On the Concept and Phenomenon of Individuality; Individuals and the Morality Dilemma (part 2/2)

Click HERE to return to the first part (first 3 sections) of this analysis on the origin, conceptualizations, and observable manifestations of Individuality in humans. The following article concludes the analysis of Individuality and its realized being and provides commentary on the relation of individualistic values with the prevalence of human suffering and perspectives justifying immorality.

IV. Individuality Without Individuation

Personal Differentiation

By virtue of being able to subjectively measure the “individuality” of any thing someone chooses to analyze — just as you could analyze any thing, creation, or phenomenon for absurdity, comedy, or some other abstract value — one could also analyze the individuality of another or his/her own personhood. This has lead to many philosophies or even cult-like ideologies based on individuality or a particular form or expression of it. Most identity-based ideologies or group philosophies are like this, associating the individuality of each member of the group with alliance to or alignment with another particular value, behavior, or idea associated with the members’ personalities and being. Most notably are political ideologies, but philosophers and supposedly independent “free thinkers” are not immune to this kind of mass psychology. Many people who have engaged in philosophy or personal management of their psychology to the degree of consciously incorporating this conscious management into their lifestyles also fall into one such group identity rooted in the respective members’ collective senses of individuality. The “I am an individuated and self-motivated moral agent” group is one that has gained particular popularity recently, and with it, some irony. As a person, one cannot be an individual if one acts as a template for any group ideology, even if (and particularly so in one such case) that group’s identity is based on a collective acknowledgement of sameness in individuality. If one is in the group, willingly or simply categorically, of “individuated persons”, the person in question is not necessarily an individual, but at least member of an impersonal, ideological web, likely stemming from the conceptualization of another individual’s philosophy about individuality and personhood.

Generally speaking, human beings express their Selves through emotions/passions and reasoning, and all expressions of the Self are psychological projections through one’s personality onto the “other”, or external reality. By this token, it is only possible to acknowledge individuality in the collective forms of a particular individual’s personal expressions, not in terms of abstract measurement or categorization of any particular behavior or idea among a number of individuals. In other words, claiming to be an individual does not make a person one. The only “realistic” variations, using this formula, are in the not-fully-conscious Self orientations, or relations of intrinsic values and principles serving as the bedrock of one’s psyche. You are not truly an individual unless you are metaphysically unique and differentiated. However, there is no standardized method for analyzing the conscious and unconscious contents and functions of anyone’s mind as far as any scientific community is concerned, so empirical assessment of a latent individual’s degree of individuation is technically impossible.

Speaking from speculation, to be an individual agent, one must express his/her own Self authentically or without distortion, but one must also possess or be possessed by the ideals of a unique Self formulation which differentiates one psyche from another. Similar Selves are less differentiated in the emergence of their personalities, and therefore less individuated. However, if the Self is singular, all encompassing, and shared among all individuals equally, then the degree of one’s personal eccentricity in a strictly superficial sense is the degree of one’s individuation; but, in observation, one cannot differentiate this formulation from the variations observed in the emergent or manifested personalities from supposedly differing Selves or psyches. We may be able to recognize traits and patterns in the personalities of human beings, but we cannot yet, if it is at all possible, observe and classify unconscious functions outside of the phenomenon of neurological activity and its patterns.

The Art of Personality

Considering all egoic expressions are personalized by the originator of the expression and potentially modified by persons adopting the expression or possessed by it, personality itself can be said to be, in the terms of David Hume, like a bundle of ideas, concepts, and beliefs associated with self-reference and self-identification. The manifestation of this bundle of self is not done purely accidentally or without pattern or guidance. As the mind of a person develops, unconscious patterns and methods of processing adapted through generations of evolution and the development of the neurology of the individual grant a certain predictability and standardization of personality formation. While the individual learns, that which he/she learns is compared and reviewed for relevance and weighted against the concurrent schemas and systems of the person. The degree of differential mental operations in human beings has not yet been clearly categorized or conceptualized to be able to describe the ways in which different humans operate mentally, but some standard patterns and trends are well known, especially in regards to the development, function, and application of specific regions of the nervous system. Following from this, we can judge the personality of an individual to be the result of primarily unconscious functions, being the reason for its description as emergent from the psyche. Though the process is not entirely conscious, and likely is only consciously adaptable after sufficient physical and mental development on the part of the individual, it is possible to adjust the formulation of one’s self-representation. This can be done by exposing oneself to new experiences for the purpose of defining further that which was previously unknown or unfamiliar, or as a result of immediate moderation of decisions, primarily related to actions taken in the aims of fulfilling idealized values, in times of extreme stress. The latter of these adaptations or “evolutions” of the ego happens most notably in relation to what are referred to as “spiritual experiences”, most likely for the exceptionally transformative nature of the experience. Artificial ways of changing or modifying personalities exist as well, however they often involve the consumption or ingestion of psychoactive substances that directly affect receptors in the central nervous system, or procedures that directly, physically alter neurological structures and functions, such as the lobotomy.

