The Definition of Moral Virtue

By Yves R. Simon; Vukan Kuic | Go to book overview
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reputation by drawing a sharp contrast between Gesellschaft and Gemeinschaft, translatable approximately as "society" and "community." 11 In Tönnies' interpretation, Gesellschaft, or society, is something rather set and predictable, indeed, not totally unlike a beehive or an anthill. It is therefore not something that human beings have special reasons to be proud of. By contrast, Gemeinschaft, or community, is something that is creative, full of life and absolutely thriving on the diversity and individuality of its members. I am not sure that we need to set these two forms of sociability in such sharp opposition to each other, because even though they are distinguishable, they are not really separable. But there you have it: Gesellschaft versus Gemeinschaft, that is, mere society as contrasted with fully human community! Human sociability definitely admits of more than a single form.

Another social philosopher who worked hard on this problem was Henri Bergson ( 1859-1941). In his last important book, The Two Sources of Morality and Religion, he, too, tried to distinguish and describe two forms of relations between the individual and society. One of these forms is characterized by external pressure and is also related to instinct. But the other is characterized by aspirations, or inspiration, and related to the Bergsonian intuition and freedom. 12

Now, it may well be that Bergson's interpretation of the two sources of morality cannot be separated from the rest of his philosophical system any more than Tönnies' specification of the difference between society and community can be separated from the rest of his social philosophy. But I am convinced that these writers are onto something, and perhaps one day someone else will succeed in treating this problem a little more objectively. And then we may also find that there are more than just two basic forms of human sociability. 13


NOTES
1.
E.g., Apology 22D; Euthydemus 288D; Gorgias 448B; see also Rosamond Kent Sprague, Plato's Philosopher King ( Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1976).
2.
Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce, edd. Charles Hartshorne and Paul Weiss, 6 vols. ( Cambridge: Harvard University Press,

-44-

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