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The Paradox of Individualism Part 2

The Paradox of Individualism Part 2 

By Dennis Loo (2/23/16)

Back on May 28, 2014 I published an article here entitled "The Paradox of Individualism." I am going to spell this particular paradox out more explicitly than I do in the article so that the discussion and thinking about this can go on on a higher level:

If a person says, on the one hand, that we are free as individuals to do as we please and that the character of systems are a product exclusively or mainly of individual decisions rather than mainly due to system logic, and then says, on the other hand, that there is this immutable thing called "human nature" and that nature is to be selfish, then the logical results of this line of reasoning are two-fold:

1) things will supposedly never change and systems that changed over the course of human history (hunting and gathering societies, domestication of animals and planting of crops, slavery, feudalism, capitalism, socialism) weren't really a change and are all essentially the same (e.g., women are still men's property as men can do with them whatever they want with no repercussions and blacks are still enslaved and lots of people have no rights) because "human nature" is unchanging and the notion of any progress is an illusion; BUT

2) individuals all have free will so they are "free" to express themselves any way they want - as long as what they want to be is selfish

This last point reminds me of Henry Ford's famous statement about the Model T: "They can have any color they want as long as it's black."

One and two are contradictory positions because you can't have it both ways. If society is the way that it is and systems are the way that they are because of "human nature," then individuals don't have free will, including the "free will" to be social beings whose primary characteristic is mutual reciprocity and taking others into consideration, having empathy for others, and so on. These latter characteristics are what necessarily characterize the vast majority of people's behavior, including even many sociopaths who know that they have to pretend at least to care about others in order to pass as a normal human being. 

If, on the other hand, individuals have free will, then society and systems are not the way they are because of something unchanging called "human nature" because then individuals would be free to act as they wish, except that (because of point 1) they are not free to act except according to their supposedly inherent nature as selfish individuals.

If you're going to claim that individuals have free will then you cannot at the same time claim that all individuals are forced to act out their "real" and unchanging nature as selfish individuals. 

The reason individualism as an ideology or set of ideas is paradoxical and wrong is because it doesn't accurately account for why most people act the way they do most of the time and it doesn't take into account social dynamics which includes the disproportionate effect of "social proof" (look it up). It doesn't recognize that systems and individuals operate according to different logic and that systems take precedence over individuals overall. 

If what I have set forth is wrong, then all of sociology does not deserve to exist as a science. 

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Elaine Brower 2

Elaine Brower of World Can't Wait speaking at the NYC Stop the War on Iran rally 2/4/12