The Individual and the Social Order: An Introduction to Ethics and Social Philosophy

The Individual and the Social Order: An Introduction to Ethics and Social Philosophy

The Individual and the Social Order: An Introduction to Ethics and Social Philosophy

The Individual and the Social Order: An Introduction to Ethics and Social Philosophy

Excerpt

The concept of individuality is the product of many thousand years' travail on the part of man. Its discovery was the most epochal event in man's cultural history, for this discovery has brought a new phase in the social life. In the earlier cultures the native impulses of the human animal were regulated solely by custom and usage, supported by social authority and by beliefs in the supernatural sanctions of the customs. The development of custom was not without its logic. It was not a purely helter-skelter process. It was an attempt to trace causes and effects and to control effects through controlling the causes. But prereflective man's belief in the causal orders, or relations of interdependence between the events of his own life and the environment, were based on crude, unanalyzed and uncriticized beliefs in causation both natural and supernatural. So his social customs tended to become cumbersome, incoherent and ineffective. Then came a period in which the customs were simplified and made more consistent or harmonious. This is the period of the great traditional lawgivers, of the Code of Manu in India, the Laws of Hammurabi of Babylon, of Solon and Lycurgus in Greece, of Moses in Israel, of Alfred in England. These simplified and more coherent codes of customs became the starting points for new laws and in turn for the recognition of laws as instruments for the regulation of moral personality.

But the explicit recognition of the individual's worth implies more than the rule of law. The full discovery of individuality involves the following principles:

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