Sunday, March 12, 2006

Responding to: you know Who

Recently a commenter known as: Who reacted to this recycled essay (and again on his own blog here…I guess I’m “another journal”, referenced in the title, although he neither mentioned my name not provided a link to my blog).
You once wrote: "As an individualist, I support the freedom of another to self destruct, as long as there are no other victims."

And later, aware of a degree of contradiction or paradox, "No one is an island."
Firstly, what is an individualist…or individualism? Well, Merriam-Webster Online defines it this way:
(1) a: a doctrine that the interests of the individual are or ought to be ethically paramount; also: conduct guided by such a doctrine (2) : the conception that all values, rights, and duties originate in individuals b: a theory maintaining the political and economic independence of the individual and stressing individual initiative, action, and interests; also: conduct or practice guided by such a theory
Now, while I happen to agree with much of Ayn Rand’s philosophy (among others), vis-a-vis individualism, I do not in fact espouse individual isolationism. I appreciate the various benefits that are attendant to civilized society…ergo, “no one is an island”.

On a purely conceptual level, individualism is integral to the human experience. Each and every individual is unique in the universe; each has the ability (theoretically at least) to think and act independently…or, if you like, individually. Furthermore, each individual is personally responsible for their own choices and the consequences that inexorably follow (see this). It may sound elementary, but apparently, not everyone understands it; Who continued:
There is a hidden assumption behind the individualist position, the assumption that we are independent beings. Time(s) and space(s) and matter(s), however, are not compartmentalised on all levels. On subtler levels they are fully connected. It is simply an error to see only the gross.
From a quantum mechanical perspective, the interconnectedness of the material universe goes without saying; everything is matter and/or energy. But that’s not exactly relevant to individualism. What’s more, “the assumption that we are independent beings” is quite a sound one in my view. For humans may be made of similar stuff, but not the same stuff (i.e., each individual / mind is a distinct entity). This is not a distinction without a difference.
My first assumptions are that matter and energy are gross forms of consciousness and that there are no boundaries obstructing consciousness from what it wants to experience. Further, it is an illusion that there are numerous independent consciousnesses.
Read the last sentence again…and than again if needed. That’s right, Who claims that “independent consciousnesses” are “an illusion”. I just have one question: on what do you base such an assertion?
So, if somebody overdoses with drugs in the USA, it does affect me here in the UK, truly. If a large number of people do that, it will somehow degrade my own experience of life and I may feel motivated to act. There are always other victims.
I’m not sure I follow his line of reasoning, but I’ll take a stab at it anyway. It sounds like he’s arguing that actions have consequences, which is just stating the obvious. But the subtler implication is that government, or society at large, ought to simply prohibit activities that could conceivably cause harm to another. Frankly, that’s bullshit! For instance, why don’t we (government, society, the “global community”, whatever) urge lawmakers to criminalize: the driving of automobiles, the owning of baseball bats and steak knives, the drinking of alcoholic beverages, the possession of firearms and the like? The answer is simple really: such prohibitions are an affront to, and egregiously impinge, individual liberty…period.

Here’s a novel idea: why don’t “we” punish actual misconduct that results in harm done to another, instead of advocating the punishment of potential harm?

[cross-posted at The Liberty Papers]