individual vs collective

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Re: individual vs collective

Post by Greta » November 8th, 2020, 5:27 pm

GE Morton wrote:
November 8th, 2020, 11:58 am
Greta wrote:
November 8th, 2020, 12:02 am

I enjoyed your post, GE, but your last paragraph misread collectivism, which does not be about totalitarianism, but cooperation (consider the US space programs during the Cold War). Collectivism comes in various models that differ in how much they use the carrot (US 1970s) or stick (China).
Collectivism is not always totalitarian, but it always involves force. Cooperation achieved with a "stick" is slavery, by definition.
Not necessarily. It is better to convince than coerce, ethically and functionally. Broadly, motivated people tend work better than those under coercion.

Ideally, convincing people is done with reason and logic. However, once emotions are engaged, reason and logic are pushed aside - a fact not lost on politicians, lobbyists, journalists and programmers of Russian bots. It appears to me that societies that are large enough to be international power brokers are too unwieldy to adequately maintain their people and infrastructure.

Some of your comments about the lack of common concerns between fellow nationals remind me of Rand and Thatcher.
The Iron Lady wrote:They are casting their problems at society. And, you know, there's no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look after themselves first. It is our duty to look after ourselves and then, also, to look after our neighbours.
As as aside, the quote seems dated now with the rise of automation and a clear trend away from looking after one another. The latter is a sign that a society has become large - where group members treat other members as out-group.

It's true that issues are usually more local but there are still many shared federal concerns too, aside from war and pandemics. Most are, however, not exclusively federal issues, but those which require coordination, eg. rail gauges. Also, there will be coordination between fed and state to utilise economies of scale.

Collectives vary in both integration and constancy. Some collectives are continuous and tight, eg. families, friends, churches. Some tighten and loosen periodically, or in response to events. Some are temporary, eg. pandemic response team. How consistent and integrated must a collective be to be termed a "collective"?

I appreciate the wish for people not to have others' demands forced upon them, but that is what is required for large societies to work. Large societies are not for the individual people, only for the large collectives within - who also happen to be the ones in charge.

Large societies do not exist for the good of their people, only some people. A big difference. So companies tend to have few qualms about replacing local workers with machines or cheap labour overseas. At the top echelons, the little people don't matter, only their functions, not that this functionalism is new. The same attitude existed for warriors in indigenous societies as it does for today's endangered wage slaves.

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Re: individual vs collective

Post by GE Morton » November 8th, 2020, 7:46 pm

Count Lucanor wrote:
November 8th, 2020, 2:59 pm
GE Morton wrote:
November 8th, 2020, 1:47 pm


Yes. Individuality makes no sense, and would be undefined, in the absence of a social context. But sociability does not entail collectivism.
I does not entail collectivism, as much as it doesn't entail individualism (social atomism).
True. Both terms presuppose a social setting.

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Re: individual vs collective

Post by GE Morton » November 8th, 2020, 8:02 pm

Ecurb wrote:
November 8th, 2020, 12:04 pm

Good post. However, the notion of a "collective consiousness" in small societies is a stretch. "Consciousness" (a difficult concept) cannot be "collective". Of course it is true that small societies offer little access to diverse points of view or sources of information. That (rather than "collective consciousness") probably explains the lack of technological innovation. It is also true that there was little diversity in education and economic or political roles. Again, that helps explain the continuity of culture in those societies. Specialists are innovators. Our complex, diverse society thirves on specialization, producing both innovation and alienation.
I agree. "Collective consciousness" is understood in various ways; it was a term of convenience, and should be taken somewhat metaphorically to describe the insularity of tribal cultures.

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Re: individual vs collective

Post by GE Morton » November 8th, 2020, 11:56 pm

thrasymachus wrote:
November 8th, 2020, 4:49 pm

To say tribal life is is wired on the on hand and unattainable on the other put you in a precarious position; because then you proceed to say all attempts to even substitute are bound to failure.

