Wednesday, March 02, 2005


If you, like I, were waiting with bated breath for an answer to my poorly articulated question about individualism and less fortunate individuals, then you should look at bk's response in the comments. Then, head over to his blog, where he includes illustrations, and where now the discussion is continuing in the comments.

(It seems that the Burger King had gotten confused by all the paczki references in this blog of late and referred to it as the "furyblob," but he has "corrected" that now--but maybe he was on to something?)

UPDATE: For full context, read all the comments, but here is bk's final answer, starting with my re-(potentially clarified)-statement of my question:
"What I want to know is, in a worldview centered around the freedom of the individual to pursue his or her own objectives, is there a sense of concern about how other individuals fare?" OK, however long it took me, I think I finally understand your question, and why you focused on individualism, specifically.

You're asking if individualists ever think about the welfare of others, or do we state our abstract principles about abstract rights and thereafter close our hearts and minds to the world?

The short answer is this: philosophical individualism is a very specific position with a very narrow scope. It is not a worldview. Individualists as individualists don't worry about positive obligations or the practical welfare of others. But that doesn't mean that someone who is an individualist on ethics needs to stop at negative rights. An individual can be more than an individualist. Individualism tells you what not to do. It limits your options, just as any ethical principle necessarily does, but it doesn't require you to become an atomist.

An atomist is an individualist who ignores the role of community or the plight of others. I am not an atomist. For most of us, philosophical individualism is the starting point, not the end of the discussion. An atomist is is an individualist for whom individualism is both start and end. (Individualists are always being accused of being atomists, which is why I care so much about this particular distinction.)

Classical liberals and economic libertarians believe that the greatest good comes to the greatest number through spontaneous order in the absence of coercion.

This is the source of my interest in economics.

(I hope that finally answers your actual question. Sorry this was such a struggle.)

Life is a struggle, bk. Thanks for your answer.

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