Individual

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1. WHAT IS THE INDIVIDUAL?

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An individual is that which exists as a distinct entity. Individuality (or self-hood) is the state or quality of being an individual; particularly of being a person separate from other people and possessing their own needs or goals, rights and responsibilities. The exact definition of an individual is important in the fields of biology, law, and philosophy.

From the 15th century and earlier (and also today within the fields of statistics and metaphysics) individual meant “indivisible”, typically describing any numerically singular thing, but sometimes meaning “a person”. From the 17th century on, individual indicates separateness, as in individualism.

Although individuality and individualism are commonly considered to mature with age/time and experience/wealth, a sane adult human being is usually considered by the state as an “individual person” in law, even if the person denies individual culpability (“I followed instructions”). An individual person is accountable for their actions/decisions/instructions, subject to prosecution in both national and international law, from the time that they have reached age of majority, often though not always more or less coinciding with the granting of voting rights, tax and military duties/ individual right to bear arms (protected only under certain constitutions). In line with hierarchy, ultimate individual human reward for success and responsibility for failure is nonetheless found at the top of human society

in International law:

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

in American law:

A natural person is a human being. A legal person is an entity such as a company, which is regarded in law as having its own ‘legal personality’.

The Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of Law states: A “natural person” is “a human being as distinguished from person (as a corporation) created by operation of law. A 1910 legal dictionary states: “Individual: As a noun, this term denotes a single person as distinguished from a group or class, and also, very commonly, a private or natural person as distinguished from a partnership, corporation, or association.”

In Buddhism, the concept of the individual lies in anatman, or “no-self.” According to anatman, the individual is really a series of interconnected processes that, working together, give the appearance of being a single, separated whole. In this way, anatman, together with anicca, resembles a kind of bundle theory. Instead of an atomic, indivisible self distinct from reality, the individual in Buddhism is understood as an interrelated part of an ever-changing, impermanent universe.

Early empiricists such as Ibn Tufail in early 12th century Islamic Spain, and John Locke in late 17th century England, introduced the idea of the individual as a tabula rasa (“blank slate”), shaped from birth by experience and education. This ties into the idea of the liberty and rights of the individual, society as a social contract between rational individuals, and the beginnings of individualism as a doctrine.

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel regarded history as the gradual evolution of Mind as it tests its own concepts against the external world. Each time the mind applies its concepts to the world, the concept is revealed to be only partly true, within a certain context; thus the mind continually revises these incomplete concepts so as to reflect a fuller reality (commonly known as the process of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis). The individual comes to rise above their own particular viewpoint, and grasps that they are a part of a greater whole insofar as they are bound to family, a social context, and/or a political order.

With the rise of existentialism, Søren Kierkegaard rejected Hegel’s notion of the individual as subordinated to the forces of history. Instead, he elevated the individual’s subjectivity and capacity to choose their own fate. Later Existentialists built upon this notion. Friedrich Nietzsche, for example, examines the individual’s need to define his/her own self and circumstances in his concept of the will to power and the heroic ideal of the Übermensch. The individual is also central to Sartre’s philosophy, which emphasizes individual authenticity, responsibility, and free will. In both Sartre and Nietzsche (and in Nikolai Berdyaev), the individual is called upon to create their own values, rather than rely on external, socially imposed codes of morality.

Ayn Rand’s Objectivism regards every human as an independent, sovereign entity who possesses an inalienable right to their own life, a right derived from their nature as a rational being. Individualism and Objectivism hold that a civilized society, or any form of association, cooperation or peaceful coexistence among humans, can be achieved only on the basis of the recognition of individual rights — and that a group, as such, has no rights other than the individual rights of its members. The principle of individual rights is the only moral base of all groups or associations. Since only an individual man or woman can possess rights, the expression “individual rights” is a redundancy (which one has to use for purposes of clarification in today’s intellectual chaos), but the expression “collective rights” is a contradiction in terms. Individual rights are not subject to a public vote; a majority has no right to vote away the rights of a minority; the political function of rights is precisely to protect minorities from oppression by majorities (and the smallest minority on earth is the individual).

In biology, the question of the individual is related to the definition of an organism, which is an important question in biology and philosophy of biology, despite there having been little work devoted explicitly to this question. An individual organism is not the only kind of individual that is considered as a “unit of selection”. Genes, genomes, or groups may function as individual units.