Your trouble, as I see it, is that you identify the modern attempts at tribal life with only cults and totalitarian failures. If this is instinctually hardwired, then abandoning it is out of the question, for it is bound to human fulfillment. You would have us living lives of alienation, and this is exactly what philosophy wants to overcome.
It cannot be overcome. But it doesn't have to be, because nearly everyone has a "tribal life," and indeed several of them --- one's circles of family, friends, colleagues, and other affinity groups. Hence most of us do not feel alienated. But expecting all of the thousands or millions of strangers who share our territory or polity to behave as one big affinity group is unrealistic; it cannot happen. It is that expectation which drives some to cults or totalitarian movements.
Or, perhaps consider Hirsch's Cultural Literacy idea: the one thing that threatens the social fabric is difference. So, says Hirsch, we need to assimilate immigrants more comprehensively to be more comfortable and feel less threatened by others. Unfortunately, this plays out in real circumstances in terms of intolerance of others and an odious sense of privilege and superiority and the so on, but the idea is not altogether wrong minded.
Yes indeed. Hidden behind the benign term "assimilate" is some unstated program for "converting" them from their native folkways to ours, for making them more like us (as the US government sought to do for over a century with Native Americans). Assimilation always entails some sort of oppression. But we don't need to "assimilate" others whose cultural backgrounds differ from ours; we only need to tolerate them and respect their rights.
Hmm, I guess my thinking comes to this: the issue really comes down to whether or not one feels threatened by others in society, and whether or not others can affirm who you are by talking and thinking and valuing as you do. Call this a tribal necessity, if you like. to me, it's just comfort. My cat an I are miles apart in our "thinking" but we are quite content to be with each other. I dismiss Hirsch and I dismiss tribal instinct. I think the we the self is malleable in the extreme on this point.
I agree. We will always be more comfortable with others "like us" in certain respects (which differ from person to person). But there is no need to feel threatened by others merely because they are "not like us." And no need to try to change them.

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Re: individual vs collective

Post by Wossname » November 9th, 2020, 8:33 am

Pattern-chaser wrote:
November 8th, 2020, 12:42 pm
Collectives are no more "innately against" individuals than individuals are "innately against" societies. As Greta says, individualism and collectivism exist in all societies. More than that, it is the balance between the two that forms a fundamental part of any political philosophy.

I agree with you here. Society is a collective enterprise but it need not fully embrace collectivism. A collective that requires total subservience to the group is a tyranny. Individuals or small groups who have the power to exploit the larger group for their own ends is another form of tyranny. Balance is needed. Where that balance lies or should lie is the grist of modern politics.

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Re: individual vs collective

Post by Terrapin Station » November 9th, 2020, 1:52 pm

In my opinion, ideally we should want to be cooperative individuals.

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Re: individual vs collective

Post by GE Morton » November 9th, 2020, 4:08 pm

Greta wrote:
November 8th, 2020, 5:27 pm
GE Morton wrote:
November 8th, 2020, 11:58 am
Collectivism is not always totalitarian, but it always involves force. Cooperation achieved with a "stick" is slavery, by definition.
Not necessarily. It is better to convince than coerce, ethically and functionally. Broadly, motivated people tend work better than those under coercion.

Ideally, convincing people is done with reason and logic. However, once emotions are engaged, reason and logic are pushed aside - a fact not lost on politicians, lobbyists, journalists and programmers of Russian bots.
All members of any large society will never be convinced of anything. The cooperation of the contrarians and refuseniks can only be obtained via force. Which raises the moral question previously posed: Under what circumstances is one moral agent justified in exerting force against another?
Some of your comments about the lack of common concerns between fellow nationals remind me of Rand and Thatcher.
The Iron Lady wrote:They are casting their problems at society. And, you know, there's no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look after themselves first. It is our duty to look after ourselves and then, also, to look after our neighbours.
That oft-quoted statement of Thatcher's --- "there is no such thing as society" --- is hyperbole, and literally false. A society is any group of creatures so situated as to be able to interact and cooperate, and who do cooperate, with at least some others, to at least some extent. So of course they exist. The point she was (probably) trying to make is that societies are not moral agents; only their members are. Hence "society" cannot be blamed for any particular problem, though some of its members may be.
It's true that issues are usually more local but there are still many shared federal concerns too, aside from war and pandemics. Most are, however, not exclusively federal issues, but those which require coordination, eg. rail gauges.
Yes. There are many collectives within any given modern society. But the society as whole is not one. The standardization of rail gauges, BTW, at least in the US, came about though voluntary agreement among the early railroads. Most of the other standards followed in other industries (e.g., electrical generation and wiring, building codes, bolt and screw sizes, lumber dimensions, etc., etc.), came about similarly.
Collectives vary in both integration and constancy. Some collectives are continuous and tight, eg. families, friends, churches. Some tighten and loosen periodically, or in response to events. Some are temporary, eg. pandemic response team. How consistent and integrated must a collective be to be termed a "collective"?
Consistency and integration are not the criteria. Any group of people who share a goal and work cooperatively to pursue it can be called a collective.
I appreciate the wish for people not to have others' demands forced upon them, but that is what is required for large societies to work.

