individual vs collective

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GE Morton
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Re: individual vs collective

Post by GE Morton » November 16th, 2020, 11:02 pm

Ecurb wrote:
November 16th, 2020, 8:30 pm

"Psychological egoism", as you describe it, means nothing more than that people voluntarily do what they want to do. Of course the interest, goals and values of an "agent" (do you mean a person?) are the interests, goals and values of that person. So what? How does understanding this help us understand human behavior? It doesn't.
Well, the question at hand in those exchanges was not understanding of human behavior, as such, but understanding the differences between different different forms of society and different social structures. But psychological egoism does offer at least a partial explanation of human behavior --- it accounts for the observable differences in the behaviors of different individuals in similar circumstances.
OK. IN that case we are all collectivists. Anyone who believes laws or taxes are reasonable is a collectivist (by that definition). Those darned collectivists think that the goal of regulating the flow of traffic justifies laws against running red lights, speeding, and driving the wrong way down one way streets. Then they actually have the temerity to use force to enforce those laws.
Oh, no. We are not all collectivists; there are anarchists among us, after all. But you're right in substance --- everyone who is not an anarchist can fairly be called a collectivist with respect to the goal of establishing and enforcing a rule of law. That goal is entailed by the meta-interest defined earlier: Everyone has an interest in satisfying their own interests. That is only possible if the society is governed by a rule of law. But it does not entail any other common interests, and thus the society is not a collective in any other respect. (It should be noted, however, that not everyone agrees that an orderly, peaceful society is only possible with a rule of law).
I tried to read your CAS article, but it was too boring, so I quit.
The CAS literature is extensive. I think you'd find familiarizing yourself with it worth doing. Nature presents us with many complex adaptive systems. A couple of the main contributors to it are Nobel winners.
Language (I'll grant) arises organically rather than in a planned manner. Nonetheless it is a collective enterprise; the "collective" must agree on the meaning of words and the grammar of sentences in order for language to be useful.
You continue to conflate "social" with "collective." A shared interest, a shared language, a shared belief, does not constitute the persons who share them as a collective. They are only a collective if they act cooperatively to pursue that interest or promote belief. Persons who speak a given language constitute a speech community, but are not a collective. Newton and Leibniz both had an interest in solving problems involving continuous but variable change, but did not work cooperatively to create calculus. They worked independently.

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Re: individual vs collective

Post by Jack D Ripper » November 16th, 2020, 11:14 pm

Ecurb wrote:
November 16th, 2020, 8:30 pm
GE Morton wrote:
November 16th, 2020, 4:00 pm


True; soldiers do not dive upon hand grenades in order to increase their happiness. "Happiness" is inapt term here, which is why I said, "or is satisfying in some other way." The premise there is "psychological egoism," not hedonism. People act as they do to satisfy some desire, achieve some goal of their own. Those goals and desires can extend well beyond one's personal welfare, to the welfare of others or advancement of a cause or obedience to a moral principle. Sometimes the latter can outrank the agent's personal welfare, even the value of his own life, in his value hierarchy. But they are nonetheless the interests, goals, values of that agent. Psychological egoism, so understood, is a truism.

.
"Psychological egoism", as you describe it, means nothing more than that people voluntarily do what they want to do. Of course the interest, goals and values of an "agent" (do you mean a person?) are the interests, goals and values of that person. So what? How does understanding this help us understand human behavior? It doesn't.

What you have there is a case where someone takes a position, it is proven wrong, but instead of admitting error, the position is given a new description, to pretend that it was right all along. And, as you state, here it becomes devoid of any significance at all. Which means, if he had intended that from the start, his whole project in introducing the expression was a total waste of time. So even if we believe him, what he has done is discredible.