With the extreme range of differences in personal values and the numerous methods of altering personality formation as a process of the human organism, it is not surprising that many people have either inadvertently or intentionally undergone extreme personal transformations that resulted in the formation of a specially organized set of personal values from which the personality is meant to emerge. Culture itself as a societal phenomenon seeks to accomplish this as a means of normalizing social interactions and relationships within societal structures and institutions. One could assume that the process of personalization is aimed at evolution, but evolution itself is a cyclical phenomenon that is immediately fulfilled with the development of each iteration of the organism or system that is evolved. Regardless of aim, each instance of there being a personality is itself a form of the phenomenon of personhood, be it original or artificially manufactured. In relation to its experiencing, the existence of personalities is uniquely individualistic, being so variable that you are very likely to never meet the same person twice, and each individual adopts countless personality formations over time. In this manner, individuation is more so the name for the process of there being and emerging a personality at all than it is for the specialized modification of personality to have within its set of values a certain positive mediation of the concepts of originality, singularity, and consistency.

Self Beyond self

Considering the myriad ways and manners of personal formation or transformation, and the degree to which the object in mind, the personality, and the subject supposedly performing the evolution or adaptation, the ego, are without differentiation, individuation cannot be said to be within the capacities or functionalities of the consciousness of the individual. The self must be changed by some other, whether it is another idealized Self encompassing both conscious and unconscious mental capacities and functions, or an other external to the organism of the individual. However, it must also be noted that the entirety of experience, and so the existence of externalized others, is a factor of the self-representation of the mind by which it is able to differentiate between self and other to begin with. The conscious personality of the individual is an instrument in the same sense that the mannerism and behaviors of the individual’s personality are social instruments. Asserting that a person can willingly change their personality’s configuration should sound entirely nonsensical, as there is nothing that a personality can do but express information as a reaction to or in proactive interference with the stimulus of the perceived “external” reality.

Though this is the case, personality formation is Self-authored, seeing as though the being of the individual is the cause for its aesthetic expression through the personality. that being said, successful individuation that occurs in a manner equal to the degree of intensity but polar in quality of experience to traumatic influence of the psyche must occur with the willful engagement of a latent inclination to be and express. One must not only passively desire but consciously will to be, otherwise the adaptations of the individual are not personal individuation, but merely extensions of the necessary developmental patterns of a system passing in time. It is not a matter of personal preference whether or not someone thinks, but it is so whether a person speaks. The personality serves as the means of expression of the self, and so truthful expression of one’s desires and will is the clearest and most straightforward manner of individuation or personality evolution. However, the individual in manner and nature is not the end of being, but the means by which it, the Self, exists.

Existence and experience are necessarily tied and, metaphysically speaking, dualistic. Our confusion and ignorance of ourselves lies in the fact that we are not a substance nor a phenomenon to observe in existence via our experience, but rather that for and by which both substance and phenomenon exist as experienced. Our personalization may not be equal to our individuation, but it is precisely because we have the potential for individuation that the potential for personalization exists. It is indeterminable whether there is an objective end to these processes, but within our experience, they can be characterized or described with having certain trends. Personalization is a way of expressing yourself as something unique and egoically individualistic. Individuation is the way of becoming a thing in-itself so that one’s personalization is not merely the superficial decoration of another lifeless object.

