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Chapter 14 Individuality And Type

The Philosophy Of Freedom
Chapter 14 Individuality And Type

THE INNER TRUTH OF FREE INDIVIDUALITY

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14. INDIVIDUALITY AND TYPE

14.0 Group Membership
[1] The view that the human being is predisposed to develop into a completely independent, free individuality seems to be contradicted by the fact that he appears as a member of a natural whole (race, tribe, folk, family, male or female gender), and acts within a whole (state, church, and so forth). He exhibits the general characteristics of the group to which he belongs, and what he does is determined by the position he holds within the group.

[2] Given all this, is individuality even possible? Can we regard the individual human being as a self-contained whole, seeing that he grows out of one whole and fits in as a member of another?

14.1 Group Type
[3] The characteristics and function of each member of a whole are defined by the whole. An ethnic group is a whole, and the members belonging to it exhibit characteristic traits that are determined by the nature of the group. How the single member is constituted and his general behavior will be characteristic of the ethnic group to which he belongs. This is why the physiognomy and conduct of the individual has a typical quality. If we ask why a particular thing about a person is like this or like that, we are directed away from the individual person and toward his group type. The type is used to explain why something in the individual appears in the form we observe.

14.2 Emancipation From Type
[4] However, the human being frees himself from the group type. Typical qualities in the human race, if understood in the right way, do not restrict freedom, and should not be made to restrict freedom artificially. An individual develops his own traits and roles, for reasons that can only be found in himself. What is typical in him serves only as a medium in which to express his own individuality. He uses the characteristic traits given by nature as a basis and gives them a form that corresponds to his own being. If we look to ethnicity to explain this individual aspect of a human being, we will seek in vain. We are dealing here with something completely individual that cannot be explained by something else. If a person has advanced to the point of emancipation from a group type, and we still want to explain everything about him in terms of type, then we have no sense for what is individual.

14.3 Social Role
[5] It is impossible to completely understand a human being if one’s judgment is based on concepts of the type. The tendency to judge according to type is most persistent where differences of sex are involved. Man sees in woman, and woman in man, nearly always too much of the general characteristics of the other sex, and too little of what is individual in the other. Positions in society are not always determined by the individual characteristics of each person, but by the general ideas of what is considered the natural role and needs of a man or woman. Our activity in life should be determined by our individual abilities and inclinations, not solely by the fact of being a man or woman.

14.4 Social Progress
So long as people debate what the “natural disposition" of a man and woman are, no progress will be made on gender issues. What lies in a person's nature must be left for each person to judge. We must be allowed to decide for ourselves what is, and what is not appropriate to our nature. Some fear a social upheaval, should gay and transgender people be treated as individuals, rather than as an example of a gender type. But a social structure is in great need of improvement when the status of some is beneath the dignity of a human being.

14.5 Unique Characteristics
[6] Whoever judges people according to their typical characteristics stops short at the boundary line beyond which people begin to be individuals whose activity is based on free self-determination. What lies below this boundary line can naturally become the subject of academic study. The characteristics of race, ethnicity, nation and gender are the subjects of specific branches of study. Only people who wish to live as nothing more than an example of a type could possibly fit the general picture that emerges from this kind of academic study. None of these branches of study are able to reach the unique character of the single individual. Determining the individual according to the laws of his type ends, where the region of freedom (in thinking and acting) begins.

14.6 Individual Conceptual Content
In order to have the full reality, the human being connects his conceptual content with perception by means of thinking. No one can establish this conceptual content once and for all, and hand it over to humanity in a finished form. Each individual must gain his concepts through his own intuition. How an individual is to think cannot be derived from some general concept of a type. It depends entirely on the individual himself.

14.7 Individual Goals
Nor are general human traits any indication of what concrete goals an individual will choose to pursue. Anyone who wishes to understand the single individuality must find his way to the innermost core of his particular being, and not stop short at the level of typical characteristics. In this sense each human being is a separate challenge.

14.8 Individual Views And Actions
And every kind of study that concerns itself with abstract thoughts and general concepts of the type is only a preparation for the knowledge we gain when an individuality tells us his way of viewing the world. And preparation for the knowledge we gain from the content of his acts of will.

14.9 Emancipation Of Knowing
Whenever we feel we are dealing with a person who is free of the stereotypical thinking and instinctive willing of a type, we must refrain from calling up any of our mind's preconceptions if we want to understand him. Knowledge consists in combining concepts with the perception by means of thinking. In the case of everything else, the observer gains his concepts through his intuition. But if we are to understand a free individuality we must receive into our mind those concepts by which he defines himself, in their pure form (without mixing in our own conceptual content). Those who immediately mix their own concepts into every judgment of others can never reach an understanding of an individuality. Just as the free individuality emancipates himself from typical characteristics, so must our method of knowing an individual emancipate itself from the method used to understand type.

14.10 Emancipation Of Being
[7] A person can be considered a free spirit within a community only to the degree he has emancipated himself, in the way indicated, from the characteristic traits of his type. No human being is all type; none is all individuality. But every person gradually emancipates a greater or lesser part of his being from the animal-like life of the species, and from the controlling decrees of human authorities.

14.11 Ethical Conduct
[8] In the part of his nature where he is unable to win this freedom, he remains a member incorporated into the natural and social organism. In this regard, he lives by imitating others, or by obeying their commands. Only the part of his conduct that springs from his intuitions has ethical value in the true sense.

14.12 Moral Life Of Humanity
This is his contribution to the already existing total of moral ideas. All moral activity of humanity has its source in individual ethical intuitions. One can also say that the moral life of humanity is the sum total of works produced by free human individuals through their moral imagination. This is the creed of Monism. Monism looks upon the history of the moral life, not as the education of the human race by a transcendent God, but as the gradual living out in practice of all concepts and ideas that spring from the moral imagination.

© Tom Last 2017