Something similar is going on in the next bit as well, suggesting a pattern:

Ecurb wrote:
November 16th, 2020, 8:30 pm
(A collectivist is) Anyone who advocates any public policy which presumes some universal goal or interest which he claims overrides the demonstrable goals and interests of individuals, who may be forced (if necessary) to support it at a cost to their own goals and interests, ignores (or at least disregards) those latter.
OK. IN that case we are all collectivists. Anyone who believes laws or taxes are reasonbable is a collectivist (by that definition). Those darned collectivists think that the goal of regulating the flow of traffic justifies laws against running red lights, speeding, and driving the wrong way down one way streets. Then they actually have the temerity to use force to enforce those laws.

I tried to read your CAS article, but it was too boring, so I quit. Language (I'll grant) arises organically rather than in a planned manner. Nonetheless it is a collective enterprise; the "collective" must agree on the meaning of words and the grammar of sentences in order for language to be useful. Mathematicians are collectivists who agree that a universal goal or interest demands that mathematical proofs conform to specific rules of logic, definitions of terms, and meaning of symbols. They go so far as to flunk students who disagree, at which point the non-conformists have to join the army and get blown up by land mines in Afghanistan.

When words are redefined to be so broad that they cover everything, they generally become quite useless. But it is a way to avoid admitting error in a debate, to stretch words beyond normal use to cover up mistakes.

In this particular case, one can evade such an accusation and advocate anarchy, the total absence of government. One can claim (though it is doubtful that any could believe and consistently maintain their own claim) that people should not be forced to obey traffic lights or anything else. Aside from such a state of affairs being highly undesirable, such a state of affairs could never last, as someone would start to impose upon others and a government or governments would be created to fill the void (or another pre-existing government would take over the territory). One sees this in the world whenever a government fails; some government or governments always takes its place.
"A wise man ... proportions his belief to the evidence." - David Hume

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Re: individual vs collective

Post by Jack D Ripper » November 16th, 2020, 11:38 pm

GE Morton wrote:
November 16th, 2020, 11:02 pm
Ecurb wrote:
November 16th, 2020, 8:30 pm

"Psychological egoism", as you describe it, means nothing more than that people voluntarily do what they want to do. Of course the interest, goals and values of an "agent" (do you mean a person?) are the interests, goals and values of that person. So what? How does understanding this help us understand human behavior? It doesn't.
Well, the question at hand in those exchanges was not understanding of human behavior, as such, but understanding the differences between different different forms of society and different social structures. But psychological egoism does offer at least a partial explanation of human behavior --- it accounts for the observable differences in the behaviors of different individuals in similar circumstances.
...

Nonsense. Truisms don't explain things like that. So either you were wrong before to call it a truism, or you are wrong now (or wrong both times). And, indeed, it is obvious that you are wrong both times, as saying that "people voluntarily do what they want to do" (Ecurb's phrase), does not account for anything about differences in what people actually do. It affirms nothing that is not completely obvious and already known. No new fact is presented. Ecurb is right on this.
"A wise man ... proportions his belief to the evidence." - David Hume

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Re: individual vs collective

Post by Jack D Ripper » November 16th, 2020, 11:48 pm

GE Morton wrote:
November 16th, 2020, 11:02 pm
...
Ecurb wrote:
November 16th, 2020, 8:30 pm
OK. IN that case we are all collectivists. Anyone who believes laws or taxes are reasonable is a collectivist (by that definition). Those darned collectivists think that the goal of regulating the flow of traffic justifies laws against running red lights, speeding, and driving the wrong way down one way streets. Then they actually have the temerity to use force to enforce those laws.
Oh, no. We are not all collectivists; there are anarchists among us, after all. But you're right in substance --- everyone who is not an anarchist can fairly be called a collectivist with respect to the goal of establishing and enforcing a rule of law. That goal is entailed by the meta-interest defined earlier: Everyone has an interest in satisfying their own interests. That is only possible if the society is governed by a rule of law. But it does not entail any other common interests, and thus the society is not a collective in any other respect. (It should be noted, however, that not everyone agrees that an orderly, peaceful society is only possible with a rule of law).
...

You have changed your story since your first post in this thread:

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.
...

You have gone from "societies are not collectives" to everyone is a collectivist who is not an anarchist and societies are collectives.

