Green on the individual and society

"There can be nothing in a nation however exalted its mission, or in a society however perfectly organized, which is not in the persons composing the nation or the society. Our ultimate standard of worth it is an ideal of personal worth. All other values are relative to value for, of, or in a person. To speak of any progress or improvement or development of a nation or society or mankind except as relative to some greater worth of persons, is to use words without meaning. The saying that 'a nation is merely an aggregate of individuals' is indeed fallacious, but mainly on account of the introduction of the emphatic 'merely'. The fallacy lies in the implication that the individuals could be what they are -- could have their moral and spiritual qualities -- independently of their existence in a nation. The notion is conveyed that they bring those qualities ready-made into the national existence, which thereupon results from their combination; while the truth is that, whatever moral capacity must be presupposed, it is only actualized through the habits, institutions, and laws, in virtue of which the individuals form a nation. But it is none the less true that the life of the nation has no real existence except as the life of the individuals composing the nation..." -- Lectures on the Principles of Political Obligation and Other Writings, p. 256

1 comment:

  1. The fallacy lies in the implication that the individuals could be what they are -- could have their moral and spiritual qualities -- independently of their existence in a nation. The notion is conveyed that they bring those qualities ready-made into the national existence, which thereupon results from their combination; while the truth is that, whatever moral capacity must be presupposed, it is only actualized through the habits, institutions, and laws, in virtue of which the individuals form a nation.

    Could you translate this for me? I mean, obviously no one can be born outside of society in the woods or whatever since they're born to someone.

    But it is none the less true that the life of the nation has no real existence except as the life of the individuals composing the nation...

    Isn't this still somewhat reductionist?

    ReplyDelete