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NYT opinion: there is no individual

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http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/...ngry-tea-party/

J.M. Bernstein is University Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the New School for Social Research and the author of five books. He is now completing a book entitled “Torture and Dignity.”

Sometimes it is hard to know where politics ends and metaphysics begins: when, that is, the stakes of a political dispute concern not simply a clash of competing ideas and values but a clash about what is real and what is not, what can be said to exist on its own and what owes its existence to an other.

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The opposing metaphysical claim, the one I take to be true, is that the very idea of the autonomous subject is an institution, an artifact created by the practices of modern life: the intimate family, the market economy, the liberal state.

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The issue here is a central one in modern philosophy: is individual autonomy an irreducible metaphysical given or a social creation?

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In love I regard you as of such value and importance that I spontaneously set aside my egoistic desires and interests and align them with yours: your ends are my desires, I desire that you flourish, and when you flourish I do, too.

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All the rhetoric of self-sufficiency, all the grand talk of wanting to be left alone is just the hollow insistence of the bereft lover that she can and will survive without her beloved.

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The great and inspiring metaphysical fantasy of independence and freedom is simply a fantasy of destruction.

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In truth, there is nothing that the Tea Party movement wants; terrifyingly, it wants nothing. Lilla calls the Tea Party “Jacobins”; I would urge that they are nihilists.

Edited by 2046
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Disgusting, but then again what can you expect from a New York school that was started by socialists and:

also appeared on The Princeton Review's following national lists:[26]

"Dodgeball Targets" (#1)

"Great College Towns" (#1)

"Intercollegiate Sports Unpopular Or Nonexistent" (#1)

"Long Lines and Red Tape" (#1)

"Students Most Nostalgic For Bill Clinton Politics" (#2)

"Least Religious Students" (#2)

"Nobody Plays Intramural Sports" (#2)

"Class Discussions Encouraged" (#3)

"Birkenstock-Wearing, Tree-Hugging, Clove-Smoking Vegetarians" (#3)

"Most Politically Active" (#7)

"Town-Gown Relations Are Great" (#11)

"Gay Community Accepted" (#13)

"Most Liberal Students" (#16)

"Students Dissatisfied with Financial Aid" (#18)

"Lots of Race/Class Interaction" (#19)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_New_School

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This guy is a minority in philosophy. Few are so twisted and illogical to claim the individual does not exist and is merely a social institution.

I respectfully disagree. Even though many won't outwardly admit to believing "there is no such thing as the individual" most openly believe the individual to be irrelevent, or a tool to a greater good.

What we see in this man's disgusting statement is simply the logical end to which all altruistic philosophies are heading whether they know it or not.

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Who is "I?"

Good point. "I" is a selfish word. We must eliminate it. And we know well that there is no transgression blacker than to do or think alone. Issue forth the iron bracelets with our new names. We are one in all and all in one. There are no men but only the great WE. One, indivisible and forever. Amen.

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I respectfully disagree. Even though many won't outwardly admit to believing "there is no such thing as the individual" most openly believe the individual to be irrelevent, or a tool to a greater good.

What we see in this man's disgusting statement is simply the logical end to which all altruistic philosophies are heading whether they know it or not.

Though philosophers aren't consistently individualists, this (the denial of the reality of the individual) is a minority viewpoint in philosophy departments (in fact, it's not even a topic of debate). The New School and its professors do not give a good representation of philosophy in the English speaking world. (NS isn't even an honorable mention in the authoritative Philosophical Gourmet ranking of philosophy PhD programs.) In general, I'd be skeptical of anything printed in the popular press about philosophers. For instance, the NYT's new weekly philosophy column (The Stone) has been widely ridiculed by professionals in the field because it is edited by a person they consider a hack. (Here and here).

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In love, I experience you not as a limit or restriction on my freedom, but as what makes it possible: I can only be truly free and so truly independent in being harmoniously joined with you; we each recognize the other as endowing our life with meaning and value, with living freedom. Hegel’s phrase for this felicitous state is “to be with oneself in the other.”

Not a very original idea, in that Aristotle already said something similar 2000 years earlier ("Friendship is one soul dwelling in two bodies"), except I guess Hegel deserves credit for managing to turn it into the corniest-sounding statement of solipsism that anyone has probably ever uttered. The good thing about friendship is precisely that you find somebody else who is like you; Hegel makes it sound like all you can ever be friends with is yourself. I am not the type who very much minds being alone, but I would hate to live in that kind of a lonely world!

There is indeed something not just disturbing, but frightening, in the anger of the Tea Party.

Another unoriginal idea. Louis XVI said something very similar when he saw the revolutionaries outside his palace!

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http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/...ngry-tea-party/

J.M. Bernstein is University Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the New School for Social Research and the author of five books. He is now completing a book entitled “Torture and Dignity.”

Isn't this guy just ripping off Heidegger/Siddhartha (Buddha). I find it Ironic that he calls the metaphysical concept of the individual an "artifact" when Siddhartha created this idea around 500 BC (whenever). Oh, and every country to follow that philosophy was and still is a shithole.

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I respectfully disagree. Even though many won't outwardly admit to believing "there is no such thing as the individual" most openly believe the individual to be irrelevent, or a tool to a greater good.

What we see in this man's disgusting statement is simply the logical end to which all altruistic philosophies are heading whether they know it or not.

Much of ethical theory starts on the basis of "Why should I be moral"? Egoism and self-interest are regarded more highly now then they had been before.

Also, this is a claim of metaphysics; not of ethics, and the fact is that this kind of non-sense is usually met with derision.

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Comments are back, and here's one of the first that caught my eye:

"I find Prof. Bernstein's thesis here fascinating, but there is a deeper problem than the illusion of individual sovereignty in society. The entire Western tradition is established in dominion over nature, sovereignty over plants, oceans, air, animals. This is more than individual sovereignty. We have been told that animals, lands, air and water are endless resources for us to conquer and exploit. It just ain’t so. We are slowly seeing the consequences of not seeing our interdependence and relationship, not only with the economies of our country and the world, but also of our planet."

We must renounce our freedom to live together, back in the caves! Maybe the Council of Vocations will give us the honor of "Cave Sweeper?"

Edited by 2046
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