I take it, then, that you now regard your first post in this thread as being wrong? Or do you maintain a contradictory position?
"A wise man ... proportions his belief to the evidence." - David Hume

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Re: individual vs collective

Post by Pattern-chaser » November 17th, 2020, 12:41 pm

Pattern-chaser wrote:
November 16th, 2020, 11:28 am
I have to disagree, with the bit after the "--". You are describing a collective-politics that is as extreme as American Libertarian Individualism, where the individual, or the collective, is not merely constructively-opposed but actively and successfully suppressed. This kind of extremism benefits no-one, and I will not and do not argue in its favour.
GE Morton wrote:
November 16th, 2020, 2:51 pm
Well, I'm puzzled here. The phrase you quoted after the "---" is not describing a "collective-politics" at all. It is merely stating the defining characteristic of a collective, as that term is commonly understood. And I have no idea what you see as "extreme" about it.
You describe collectivism as though all possible implementations of it are so extreme that they seek to suppress and destroy the individual, in favour of the collective. Just as American Libertarian Individualism seeks to suppress and destroy the collective, in favour of the individual. Both of these are impractical and unworkable extreme positions. Reasonable and rational politics lies somewhere in the middle, where there is a balance between the individual and the collective.


Pattern-chaser wrote:
November 16th, 2020, 11:28 am
All societies are different; all tribes are different; all families are different. This is not disputed, but it misses my point entirely. Because, as well as the differences so close to your heart, there are also similarities too, and it is these toward which I direct your attention. Societies, tribes and families all work co-operatively together, in the approximate way you describe, but it still happens.
GE Morton wrote:
November 16th, 2020, 2:51 pm
Of course there are similarities; they are all social groupings, after all. But while all members of families and tribes sometimes work cooperatively toward some common goal, members of modern societies never do --- because there is no goal shared by all of them (if you disagree perhaps you can cite an example). It is for that reason that such societies do not qualify as collectives.
American society recently decided who its next president will be. That's as good an example as any. Leading up to their election, nearly all members of American society shared the common goal of making this decision.
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Re: individual vs collective

Post by Ecurb » November 17th, 2020, 3:07 pm

Pattern-chaser wrote:
November 17th, 2020, 12:41 pm


You describe collectivism as though all possible implementations of it are so extreme that they seek to suppress and destroy the individual, in favour of the collective. Just as American Libertarian Individualism seeks to suppress and destroy the collective, in favour of the individual. Both of these are impractical and unworkable extreme positions. Reasonable and rational politics lies somewhere in the middle, where there is a balance between the individual and the collective.


Collectivism and anarchy are both utopian. I come down om the side of the anarchists: if forceful compulsion is a bad thing in and of itself, utopia must be an anarchy. So I'm an anarchist at heart, but I agree that reasonable and rational politics lie somewhere in the middle.

Here's a poser: if utopia is an anarchy (as I suggest above). and God "rules" in heaven, how can heaven be an utopia? It's possible (of course) that God's rule simply means that all of the angels (and others in heaven) WANT to do whatever God wishes. Lucifer's rebellion suggests that God (being all-powerful) may not enforce his rule.

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Re: individual vs collective

Post by GE Morton » November 17th, 2020, 4:07 pm

Jack D Ripper wrote:
November 16th, 2020, 8:03 pm

Nonsense. It is precisely those who do plunder who benefit most from free trade. If one country has a higher minimum wage, actual requirements for job safety, and environmental regulations, the manufacturer in that country is at a disadvantage when competing with a company in another country without those requirements, that pays poorly (or uses slave labor), does not spend anything on safety equipment, and does not have to curtail pollution. The company that is most oppressive and damaging to the environment is the one that wins in a free trade situation, because their costs are lower and consequently they can sell the same things for less.

So, the idea that free trade is good for everyone is moronic.
Actually I agree with the thrust of your comment above, if not all the details. My claim that free trade is "good for everyone who does not seek to support themselves by plunder" was a gloss, a hasty response to question tangential to the discussion then underway. On its face it is contrary to another claim I've made several times, namely, that no public policy is ever good for everyone in a society.