It only works for those doing the forcing; not for those forced. And, again, it raises that moral issue.
Large societies do not exist for the good of their people, only some people. A big difference. So companies tend to have few qualms about replacing local workers with machines or cheap labour overseas. At the top echelons, the little people don't matter, only their functions, not that this functionalism is new. The same attitude existed for warriors in indigenous societies as it does for today's endangered wage slaves.
Societies exist because all of its members agree --- as evidenced by their remaining within it --- that living in a social setting is preferable to a hermetic, solitary existence; that it offers more opportunities for improving their own welfare and that of those close to them. For all people those are the people who "matter" the most; the millions of strangers who also happen to inhabit the territory "matter" much less.

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Re: individual vs collective

Post by Greta » November 9th, 2020, 9:24 pm

GE Morton wrote:
November 9th, 2020, 4:08 pm
Greta wrote:
November 8th, 2020, 5:27 pm

Not necessarily. It is better to convince than coerce, ethically and functionally. Broadly, motivated people tend work better than those under coercion.

Ideally, convincing people is done with reason and logic. However, once emotions are engaged, reason and logic are pushed aside - a fact not lost on politicians, lobbyists, journalists and programmers of Russian bots.
All members of any large society will never be convinced of anything. The cooperation of the contrarians and refuseniks can only be obtained via force. Which raises the moral question previously posed: Under what circumstances is one moral agent justified in exerting force against another?
The other question is whether it is possible to stop a group from exerting force without exerting force back? What we have today is the result of centuries of pushing and pulling in various directions. The issue is that, once you have laws, you either enforce them to some extent or accept anarchy.

GE Morton wrote:
November 9th, 2020, 4:08 pm
It's true that issues are usually more local but there are still many shared federal concerns too, aside from war and pandemics. Most are, however, not exclusively federal issues, but those which require coordination, eg. rail gauges.
Yes. There are many collectives within any given modern society. But the society as whole is not one. The standardization of rail gauges, BTW, at least in the US, came about though voluntary agreement among the early railroads. Most of the other standards followed in other industries (e.g., electrical generation and wiring, building codes, bolt and screw sizes, lumber dimensions, etc., etc.), came about similarly.
This is key. Most of the time coercion is not necessary. However, there is a pretty strong moral and business case for centrally coordinated national action on pandemics, for instance, because they readily cross state boundaries, so gains in one region can easily be undone by irresponsible neighbours. It's the same issue as with vaccinations.

GE Morton wrote:
November 9th, 2020, 4:08 pm
I appreciate the wish for people not to have others' demands forced upon them, but that is what is required for large societies to work.
It only works for those doing the forcing; not for those forced. And, again, it raises that moral issue.
Since we can't please everyone, we can either opt for some degree of government force or we opt for anarchy - which we agreed earlier always results in unaccountable power players, the untrammelled power resulting in more extreme coercion.

There is no good solution, of course. Societies have always experienced this tension between individuals and collectives. Large collectives tend to be stronger than individuals and smaller groups, so size is favoured in cultural selection, hence the current global situation of gigantic nations and states. Nations did not federate for ideology, but for power. The bigger the nation, the more powerful it tends to be, so there is a long history of bipartisanship. Bipartisanship naturally erodes as nations become larger, for the same reason fifty pet cats are harder to keep in check than one.

Where we differ here is that you see the individual v collective as a moral issue. I don't see any more moral component in naturally conflicting interests than in volcano eruptions. Stuff happens. In the face of titanic natural phenomena we can do minor things, eg. we can flee a volcano or we can respond to the constant stream of socio-econo-techno-political exigencies, but ultimately it seems that Mother Earth and Human Nature (note caps) will be effecting the most profound changes.

