A Life Worth Living: Contributions to Positive Psychology
edited by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Isabella Selega Csikszentmihalyi
Cult Of Individuality
19th-century German philosophy, particularly the work of Wilhelm von Humboldt (1827), played a crucial role in Mill’s questioning the principle of utilitarianism. Humboldt’s vision of human personality, which has become the cornerstone of knowledge-based but liberal educational systems, presented the cultivation of personality and a refining of individuality as a self-sufficient goal in itself. Under the impact of these “German Romantic ideas”, the cultivation of individuality, personality, and its enrichment became self-sufficient goals for Mill. The cult of individuality, of the individual who would be different from anyone else was to become a balance against the mechanical features of his own intellectual system. According to Mill, the cultivation of individuality is a balancing factor against the simplifying forces of associative mechanics. From a historical point of view, another important conclusion of Mill (1859) is the cultivation of freedom: considering freedom as the most important value helps us to clear the barriers that restrict the cultivation of personality as an end in itself.
The Beethoven Syndrome: Hearing Music As Autobiography
By Mark Evan Bonds
Cult Of Individuality
Critics nevertheless continued to operate within the conceptual framework of rhetoric, for they persisted in judging the products of genius on the basis of their effect. Changing conceptions of genius and the self inevitably fostered a growing sense of individualism. The very word (along with its cognates) was itself an invention of the early nineteenth century. Its novelty lay not in the belief that each individual is unique, but rather that this uniqueness could be cultivated. The German ideal of Bildung—self-cultivation—is the most obvious of many late-Enlightenment manifestations of this newfound conviction. “Originality,” as the philosopher Charles Taylor puts it, became a “vocation,” and “expressive individuation” became “one of the cornerstones of modern culture.” This notion is so basic today, as Taylor points out, that “we barely notice it, and we find it hard to accept that it is such a recent idea in human history and would have been incomprehensible in earlier times.” Somewhat paradoxically, the cult of individuality encouraged a concurrent premise of universality, by which the experience of any one individual could now (at least in theory) hold the key to unlocking the mystery of the human condition in general. The universal self, in other words, could be found in the individual self. This concept of universal individuality had enormous consequences for the arts: the artist was no longer simply the creator of a distinctive style or manner but now a potentially unique source of knowledge, with implications for all. As August Wilhelm Schlegel put it in 1808: Where, then should the artist seek his sublime mistress, creative nature, in order to consult with her, as it were, given that she is not preserved in any external phenomenon? He can find it in his own interiority, in the center of his being through spiritual intuition: there alone and nowhere else. Astrologers called man a microcosm, a small universe, which can be justified philosophically quite well. . . . What determines the degree of the artist’s genius and puts him in a position to portray a universe within the universe is the clarity, the force, the fullness, the all-encompassing nature with which the universe is reflected in a human spirit, and with which this reflection is in turn mirrored within him. One could therefore define art as nature, transfigured and condensed for our contemplation through the processive medium of a consummate spirit.