The merits of free trade have been debated by economists and philosophers continuously at least since the publication of The Wealth of Nations. For most of that history the arguments have concerned the economic advantages/disadvantages of free trade --- whether the people of a country would be economically better off by allowing them to buy goods from any source, foreign or domestic, and to sell their own goods to any willing buyers, foreign or domestic. Among economists that question is largely settled, in favor of free trade:

"The literature analysing the economics of free trade is rich. Economists have done extensive work on the theoretical and empirical effects of free trade. Although it creates winners and losers, the broad consensus among economists is that free trade provides a net gain for society. In a 2006 survey of American economists (83 responders), '87.5% agree that the U.S. should eliminate remaining tariffs and other barriers to trade' and '90.1% disagree with the suggestion that the U.S. should restrict employers from outsourcing work to foreign countries.'

"Quoting Harvard economics professor N. Gregory Mankiw, 'few propositions command as much consensus among professional economists as that open world trade increases economic growth and raises living standards.' In a survey of leading economists, none disagreed with the notion that 'freer trade improves productive efficiency and offers consumers better choices, and in the long run these gains are much larger than any effects on employment.'"

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

Historically, the principle aim of trade restrictions was protectionism --- to protect domestic industries from foreign competition, and thus the profits and employment those industries generated. Governments, at the behest of the affected industries, attempted to deliver that protection by imposing taiffs and quotas on many imported goods. That, of course, provoked retailatory restrictions in the targeted countries on import of American goods. So consumers of those goods in all the affected countries were forced to pay more for those goods than they would in a free market, and therefore endure a lower standard of living. In the early US one of the chief motivations for replacing the original Articles of Confederation with a new constitution was to eliminate the trade barriers the States had erected against import of goods produced in other States. Per the new Constitution interstate commerce could be regulated only by Congress. State-imposed protectionist trade barriers went away; the US became one national market.

But many of the objections to free trade that have been raised in recent decades don't rest on economic grounds, but on moral ones. In general moral considerations trump economic ones, and I agree that some restrictions on international trade can be justified on moral grounds, just as can restrictions on some forms of domestic commerce, such as sale of various types of contraband, sale of stolen property, sale of various products that pose some sort of danger to buyers or third parties, etc. I would agree, for example, that goods produced with slave labor should not be allowed to enter the US market, or more generally, any goods whose production involves some egregious violation of human rights.

But all of the other grounds you cite for restricting trade --- minimum wage differences, job safety standards, environmental laws, do not involve any violations of human rights and cannot be justified on any compelling moral grounds. Governments have no business dictating minimum wages in the first place. Job safety standards are matters for employers and employees to establish through negotiation. Environmental constraints are matters for the people in the employers' communities to decide upon; it is not a decision for self-righteous, despotic do-gooders in the US. Indeed, one advantage of free trade is that it reveals the costs of some of those domestic policies.

So I grant that my original claim was careless, too broad. But the justifiable grounds for restricting trade are few.

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Re: individual vs collective

Post by GE Morton » November 17th, 2020, 10:51 pm

Jack D Ripper wrote:
November 16th, 2020, 10:39 pm
GE Morton wrote:
November 16th, 2020, 9:45 pm

Methinks you overlooked the very first sentence in your own link, to wit: "All forms of egoism require explication of 'self-interest' (or 'welfare' or 'well-being'). There are three main theories. Preference or desire accounts identify self-interest with the satisfaction of one’s desires.
That is funny, given that the next sentence after the last one you quote is:
Often, and most plausibly, these desires are restricted to self-regarding desires.
https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/egoism/
That's true. "Self-interest" is indeed often used in that narrow sense.
GE Morton wrote:
November 16th, 2020, 9:45 pm

Most of the objections to psychological egoism rest on assuming "self-interest" (or "welfare") is confined to self-regarding actions, and promptly cite examples of other-regarding actions people often perform. But there are no grounds for or need to so limit the scope of those terms.
Of course there are grounds for such a limitation. There is no reason to call something "self-interest" if the interest has nothing to do with the self.
Of course it has something to do with the self. If Alfie has an interest in son Bruno's welfare, that is a self-interest of Alfie's. He may well gain more satisfaction from, say, spending $100 on a gift for Bruno than by spending it on anything he could buy for himself. Self-interest is not a synonym for selfishness.