V. Culpability for Suffering and Individual Morality

Anything that disappears from your psychological inventory is apt to turn up in the guise of a hostile neighbor, who will inevitably arouse your anger and make you aggressive. It is surely better to know that your worst enemy is right there in your own heart.

carl Jung, civilization in transition, Vol. 10, the fight with the shadow

It may seem like an oddly arbitrary concept to associate with individuality, but understanding the individual must include the depth and wealth of experience of individuals, especially their suffering. In regards to psychotherapy and the notion of making one’s life “well” by some standard of solving what are typically identified as psychological “problems” or illnesses that lead unavoidably to conflict or discord, Carl Jung stated “We psychologists have learned, through long and painful experience, that you deprive a man of his best resource when you help him to get rid of his complexes. You can only help him to become sufficiently aware of them and to start a conscious conflict within himself. … It is surely better to know that your worst enemy is right there in your own heart.” Jung continues in his essay The Fight with the Shadow to relate the suffering of the individual, the “sole carrier of mind and life”, to the impetus of life in a counter-balancing dynamic. Through the pain and suffering that we experience, we grow resentful towards what has developed these “complexes” within us, but we also grow insecure in ourselves and project onto the world what we believe will give us peace if our ambition is actualized. Believing that peace is ultimately unattainable due to humanity’s inherent conflict with the shadow of the individual and the individual’s inherent alienation in society, Jung argued that it is better to familiarize oneself with the cause of suffering and conflict, namely the influence of the uncontrollable shadow within each person, and to form a relationship with it that will facilitate the embodiment of a morally sound set of ethical principles.

While Jung believed that the shadow of the individual is projected by and onto each individual, which he viewed as a fortuitous means of identifying that which is (at least potentially) pathological in our own minds, he also argued that it is better for humans and their societies to reserve conflict for specific battle grounds. It would be better to keep conflict to oneself if possible, but to also reserve more general social conflict to political arenas instead of giving in to the war-like tendencies latent within humans. In accomplishing this, people could in turn allow peace to foster between one another as a means and ends dedicated to ethical social arrangements. However, this is inherently imposing on the individual and forces him/her to relegate as much conflict as possible to within his/her heart and mind, compromising on one’s inclinations for the sake of specifically elected values.

This is naturally the process by which the human person evolves and maintains individuality through the changes forced upon them by suffering and alienation, but it comes with a sort of spiritual curse that troubles the mind greatly if the individual remains attached to former ways of living before more ethical changes had been established. For instance, if an individual is used to holding freedom as a value of the highest priority, this individual will face conflict in interactions and exchanges with other freedom-valuing individuals and authority figures within society. Any boundaries, especially arbitrary and unnecessary ones, which the individual faces will be met with frustration and resentment if the individual does not change the prioritization of freedom as an abstract value. Absolute freedom flies in the face of any authoritarian structure, be it a political government or an artistic or technical hierarchy of recognized skill; after all, why should the individual allow others to limit and regulate the ways in which the individual decides to affirm or direct his/her life? Why is imposing upon individuals not justifiable for individuals, but acceptable for a political government, something estranged from individual spirituality all-together seeing as it has no experience of its own, no capability for suffering, and is only in existence by virtue of cooperative effort among individuals themselves? An especially authoritarian governmental structure will do more to cause suffering in individuals regulated and governed by it than it would to alleviate suffering and assist in affirming more positive manifestations of the energy and impetus of the mind and life. However, the absence of governmental structure, though in alignment with absolute freedom, allows the depravity and evil tendencies of some individuals to overpower the will and being of others and impose more suffering upon them than is morally acceptable.

Dostoevsky’s character Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment probes this very dilemma. Being a student of law, Raskolnikov at one point argues that it would not be and should not be considered a crime for an individual who finds him/herself in the position to violate convention for the greater good to take such the opportunity to commit something that would otherwise be considered evil for the sake of proliferating good and resolving suffering and conflict among people. Though he does not immediately identify the action as being of immoral quality, he argues that the supposed immorality of it is in direct contrast to the availability for positivity to result from the break of ethical convention, and that this justifies leniency on the part of criminal punishment that would be enacted by any governmental, societal, or authoritarian structure. In short, it is better to allow people to commit evils for the sake of fostering peace among individuals than it is for individuals to be forced to accept any and all suffering caused by the lack of moral integrity of one person or a few whom the individuals in question must suffer the displeasure of associating, exchanging, and living with for the sake of avoiding any more displays of conflict. A brief summary of the underlying claim is that though evil is not moral, it is ethically acceptable, or justifiable, in organized societies governed by political structures. An argument for such a claim goes as follows:

