posted on June 07, 2013 18:29
It can be described as a framework where individuals possess the ability to personally make their own choices and take actions. This is not unconstrained choice—for that is merely anarchy. Rather it is the ability to make uncoerced choices, to the extent that is possible within a society. This is freedom. There are several aspects to this framework. The first is the ability for an individual to make their own decisions. There is no constraint as to the things one may make decisions about. On the other hand, there is also an acknowledgement that one’s decision must not impose upon another’s freedom. In this system it is the individual which matters most, and government exists only to ensure that equal liberty is maintained across all individuals.
Plato’s Parmenides closes with the following thought, “Then if we were to say, to sum up, ‘if one is not, nothing is.’” However, we exist. Therefore, as something is, is there not a one? The basis for individualism comes from the divine revelations contained within the Pentateuch and later the Gospels, and provides explanations for the three basic philosophical areas of existence, morality, and knowledge. It recognizes our Creator, who He is, and that He is the cause of all that exists. He has given us His Laws, which provide a basis for morality because He is good. Finally, man alone in all of creation was given His image, an inner image, our mind and ability to reason.
In Deuteronomy, the Israelites elected leaders to act as judges among the tribes and clans. They were elected to provide justice, using His Law and law grounded in the moral basis he provided—natural law. Justice is the virtue where each individual is given their due, but justice is based only on what is observable. There is a dimension within us where His Law governs, and this sets the tone for the outer dimension as to how we are to act towards each other. Natural law, and the human law we create, lie within His Law and only govern our relationships toward each other, as man cannot read what is in another’s heart. Only His Creator can do that. This can be depicted as follows:
Theology and philosophy both attempt to answer the same questions, however, they do so from a different perspective. We will use both philosophy and theology when presenting topics from the individualist’s perspective. The beauty of this framework is that even if you do not believe the framework still applies. It includes you. How awesome is that? However, I would argue that if you do not believe that it is extremely difficult for a society to maintain this framework over the long run – and perhaps that is one of the problems that we face today.
There are at least two levels within individualism. The first level, briefly outlined above, relates to individuals as separate units. The second concerns a group of individuals which make up a whole. This group of individuals must form ‘a people’. According to Scipio, for a people to exist requires two things. First, the individuals must be bound together by a mutual recognition of rights. Second, that there must be a mutual cooperation among the individuals to promote the common good. I would add that there also needs to be a mutually recognized set of obligations in conjunction with the recognized rights.
The state still has a significant role within this framework, but it is subservient to that of the individual’s which it supports. The next entry will outline some of the specific concepts and notions within individualism.