Written Assignments

Imagining Individualism


What is an Individual?

   In class and in our readings, we came to some conclusions about what the Enlightenment concept of an individual is. This is the concept that, with some modifications, we still carry around with us today. From this concept is built our entire world view concerning the nature of society, politics, government, authority, economics, and even science. It would not be unfair to say that a culture's concept of an individual underlies every aspect of the culture's world view. For this reason, we are going to examine this question of the "individual" for every culture we deal with. For each culture is going to have a different idea as to what an individual is, and so each culture is going to have different ideas about society, politics, authority, and knowledge based on these differing ideas of individuality.

Creating Knowledge

   All knowledge that you're learning has been made up by someone; to become really brilliant involves not just learning knowledge that someone else has made up, but learning to make your own knowledge. That's the purpose of this assignment. Making knowledge is very simple: you figure out what you don't know by using what you do know. You now know what the Enlightenment concept of the individual is. You also know (since I told you), that other cultures don't share the same ideas about what an individual is. So in order to start figuring out what these different definitions are, take what you know about the Enlightenment concept of the individual and figure out what its opposite might be. That's how you start creating knowledge.

How to do this bizarre assignment

   For most of you, this is a strange and bizarre new type of assignment. For that reason, I want you to keep it simple (one, maybe two paragraphs). I want you to take one aspect of our definition of the Englightenment concept of the individual (if you've forgotten, then just picture the camera obscura in your mind) and then try to imagine what its opposite might be. You will first explain what that aspect of the Enlightenment concept of the individual means. For instance, if you focus on the mechanistic aspects, then explain what this means and how this affects our culture's view of society, authority, psychology, or science. Then imagine what the opposite concept would be. For instance, if the individual is not a machine, then what would it be? Then imagine how that opposite concept would affect the view of society, authority, or science.

Discussion

   One more requirement. I want you to develop or disagree with the answer submitted by one other person in the class. You don't have to develop your argument from this previous answer, but you must incorporate some aspect of that person's argument into your own. (You can read other answers by going to the index at the top of this page). The more thoroughly you respond to that previous answer, the better your grade will be!

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