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Rabid Individualism vs. Thisness

by | Sep 2, 2021

Photo by Ilya Shishikhin on Unsplash

Rabid Individualism vs. Thisness

Catholic World Report published an essay I wrote this week (see link below). It focuses on two kinds of individuals, the rabid individualism of Nietzsche and the haecceity, or thisness, of the individual as conceived by the Franciscan philosopher and theologian John Duns Scotus(1266-1308). One man was an atheist, the other a Catholic. One man dismissed the Absolute as a delusion, the other worshipped God. Is a middle road to be found?

I wrote the essay because, on the one hand, I am very concerned about concerted efforts to displace the individual through group identity. Critical Race Theory (CRT) is but one example. CRT divides individuals into groups based on skin color. Gender identity identifies, of course, by gender. LGBTQ identifies by sexual preference. And the list goes on. In short, identity politics aims to reduce the individual to this or that aspect of their lives. Some of the aspects are accidental, as in skin color. Others are choices, such as sexual preference. Still others are reduced through “feelings,” for example so-called “gender fluidity.” Through these reductions, the unique individual, in all the richness and complexity that is life, is lost.

This is what they are teaching kids in public schools, men and women in military service, corporate and governmental employees. I’m not okay with that.

On the other hand, the anthropocentric turn that was planted in the Renaissance, took root during the Enlightenment, and blossomed in the twentieth century, came to conflate the individual with God. This is Nietzsche’s realm. Though Nietzsche railed against the Enlightenment and is considered a Romantic, his conception of individualism is the inevitable endgame of Enlightenment thinking. For Nietzsche, the individual creates reality, not by imposing reason on the world (the Cartesian dichotomy) as in the Enlightenment, but as an artist through the will to power.

How many college students do you know who believe truth is relative? I’m not okay with that either.

Duns Scotus, before the Renaissance or Nietzsche, came up with a solution to the identity crisis that is the twenty-first century: Thisness. If you are interested in such a solution, click on the link below.

Have a great week!

Individualism, relativism, and the most extreme form of idolatry