Alfie's welfare, as he measures it, is increased to the extent that his interests and desires are satisfied, regardless of nature or objects of that interest. He may even judge that his welfare will be increased by sacrificing his own life.
GE Morton wrote:
November 16th, 2020, 9:45 pm

A self-interested action is ANY action that satisfies some desire, some interest, of the acting agent, no matter who else may benefit from it. As I said, psychological egoism is a truism.
You are writing nonsense. "Self-interest" has a meaning:
Oxford wrote:self-interest

NOUN

mass noun
One's personal interest or advantage, especially when pursued without regard for others.
https://www.lexico.com/definition/self-interest
Note the "especially" there.
Of course, if you actually read the articles to which I provided links, you would know that psychological egoism is not a truism, and is widely regarded as false. Indeed, if it were merely a truism as you pretend, those articles likely would not exist at all, as neither philosophy encyclopedia tends to contain articles that are about truisms. Whatever you pretend the phrase means does not alter these facts.
The Stanford Encyclopedia article says,

"The psychological egoist might reply that some such account must be right. After all, the soldier did what he most wanted to do, and so must have been pursuing his perceived self-interest. In one sense, this is true. If self-interest is identified with the satisfaction of all of one’s preferences, then all intentional action is self-interested (at least if intentional actions are always explained by citing preferences, as most believe). Psychological egoism turns out to be trivially true."

It goes on to say, "This would not content defenders of psychological egoism, however. They intend an empirical theory that, like other such theories, it is at least possible to refute by observation."

It might not satisfy some defenders of psychological egoism. Psychological egoism is not an empirical theory. It is a behavioral axiom.

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Re: individual vs collective

Post by GE Morton » November 17th, 2020, 11:20 pm

Jack D Ripper wrote:
November 16th, 2020, 11:48 pm

You have changed your story since your first post in this thread:
GE Morton wrote:
November 7th, 2020, 10:24 pm

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.
...
[Then]
Oh, no. We are not all collectivists; there are anarchists among us, after all. But you're right in substance --- everyone who is not an anarchist can fairly be called a collectivist with respect to the goal of establishing and enforcing a rule of law. That goal is entailed by the meta-interest defined earlier: Everyone has an interest in satisfying their own interests. That is only possible if the society is governed by a rule of law. But it does not entail any other common interests, and thus the society is not a collective in any other respect. (It should be noted, however, that not everyone agrees that an orderly, peaceful society is only possible with a rule of law).
You have gone from "societies are not collectives" to everyone is a collectivist who is not an anarchist and societies are collectives.

I take it, then, that you now regard your first post in this thread as being wrong? Or do you maintain a contradictory position?
You need to learn to read more carefully. I did not say in the second quote that societies are collectives. Indeed, by noting that there are anarchists among us, who are are also members of society (as are persons who perhaps prefer a rule of law but don't contribute to it in any way) it's pretty clear that "society" as a whole is not a collective.

The subset of persons within a society who share the goal of establishing and maintaining a rule of law, and willingly contribute to that end, do, however, constitute a (single-focus) collective (a fairly large one).

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Re: individual vs collective

Post by GE Morton » November 18th, 2020, 10:17 am

Pattern-chaser wrote:
November 17th, 2020, 12:41 pm

You describe collectivism as though all possible implementations of it are so extreme that they seek to suppress and destroy the individual, in favour of the collective.
I've said no such thing about collectivism. I defined "collectivism" as follows: "Collectivism is a social/political doctrine which views society as collective --- as a group of people cooperating to pursue a common task or goal, which goal overrides and supersedes any personal interests and goals of its members, and which holds that all members of the society are duty-bound to join in pursuit of that collective goal and may be forced to do so if they balk."

