Academic journal article South Asian Studies

Individual and Society: A Socio- Philosophical Account of Iqbal's Thought

Academic journal article South Asian Studies

Individual and Society: A Socio- Philosophical Account of Iqbal's Thought

Article excerpt

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What is an Individual?

· Is individual a unique independently existing being having no relationship with society?

· Is society in itself an independently existing entity?

These and many similar questions are usually raised and answered. Social scientists are in search of answers of these questions from the day they realized that individual as a member of society is a conscious being.

"Man, being self- conscious and rational, has theories about himself and his social conditions which profoundly affect his behavior; theories which have not been, are not, and never will be merely scientific. They will always be more than explanation of how he behaves and how his institutions function."(Plamenatz, 1963, p. xx)

Different Views regarding Individual-Society Quandary

There are various theories about the controversy of individual and society's relationship. According to social contract theory, society is not a natural growth but an artificial device by which individuals had decided some thousand years back for a social togetherness. Man was born free and he is now tangled in chains of society and society is a great hurdle in the development of individual. On the other hand a view is that society exists on its own individual uniqueness, apart from the individuals, who are basic units of it.

Aristotle is an advocate of the position where human beings live together not only for the sake of reproduction but some other purposes of life. On the other hand modern sociologist Durkheim holds that social facts are given to the individual by the society and these facts also have a deep effect on the thinking and actions of individuals. Due to the pressure of social factors, individuals work in an organized and established way.

These two extreme positions do not play any type of positive role neither in the development of individual nor of society. One way to tackle this problem is purely philosophical and the other is sociological though at bases both are united in an organic whole. Every individual on his own level feels that he is a unique being having a unique personality and he is here to fulfill a great purpose. This self-awareness keeps him busy to probe into the mysteries of life, external environment and future. He has a privileged access to his consciousness. This privileged access makes him aware about the possibilities of mental and social development. He confronts other forces, in the form of material as well as other individuals. These forces resist him to complete and achieve his great purpose. There are 'others' in the universe having their own purposes and goals. This is a position of clash with other selves, but this is not a negative thing. Here is an effort within and outwards very necessary for the development of individual.

Iqbal (1982) writes:-

"When attracted by the forces around him, man has the power to shape and direct them; when thwarted by them, he has the capacity to build much vaster world in the depths of his own inner being, wherein he discovers sources of infinite joy and inspiration." (p. 9-10)

As a conscious and rational being, man has the power to make his goals and purposes to be fulfilled by his efforts. He has the power to face and control the external forces and tame them according to his own wishes and desires. Iqbal (1982) thus describes in an impressive way:-

"It is the lot of man to share in the deeper aspirations of universe around him and to shape his own destiny as well as that of the universe, now by adjusting himself to its forces, now by putting the whole of his energy to mould its forces to his own ends and purposes."(p. 10)

We at our individual level are different and separate from others; a self-contained, and essentially independent entities. In the language of social science this position is named 'atomism'. Just like the atomism theory, where an atom is the basic unit of the whole structure of matter. …

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