The kind of loose determinism I think is in play can be illustrated with a thought experiment. Consider a global pathway through human history that would not at some stage result in fossil fuel companies being amongst the largest and most powerful entities in the world. Given the balance of available resources and human wants, needs and capabilities, it was inevitable.

GE Morton wrote:
November 9th, 2020, 4:08 pm
Large societies do not exist for the good of their people, only some people. A big difference. So companies tend to have few qualms about replacing local workers with machines or cheap labour overseas. At the top echelons, the little people don't matter, only their functions, not that this functionalism is new. The same attitude existed for warriors in indigenous societies as it does for today's endangered wage slaves.
Societies exist because all of its members agree --- as evidenced by their remaining within it --- that living in a social setting is preferable to a hermetic, solitary existence; that it offers more opportunities for improving their own welfare and that of those close to them. For all people those are the people who "matter" the most; the millions of strangers who also happen to inhabit the territory "matter" much less.
If all members roughly agree on nationhood, that makes them a collective. Thus, they will agree on rules and coerce those who break the laws. Yet how many of us care if someone from a nearby city dies, let alone someone from another state. Even a suburb is too big for people to care about all denizens. Family, friends, maybe a few workmates and acquaintances are as large as our circle of care expands. As you note, the further out that circle of care expands, the more diluted the care.

The exception is, of course, ideology. For instance, I like the Scandinavian approach of charging high taxes and ensuring a high standard of childhood care and education. To me, that makes sense: a stitch in time, saves nine. The problems averted in youth, and the intelligence fostered, pay for themselves in not just dollars, but improved social order, happiness, employability, reduced crime, reduced prison population, and so on. Yet others do not see the cost-benefit situation the same way.

The point here is that the care and education of someone else's child is ostensibly none of my business. Yet, if that child later on, through neglect or poor education, embarks on a criminal career, that reduces everyone's standard of living in the young person's vicinity, eg. greater risk of being robbed or assaulted.

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Re: individual vs collective

Post by Gertie » November 10th, 2020, 4:27 pm

GE Morton wrote:
November 7th, 2020, 10:24 pm
Greta wrote:
November 7th, 2020, 8:53 pm
My impression is that individualism and collectivism are features in all societies. The balance between individualism and collectivism, varies both between and within all societies, and the balance constantly changes somewhat over time.
That is essentially true, but there is some terminological confusion going on here. Modern, civilized societies are not collectives (though there are many collectives within them). They are randomly-assembled groups of unrelated, independent, autonomous individuals who have no natural bonds, no shared personal histories, no common interests, and no a priori obligations to one another. It's members are all individualized, by virtue of inherent differences in natural endowments and exposure to an infinite (practically speaking) variety of social and environmental influences.

I posted this in another thread a while back:

------------------
A fundamental choice when constructing any social theory is that between two different sociological assumptions, which we can call atomism and organicism. It is an assumption concerning the nature of the relationship between the individual and the society of which he is a member. If you go wrong at this point, you end up with a theory that is irrelevant, that describes (or prescribes) a society that does not (and perhaps cannot) exist.

Homo sapiens, if the anthropologists are right, has been on Earth for about 200,000 years. Until the last 10,000 or so of those years, he lived in small tribal villages, consisting of a few dozen to a few hundred members — small enough that all of its members knew all of the others; indeed, had known each other all of their lives. They midwifed one another’s births, tended one another’s illnesses, shared one another’s possessions, and married one another’s cousins. They knew and trusted one another, and had dense, intimate relationships among one another. They needed no formal ethics nor any political structure to govern their affairs, simply because each was and had always been a part of every other’s life.

The organic model is a good approximation of the structure of such societies. But with the rise of civilization — societies characterized by cities — that model began to break down. People found themselves living in communities in which most of the people around them were strangers, with whom they had no familial or other personal ties, and often very little in common. People began to take notice of the differences among them — differences in coloration and bone structure, in choices of dress, in temperament and mannerisms, in interests and tastes, in the habits and practices of daily life, and eventually even in religion and language. They acquired individuality.

