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Philosophy:Group versus Individual

Caringabout the interest of oneself vis-a-vis that of the group means that,the doctrine of individualism is the guiding principle. When kid’stoday care about themselves it is an indication that, their interestcomes first while that of their friends or other people ranks second.Individualism cut across two concepts, that is, ethical-political andethical-psychological. As an ethical-psychological concept,individualism means that a person should act, judge and thinkindependently without prior consideration of the welfare of other butguided only by the sovereignty of their mind. In this case, theprinciple of autonomy and supremacy of individual right surpassescommunity or group right and interest. This paper will seek todiscuss whether we should value individual versus group or groupversus individual in the framework of ethical-psychological concept.

Pythagorasheld the speculative life to be the highest good, and in order topursue it an individual must be purified of evil freshly desires(Ralph, Lerner Wood, Hull and Burns 174). The material world wasabstract and the only real thing was the truth hidden in goodness tolife. Sophists such as Protagoras coined the dictum that ‘’man isthe measure of all things’’ which meant that truth, goodness andjustice are relative to the needs and interest of man (Ralph, LernerWood, Hull and Burns 174). In their world aspects such as religion,justice, goodness and truth and society did not matter as much asindividual whims, interest and passion. It this light it is all tooclear that earlier philosophers in Greek believed that individualinterest surpassed group interest, and as such it would appropriatefor a kid to care about themselves and not about others. It is not awonder that Pre-Socratic philosophers believed in such ideas, theiraction of charging fees in exchange of knowledge not only displaystheir materialistic nature but underpins their unwavering believes inphysical world (Ralph, Lerner, Wood, Hull, and Burns 174).

Itthe work of two philosophers who came after Socrates, (Plato andAristotle) that touches on the notion of individual interestvis-à-vis that of the society. They thoroughly examined ethics handin hand with the physical world. These philosophers urged people toreflect on the principles of conduct for their own sake and that ofthe society (Ralph, Lerner Wood, Hull, and Burns 177). Plato stressedthat one should always think of the meaning of life and their actionsall the time since it was overly crucial that an individual shouldlive peacefully in the society. Even though the interest of anindividual is paramount that of the society is equally important. Hecoined the dictum that ‘unexamined life was not worth living’which ignites the notion of collective responsibility (Ralph, LernerWood, Hull and Burns 174). It can be construed that both personal andshared responsibility should not be meant to cause harm to other andto our world but to promote goodness and justice. An individualshould not further personal interest and rights at the expense ofgroup rights. Failure to consider the interest of the large societycan be a recipe for anarchy. Individuals can only manage to improvetheir lives by promoting the interest of all members in the society.

Ethicsis pegged on a precept that juxtaposes individual interest to groupinterest. Though we may have different ideas based on physicalobjects as can be observed by our senses, Plato affirms that thehighest of them all is the idea of the good, because it is the causeand guiding purpose in the world (Ralph, Lerner Wood, Hull, and Burns177). This means that the spiritual aspect of life is of significanceimportance in our existence. This realm of spiritual can only beaccomplished when human being subdued their material side of theirearthly existence and nurture spiritual side. A system of truth couldonly be established by examining ethics.

Therefore,human beings should value the individual but not at the expense ofthe group, for a group interest should supersede individual interest.The statement ‘Kidstoday only care about themselves! In my day, we cared about eachother! ‘Just reveals the how capitalistic notions have ravaged oursociety. Right from birth a child is taught that individual interestsurpasses the interest of the society, even in circumstances whereactions pursued leads to detriment of more than one person.Post-Socratic philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle emphasize onthe importance of upholding group interest over individual concernbecause happiness and a just society can only be created when thewill of majority prevails but the right of minority is respected, andthe smallest minority is an individual.

Shouldwe value the individual over the group or the group over theindividual? Form the philosophical teaching of Plato, Socrates andAristotle, the right of both parties should be respected and noneshould be valued at the expense of the other. But in circumstancewhere a choice has to be made between the two, the group should bevalued more than an individual. Individualism weakens the principleof ethics while collectivism represents the collection of individualwills and interest that should always take precedence.


Ralph,Lee, Lerner, Edward, Wood, T. Allan, Hull, Richard and Burns, M.Edward.World Civilizations Their History and Their Culture.New York. W. Norton &amp Co Inc.1997. Print.