can only be realized through the activities of concrete human beings and not through the actions of supra-human entities. In philosophy, the development of i. follows a line that runs from Protagoras to Hedonism and Epicureanism. During the Renaissance, i. for the most part played a progressive role, expressing the aspiration for the liberation of the human being from feudal chains. Individualist extremism [or: Extreme individualism] found an echo in the anarchist doctrines of Stirner and Bakunin.