In tribal societies there is no free will, and no individuality. All the myriad choices we today are constantly obliged to make are prescribed by the tribe; they’re part of the tribal consciousness, codified in tribal tradition, the “folkways” of the tribe. How one dresses, what one eats, where one lives, how one earns a living, the choosing of mates, the Gods to be worshipped and the rituals for worshipping them, all the petty rules governing the tasks of daily life and the “standard methods” for performing them, are absorbed from the tribe, without question and without the need for thought.

There is no individuality to speak of in these groups because all members have known and interacted only with each other since birth, and they are locked into a resonance. There is no politics, no debate, no alternate point of view on any matter — and as a result, almost no innovation. Tribal cultures can remain all but static for thousands of years, with only a slight refinement in spear points to indicate any time has passed at all. Australian Aborigines, for example, when encountered by Europeans in the 18th century, were making didgeridoos indistinguishable from those made 2000 years earlier. In 40,000 years they never added another instrument to their musical technology.

That resonance, however, cannot be maintained in larger groups, because the required intimacy is impossible. The group becomes too large for everyone to know and interact constantly with everyone else; hence one soon finds oneself in the company of strangers — individuals with whom they’ve had no prior contact and whose habits, preferences, and beliefs cannot be predicted in advance. And because they’ve all been subject to different combinations of influences, they begin to differ in all the ways indicated above.

The breakdown of that resonance represented a huge transformation, not merely of the social structure, but of the human psyche. The traditional tribal control mechanisms, based on age and personal stature, gave way to formal systems of governance — politics. The tribesman’s intuitive sense of right and wrong, which derived primarily from his personal ties to and commonality with his fellows, gave way to formal systems of ethics. Indeed, ethics, like law, is a code for regulating behavior among strangers — among people who have no personal interest in one another’s welfare. As Jared Diamond pointed out in Guns, Germs, and Steel, “With the rise of chiefdoms around 7,500 years ago, people had to learn, for the first time in history, how to encounter strangers regularly without attempting to kill them.”

Every utopia conceived in the last 5000 years has been an attempt to recapture the tribal consciousness. The Garden of Eden story embodies this “fall from Grace” — the loss of mankind’s oneness with God and Nature, his “alienation,” his exile into a world of strife and temptation, where he seems to have free will and must constantly choose between good and evil, between this course of action or that, relying only on his own judgement, and must suffer the consequences when his judgments go awry.

All these laments of lost innocence and alienation are atavisms, psychic echoes of our tribal heritage, the social form honed over the course of our 3 million year primate history. All of our fellow primates still practice that form, and until the rise of civilization, so did all humans. It would be surprising were our brains not adapted to that social form. They have evolved syncronously with that form, and thus may be expected to function optimally in that environment, in many ways. So it is not surprising that we miss that form, or that we long to regain it. We are ducks out of water, trying to find our way back to the pond.

We remain “wired” for tribal life. We long for it, unattainable though it may be. And often we try to recreate or or substitute for it, by immersing ourselves in cults or joining in totalitarian movements. The cult seeks to insulate itself from the “society of strangers;” the totalitarian movement seeks to subdue it and impose a tribal-like conformity, a synthetic common identity and purpose — usually resulting in much bloodshed.

But civilized humans are individuated; they are no longer interchangeable instances or exemplars of a tribal identity, and cannot be forced into that mold. That individuality is what drives the dynamism of civilized societies; what enables it to change more in 100 years than tribal societies might in 10,000. It is what has permitted humans to overcome the famines, diseases, disasters, and other idiosyncrasies of Nature which beset them and all their primate cousins for millions of years, and to transform the natural world to better meet their needs and better satisfy their ever-evolving and proliferating desires.

What worked for pre-civilized societies never worked very well, and cannot work at all for the unrelated, individuated members of civilized societies. There is no longer a collective consciousness, and in communities of more than a few hundred members, not even any common goals. Modern societies are meta-communities — public venues for personal interactions. They provide opportunities for individuals to forge relationships with others, but supply no content for those relationships. They are like public playing fields; they offer space and seating, but each team brings its own gear, its own personnel, and its own game with its own rules. The house rules are few and general: “No reservations accepted: first-come, first served,” “Do not intrude on others’ games,” and “Pick up your litter.”

"Collectivism" is an atavistic social/political doctrine which seeks to resurrect the organic model of human society and superimpose it on modern societies by force. Every totalitarian movement that emerged in the bloody 20th century began with some version of the organic sociolological assumption. But that premise is false, destructive, and obsolete.
To say chunks of this is 'speculative' would be putting it politely.

