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History of Individualism

Modernism. 1900 Freud. THE END of the rational, autonomous self, replaced by the 3-part model of the self (id, ego, superego). Romanticism. 1841 Emerson (plus various European, particularly German, philosophers). THE INDIVIDUALITY OF PARTICULARITY (uniqueness). The Enlightenment.

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History of Individualism

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  1. Modernism 1900 Freud THE END of the rational, autonomous self, replaced by the 3-part model of the self (id, ego, superego) Romanticism 1841 Emerson (plus various European, particularly German, philosophers) THE INDIVIDUALITY OF PARTICULARITY (uniqueness) The Enlightenment 1688, 1776 & 1789 revolutions 1690 Locke 1651 Hobbes THE INDIVIDUALITY OF EQUALITY (rights) Renaissance 1486 Pico’s Oration THE INDIVIDUALITY OF DISTINCTION (ACHIEVEMENT) 400 B.C. Antigone (Greek drama); Greek Humanism; Plato’s Republic, Homer History of Individualism

  2. China Kong Fuzi Buddhism

  3. Pope Innocent III, On the Misery of the Human Condition, c. 1200 Man is conceived of blood made rotten by the heat of lust; and in the end worms, like mourners, stand about his corpse. In life he produced lice and tapeworms; in death he will produce worms and flies. In life he produced dung and vomit; in death he produces rottenness and stench. In life he fattened one man; in death he fattens a multitude of worms.

  4. from Pico's Oration on the Dignity of Man (1486) Most esteemed Fathers, I have read in the ancient writings of the Arabians that Abdala the Saracen on being asked what, on this stage, so to say, of the world, seemed to him most evocative of wonder, replied that there was nothing to be seen more marvelous than man. [Goes on to cite ancient Greek writings] . . . still, I was not fully persuaded by the diverse reasons advanced . . .

  5. from Pico's Oration on the Dignity of Man (1486) At long last, however, I feel that I have come to some understanding of why man is the most fortunate of living things and, consequently, deserving of all admiration; of what may be the condition in the hierarchy of beings assigned to him, which draws upon him the envy, not of the brutes alone, but of the astral beings and of the very intelligences which dwell beyond the confines of the world.

  6. from Pico's Oration on the Dignity of Man (1486) At last, the Supreme Maker decreed that this creature, to whom He could give nothing wholly his own, should have a share in the particular endowment of every other creature. Taking man, therefore, this creature of indeterminate image, He said him in the middle of the world and thus spoke to him:

  7. from Pico's Oration on the Dignity of Man (1486) “We have given you, Oh Adam, no visage proper to yourself, nor any endowment properly your own, in order that whatever place, whatever form, whatever gifts you may, with premeditation, select, these same you may have and possess through your own judgment and decision. The nature of all other creatures is defined and restricted within laws which We have laid down; you, by contrast, impeded by no such restrictions, may, by your own free will, to whose custody We have assigned you, trace for yourself the lineaments of your own nature. I have placed you at the very center the world . . . ”

  8. Leonardo da Vinci, Proportions of the Human Figure (“Vitruvian Man”)

  9. from Hobbes's Leviathan Nature has made men so equal in the faculties of the body and mind as that, though there be found one man sometimes manifestly stronger in body or of quicker mind that another, yet, when all is reckoned together, the difference between man and man is not so considerable as that one man can thereupon claim to himself any benefit to which another may not pretend as well as he. For as to the strength of body, the weakest has strength to kill the strongest, either by secret machination or by confederacy with others that are in the same danger with himself. . . .

  10. from Hobbes's Leviathan Hereby it is manifest that, during the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called war, and such a war as is of every man against every man. For WAR consists not in battle only, or the act of fighting, but in a tract of time wherein the will to contend by battle is sufficiently known . . .

  11. from Hobbes's Leviathan . . . every man is enemy to every man . . . In such condition there is no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain; and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation . . . no commodious building; . . . no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and, which is worst of all, continual fear and danger of violent death; and a life of man solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.

  12. from Hobbes's Leviathan For the laws of nature––as justice, equity, modesty, mercy, and, in sum, doing to others as we would be done to––of themselves, without the terror of some power to cause them to be observed, are contrary to our natural passions, that carry us to partiality, pride, revenge, and the like. And covenants without the sword are but words, and of no strength to secure a man at all. . . .

  13. from Hobbes's Leviathan The only way to erect such a common power as may be able to defend them from the invasion of foreigners and the injuries of one another, and thereby to secure them in such sort as that by their own industry and by the fruits of the earth they may nourish themselves and live contentedly, is to confer all their power and strength upon one man, or upon one assembly of men that may reduce all their wills, by plurality of voices, unto one will . . .

  14. from Hobbes's Leviathan . . . This is more than consent or concord; it is a real unity of them all in one and the same person, made by covenant of every man with every man, in which manner as if every man should say to every man, I authorize and give up my right of governing myself to this man, or to this assembly of men, on this condition, that you give up your right to him and authorize all his actions in like manner. . . . This is the generation of that great LEVIATHAN . . .


  16. from Locke’s Of Civil Government To understand political power right and derive it from its original, we must consider what state all men are naturally in, and that is a state of perfect freedom to order their actions and dispose of their possessions and persons as they think fit, within the bounds of the law of nature without asking leave or depending upon the will of any other man.

  17. from Locke’s Of Civil Government A state also of equality, wherein all the power and jurisdiction is reciprocal, no one having more than another; there being nothing more evident than that creatures of the same species and rank, promiscuously borne to all the same advantages of nature and the use of the same faculties, should also be equal one amongst another without subordination or subjection.

  18. from Locke’s Of Civil Government Men being, as has been said, by nature all free, equal, and independent, no one can be put out of this estate and subjected to the political power of another without his own consent. The only way whereby any one divests himself of his natural liberty and puts on the bonds of civil society is by agreeing with other men to join and unite into a community for their comfortable, safe, and peaceable living one amongst another, in a secure enjoyment of their properties, and a greater security against any that are not of it. This any number of men may do, because it injures not the freedom of the rest; they are left as they were in the liberty of a state of nature.

  19. There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better for worse as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried. Not for nothing one face, one character, one fact, makes much impression on him, and another none. This sculpture in the memory is not without pre-established harmony. The eye was placed where one ray should fall, that it might testify of that particular ray. Emerson, from “Self-Reliance,” 1841

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