Is that not an accurate characterization of "collectivism" as a social/political doctrine?

I also said that view is based on a false premise --- societies are not groups of people all cooperating to pursue a common goal.
American society recently decided who its next president will be. That's as good an example as any. Leading up to their election, nearly all members of American society shared the common goal of making this decision.
Nearly all is not all. And it is not "nearly all." Though final tallies are not in yet, only about 68% of eligible voters are projected to have voted in the November elections, which is a bit higher than usual. On average only about 63-64% turn out.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics ... r-turnout/

Also, you can always cite (nearly) common interests if you make the interest general enough. E.g., "everyone wants to live;" "everyone wants to be happy," etc., though even those are never strictly true. But when you get down to specific interests, such as for whom to vote, there is never anything approaching universality.

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Re: individual vs collective

Post by Pattern-chaser » November 18th, 2020, 10:43 am

Pattern-chaser wrote:
November 17th, 2020, 12:41 pm
You describe collectivism as though all possible implementations of it are so extreme that they seek to suppress and destroy the individual, in favour of the collective.

GE Morton wrote:
November 18th, 2020, 10:17 am
I've said no such thing about collectivism. I defined "collectivism" as follows: "Collectivism is a social/political doctrine which views society as collective --- as a group of people cooperating to pursue a common task or goal, which goal overrides and supersedes any personal interests and goals of its members, and which holds that all members of the society are duty-bound to join in pursuit of that collective goal and may be forced to do so if they balk."


You make my case for me. Thank you.
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Re: individual vs collective

Post by Pattern-chaser » November 18th, 2020, 10:46 am

GE Morton wrote:
November 18th, 2020, 10:17 am
But when you get down to specific interests, such as for whom to vote, there is never anything approaching universality.
Of course not. Because the collective values individuality, instead of trying to suppress it. All society's members have their own beliefs, etc., and it is the combination of them all that results in society's decision. Isn't that the origin of democracy?
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Re: individual vs collective

Post by GE Morton » November 18th, 2020, 12:40 pm

Pattern-chaser wrote:
November 18th, 2020, 10:43 am
Pattern-chaser wrote:
November 17th, 2020, 12:41 pm
You describe collectivism as though all possible implementations of it are so extreme that they seek to suppress and destroy the individual, in favour of the collective.

GE Morton wrote:
November 18th, 2020, 10:17 am
I've said no such thing about collectivism. I defined "collectivism" as follows: "Collectivism is a social/political doctrine which views society as collective --- as a group of people cooperating to pursue a common task or goal, which goal overrides and supersedes any personal interests and goals of its members, and which holds that all members of the society are duty-bound to join in pursuit of that collective goal and may be forced to do so if they balk."


You make my case for me. Thank you.
Not sure what point you're trying to make there. Are you merely saying that you accept the definition I gave, or that you embrace collectivism, despite the fact that it is based on a false premise?

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Re: individual vs collective

Post by GE Morton » November 18th, 2020, 12:49 pm

Pattern-chaser wrote:
November 18th, 2020, 10:46 am
GE Morton wrote:
November 18th, 2020, 10:17 am
But when you get down to specific interests, such as for whom to vote, there is never anything approaching universality.
Of course not. Because the collective values individuality, instead of trying to suppress it.
To which collective do you refer?
All society's members have their own beliefs, etc., and it is the combination of them all that results in society's decision. Isn't that the origin of democracy?
The "society" is not a collective and does not make any decisions. A majority may constitute a collective and make a collective decision, but that is not a decision of the society; it is only the decision of a faction. If that faction proceeds to impose that decision on other members of the society by force it raises the moral issue mentioned previously: Under what circumstances, if any, may one moral agent impose his will, by force, on another moral agent?

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Re: individual vs collective

Post by Ecurb » November 18th, 2020, 12:54 pm

Collectivism is a scam. Listen up, kids: Your baseball card collections will never be worth any money. I was once a copywriter for a leading dealer of "fine collectables" (you've all seen their ads) I know how it works.

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