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Re: individual vs collective

Post by GE Morton » November 10th, 2020, 9:55 pm

Gertie wrote:
November 10th, 2020, 4:27 pm

To say chunks of this is 'speculative' would be putting it politely.
Which chunks?

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Re: individual vs collective

Post by Pattern-chaser » November 11th, 2020, 9:07 am

GE Morton wrote:
November 10th, 2020, 9:55 pm
Gertie wrote:
November 10th, 2020, 4:27 pm

To say chunks of this is 'speculative' would be putting it politely.
Which chunks?
The ones where you blithely assume that, the bigger a society gets, the less social it becomes?
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Re: individual vs collective

Post by Gertie » November 11th, 2020, 9:56 am

GE

Please provide citations for the following -


In tribal societies there is no free will, and no individuality.

There is no individuality to speak of in these groups because all members have known and interacted only with each other since birth, and they are locked into a resonance. There is no politics, no debate, no alternate point of view on any matter

The breakdown of that resonance represented a huge transformation, not merely of the social structure, but of the human psyche.

The traditional tribal control mechanisms, based on age and personal stature

Indeed, ethics, like law, is a code for regulating behavior among strangers — among people who have no personal interest in one another’s welfare.

Every utopia conceived in the last 5000 years has been an attempt to recapture the tribal consciousness.

The Garden of Eden story embodies this “fall from Grace” — the loss of mankind’s oneness with God and Nature, his “alienation,” his exile into a world of strife and temptation, where he seems to have free will and must constantly choose between good and evil, between this course of action or that, relying only on his own judgement, and must suffer the consequences when his judgments go awry.

All these laments of lost innocence and alienation are atavisms, psychic echoes of our tribal heritage

But civilized humans are individuated; they are no longer interchangeable instances or exemplars of a tribal identity

There is no longer a collective consciousness

and in communities of more than a few hundred members, not even any common goals.



You string together cherry picked facts, more and less reasonable assumptions and total speculation about things no-one can know, to create a narrative driven by your Libertarian, individualist ideological bias, and to give a quasi academic gloss to your facile prefered conclusion -


"Collectivism" is an atavistic social/political doctrine which seeks to resurrect the organic model of human society and superimpose it on modern societies by force. Every totalitarian movement that emerged in the bloody 20th century began with some version of the organic sociolological assumption. But that premise is false, destructive, and obsolete. ''

Your story goes, collective living destroys our sense of identity and is stagnant, individualism is dynamic and this allows us to thrive in the modern world - cos... cavemen had a collective consciousness we long for. Laying the groundwork for stuff like ''Hence paying taxes is slavery!''

It's the sort of thing Jordan Peterson gets away with.

When you provide citations, we can get into a discussion about the merits of the argument you're making. Until you do, it's just a slippery sales spiel for libertarianism as far as I'm concerned.

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Re: individual vs collective

Post by Pattern-chaser » November 11th, 2020, 12:32 pm

Gertie wrote:
November 11th, 2020, 9:56 am
...it's just a slippery sales spiel for libertarianism as far as I'm concerned.
In fairness, I think we should bear in mind that the extreme individualism that goes with Libertarianism, to an American, is like air. No-one consciously thinks of it, but it's universal. It's so universal that it is easy to assume - quite unconsciously - that all forms of collectivism are bad, wrong and misguided, and to phrase oneself accordingly. I agree with your summary, but I can see how an American might not even have noticed what stood out clearly to you and me.
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Re: individual vs collective

Post by GE Morton » November 11th, 2020, 1:35 pm

Pattern-chaser wrote:
November 11th, 2020, 9:07 am

The ones where you blithely assume that, the bigger a society gets, the less social it becomes?
Methinks you're laboring under a faulty understanding of the meaning of the word "social." All societies are "social," by definition. "Society" and "social" have the same root.

But societies can have many forms and structures, depending upon the extent and nature of the relationships between their members. Check out the Wiki articles on "Society" and "Sociality":

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Society

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sociality

The point of the essay was that contemporary civilized societies do not have the same structure as tribal societies, and as a result the interactions and bonds between members range from frequent and strong to seldom (or none) to weak (or none).