Political society inherently imposes ethical and psychological conformity upon the individual and alienates the individual’s will for freedom of self-determination and self-expression, denying the affirmation of life and individuality. Social interactions and relationships, which we cannot live without, are never without conflict, even in the most intimate and most loving and compassionate arrangements. Natural disasters and other tragedies suffered by individuals burdens them with emotional pains and suffering for several years if not indefinitely. Suffering itself can fester in individuals making them resentful towards others and/or the rest of existence, breeding hostility in their hearts and minds which can provoke them to commit evils, thereby causing more suffering and tragedy. Claiming it is the individual’s responsibility to alleviate or justify the world’s suffering is too great a burden for any person, and a command which he/she is most likely doomed to fail as most people are incapable of becoming truly heroically moral. Therefore, it is better to commit evil ourselves and accept the burden of the suffering of those whom you/we impose upon, and accept suffering internally for our giving in to nihilism, depravity, and immorality, than it is to pretend that suffering does not carry the horrifyingly massive significance to our personal experience that it holds, or that suffering is not perpetual and unavoidable. Stated more concisely, it is better to accept evil within ourselves and to act upon it with as much commitment as we act upon our ideal good than it is to let all evil be imposed upon us and to bear the burden of all suffering in assenting submission.

Though Jung argued that it is best for the overall wellness of humans to integrate as much of their shadow into their expressed personality as possible, thereby making a home in oneself for the conflict that is experienced outwardly, accepting the influences and actions of evil for the expressed purpose of attempting to balance or negate the experiences of suffering among individuals has, to my knowledge, not been argued for outside of the claims of clearly pathological political or social structures or similar fictional individuals or structures such as the Sith of the Star Wars Universe who claim in their creed that “Peace is a lie”, or Thanos of the Marvel Cinematic Universe who claims that life must be limited to be maintained because of its inherent self-destructive tendencies. The moral dilemma here, if there is one, is that it is natural for beings like humans to not only be capable of, but to willingly commit evil for the sake of suffering itself and/or (supposedly ignorantly) for the sake of good; however, any individual or social structure that admits this and embodies this philosophic perspective of morality/immorality is deemed to be necessarily morally perverse and compromised by a sort of self-destructive illness of the soul or mind. One cannot be morally good by nature, but one is commanded to be so by the sentiment of compassion and ethical orientation of morality itself, which governing authorities claim as justification for power over individuals and individuals claim as justification for power against other individuals. Yet we have the moral obligation of attempting to limit if not directly oppose as much suffering as possible, even that caused by those whom we depend upon.

To make a response to this dilemma, an end or goal absolutely must be designated as being absolutely valuable, otherwise the entire notion of ethicality is compromised by nihilism and arbitration. Morality must have some objective basis, otherwise it cannot oblige any individual to its adherence. However, we have not, and some argue cannot, find that objective reason which fulfills the necessary and sufficient prerequisite for morality’s objectivity. Instead, what we have discovered in studying humans, their rationale, and their behaviors is that those who are most likely to be moral for the sake of morality and goodness are also the same people who are particularly familiar with depravity and immorality, and who have gone through the underworld of nihilism to re-invent value and morality themselves. If Nietzsche’s proclamation of the death of God and absolute value is true for our modern societies, the only objective basis for morality may be the most fundamental similarities in our subjective experiences of existence, that we all are capable of suffering and producing or assisting the propagation of suffering.

The conversation of the significance and value of this fact still must be had, for it is not sufficient for the fulfillment of any morality or ethical code to simply acknowledge suffering’s existence as a phenomenon, but to also make a judgment of its value and, if need be, its purpose. Suffering can precede immense growth and transcendental transformation in the human heart and mind, but it is unclear if willing oneself to suffering is the best method for fulfilling or instigating this transformation if necessary, and it may do immeasurably more harm than good to force suffering onto oneself and/or others. There are some cultures which hold suffering itself as sacred and like that which gives value to all things good and bad, but the consensus of many societies is one strongly antagonistic to the idea of “necessary evils” and those who would promote them. Regardless, morality cannot exist without immorality, and one cannot be understood without a complementary understanding of the other.

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