Asexual reproduction occurs in some colonial organisms so that the individuals are genetically identical. Such a colony is called a genet, and an individual in such a population is referred to as a ramet. The colony, rather than the individual, functions as a unit of selection. In other colonial organisms the individuals may be closely related to one another but differ as a result of sexual reproduction.

Philosophically, “individuation” expresses the general idea of how a thing is identified as an individual thing that “is not something else”. This includes how an individual person is held to be distinct from other elements in the world and how a person is distinct from other persons. By the seventeenth century, philosophers began to associate the question of individuation or what brings about individuality at any one time with the question of identity or what constitutes sameness at different points in time.

In Jungian psychology, also called analytical psychology, individuation is the process where the individual self develops out of an undifferentiated unconscious – seen as a developmental psychic process during which innate elements of personality, the components of the immature psyche, and the experiences of the person’s life become, if the process is more or less successful, integrated over time into a well-functioning whole. Other psychoanalytic theorists describe it as the stage where an individual transcends group attachment and narcissistic self-absorption.

The media industry has begun using the term individuation to denote new printing and online technologies that permit mass customization of the contents of a newspaper, a magazine, a broadcast program, or a website so that its contents match each individual user’s unique interests. This differs from the traditional mass-media practice of producing the same contents for all readers, viewers, listeners, or online users.

Two quantum entangled particles cannot be understood independently. Two or more states in quantum superposition, e.g., as in Schrödinger’s cat being simultaneously dead and alive, is mathematically not the same as assuming the cat is in an individual alive state with 50% probability. The Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle says that complementary variables, such as position and momentum, cannot both be precisely known – in some sense, they are not individual variables. A natural criterion of individuality has been suggested.

For Schopenhauer the principium individuationis constituted of time and space, being the ground of multiplicity. In his view, the mere difference in location suffices to make two systems different, with each of the two states having its own real physical state, independent of the state of the other.

This view influenced Einstein. Schrödinger put the Schopenhaurian label on a folder of papers in his files “Collection of Thoughts on the physical Principium individuationis.”[9]

According to Jungian psychology, individuation (German: Individuation) is a process of psychological integration. “In general, it is the process by which individual beings are formed and differentiated [from other human beings]; in particular, it is the development of the psychological individual as a being distinct from the general, collective psychology.”

Individuation is a process of transformation whereby the personal and collective unconscious are brought into consciousness (e.g., by means of dreams, active imagination, or free association) to be assimilated into the whole personality. It is a completely natural process necessary for the integration of the psyche. Individuation has a holistic healing effect on the person, both mentally and physically.

In addition to Jung’s theory of complexes, his theory of the individuation process forms conceptions of an unconscious filled with mythic images, a non-sexual libido, the general types of extraversion and introversion, the compensatory and prospective functions of dreams, and the synthetic and constructive approaches to fantasy formation and utilization.

“The symbols of the individuation process . . . mark its stages like milestones, prominent among them for Jungians being the shadow, the wise old man . . . and lastly the anima in man and the animus in woman.” Thus, “There is often a movement from dealing with the persona at the start . . . to the ego at the second stage, to the shadow as the third stage, to the anima or animus, to the Self as the final stage. Some would interpose the Wise Old Man and the Wise Old Woman as spiritual archetypes coming before the final step of the Self.”

In L’individuation psychique et collective, Gilbert Simondon developed a theory of individual and collective individuation in which the individual subject is considered as an effect of individuation rather than a cause. Thus, the individual atom is replaced by a never-ending ontological process of individuation.

Simondon also conceived of “pre-individual fields” which make individuation possible. Individuation is an ever-incomplete process, always leaving a “pre-individual” left over, which makes possible future individuations. Furthermore, individuation always creates both an individual subject and a collective subject, which individuate themselves concurrently. Like Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Simondon believed that the individuation of being cannot be grasped except by a correlated parallel and reciprocal individuation of knowledge.

2. WHAT IS THE ESSENTIAL DIALECTIC OF THE INDIVIDUAL?

The Essential Dialectic of the Individual is:

{Sense-Consciousness ⇆ Consciousness-Self ⇅ Self-Self} ↻ Consciousness-Consciousness

3. WHAT IS THE COMPLETE DIALECTIC OF THE INDIVIDUAL?

The Complete Dialectic of Individual is:

{Consciousness ⇆ Self-Consciousness ⇅ Reason} ↻ Phenomenology-Consciousness

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4. WHAT IS THE EQUIVALENCY DIALECTIC OF THE INDIVIDUAL?

The Equivalency Dialectic of Individual is:

{Universal ⇆ Particular ⇅ Absolute} ↻ Individual

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