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Re: individual vs collective

Post by GE Morton » November 11th, 2020, 10:55 pm

Greta wrote:
November 9th, 2020, 9:24 pm

The other question is whether it is possible to stop a group from exerting force without exerting force back? What we have today is the result of centuries of pushing and pulling in various directions. The issue is that, once you have laws, you either enforce them to some extent or accept anarchy.
I agree. As Kant noted, laws not enforced are pointless. But any use of force raises the moral question posed earlier: For what purposes, and under what circumstances, is force exerted by one moral agent against another justifiable? Your statement above hints at one answer: force is justified to resist force initiated against oneself or someone else. So enforcing laws prohibiting the initiation of force would presumably be justifiable. Are there any other circumstances where it is justifiable?
This is key. Most of the time coercion is not necessary. However, there is a pretty strong moral and business case for centrally coordinated national action on pandemics, for instance, because they readily cross state boundaries, so gains in one region can easily be undone by irresponsible neighbours. It's the same issue as with vaccinations.
That suggests another justification for the use of force --- to reduce or remove risks or threats of harms to some moral agents from the actions of other moral agents. Whether force is justified in those cases would (presumably) depend upon the magnitude and certainty of the risks and harms presented/anticipated.
There is no good solution, of course. Societies have always experienced this tension between individuals and collectives. Large collectives tend to be stronger than individuals and smaller groups, so size is favoured in cultural selection, hence the current global situation of gigantic nations and states. Nations did not federate for ideology, but for power. The bigger the nation, the more powerful it tends to be, so there is a long history of bipartisanship. Bipartisanship naturally erodes as nations become larger, for the same reason fifty pet cats are harder to keep in check than one.
Like humans, cats have minds of their own. They'll sometimes do what you ask, but only if it is coincides with their own interests.
Where we differ here is that you see the individual v collective as a moral issue. I don't see any more moral component in naturally conflicting interests than in volcano eruptions. Stuff happens. In the face of titanic natural phenomena we can do minor things, eg. we can flee a volcano or we can respond to the constant stream of socio-econo-techno-political exigencies, but ultimately it seems that Mother Earth and Human Nature (note caps) will be effecting the most profound changes.
Individual v. collective per se raises no moral issues. Individuals are the constituents of all collectives, and most collectives --- football teams, orchestras, business partnerships, gardening clubs, etc. --- function just fine, without any need for force and thus without raising any moral issues. The moral issues arise when some persons attempt to exert force against others who have not initiated or threatened force or harms in pursuit of some goal sought by the former.
If all members roughly agree on nationhood, that makes them a collective.
That is debatable. If we assume that "nationhood" merely means erecting a local government independent from the governments of distant powers, that desire, even if universal within that group, falls well short of making that group a collective. Or if it is so considered it is a collective only with respect to that universal goal (of securing/maintaining local independence). It implies no other common interest or purpose.

But in fact, there are always dissenters against any independence movement. Many American colonists moved to Canada when it appeared the revolutionaries would prevail against Great Britain. (The Canadian province of Ontario was settled largely by loyalist American expats).
The exception is, of course, ideology. For instance, I like the Scandinavian approach of charging high taxes and ensuring a high standard of childhood care and education. To me, that makes sense: a stitch in time, saves nine. The problems averted in youth, and the intelligence fostered, pay for themselves in not just dollars, but improved social order, happiness, employability, reduced crime, reduced prison population, and so on. Yet others do not see the cost-benefit situation the same way.
Well, whether such programs are the cause of the observed results is questionable. You need to compare the rates of crime, etc., in those countries before and after those programs were enacted. Societies more-or-less homogeneous are always more stable and have lower crime rates than those with high ethnic, religious, and cultural diversity.
The point here is that the care and education of someone else's child is ostensibly none of my business. Yet, if that child later on, through neglect or poor education, embarks on a criminal career, that reduces everyone's standard of living in the young person's vicinity, eg. greater risk of being robbed or assaulted.
Even assuming that neglect or poor education leads to a criminal career (keeping in mind that correlation is not causation), the question remains: Who should decide what level of risk (to oneself) is acceptable, and what mitigating it is worth --- the person at risk, or someone else? And, is Alfie justified in forcing Bruno to mitigate the risks to Alfie posed by Chauncey?

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