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Individuals and Societies

We often see the distinction between individuals and societies as being a strictly quantitative one, but I believe that there are good reasons to make qualitative distinctions in a rather thorough and formal way.

The first reason to make such a distinction is that any novel form of knowledge, experience, or belief (and perhaps a host of other such concepts) must arise within an individual before it can come into contact with the social milieu. That a society has a wealth of such knowledge and experience existing prior to such an individual even being born makes not a bit of difference to this point. The "beingness" of a society and its traditions is well understood, but I think I'm rather alone in pointing out that in the "becomingness" of a society, the role of all individuals, as individuals, is both central and essential.

Epistemology and Metaphysics

Why is the subject of Metaphysics even more contentious than any other branch of Philosophy? Because Metaphysics, the study of "the reality behind reality" (pfft!) is more properly defined as the study of beliefs, values, and the framework of experiences and understandings. They give structure to our individual and collective inquiries and the answers we are prepared to accept as being valid and relevant to these attributes. Metaphysics, as thus defined, becomes the matrix in which Epistemology is embedded.

Epistemology, embedded now in a matrix which allows it to unfold in a harmonious and organic way, proceeds directly from our perceptions of the world around us, through the values by which we evaluate what we perceive, and then on to the actions and performances by which we can effect the changes we hold to be necessary. Epistemology becomes an effective tool for change, rather than an empty academic study which will concern us little outside of that same academic milieu.

If we acknowledge that individuals and societies are distinct in their existential needs and desires, then we can split both Metaphysics and Epistemology each into two sub-domains, yielding four studies: Individual Metaphysics, Individual Epistemology, Social Metaphysics, and Social Epistemology. The original fields become (among other things) the means to investigate and reconcile any disruptive differences in the findings of the fields which lie on either side of the Individual / Social distinction.


Morals and Ethics

The public definitions of Moral principles seems pretty clear to me, and I'm pretty sure that I am not alone in this, but there seem to be a host of confusing definitions of Ethics. I'd like to show that my nascent concept of Social Epistemology explains exactly why an unambiguous definition should be so difficult.

I'd like to begin with a short and effective definition of Morals. Morals are the values we hold as individuals. These values can range from instinctive reactions (such as vomiting material containing dangerous pathogens), to emotional predispositions that seem to exist prior to rational thought, to uncritically accepted historical adages, to well-reasoned and sophisticated arguments. All of these modify the behavior of the individual, all being "powered" as it were, by a completely internal dynamic. Your moral code is your own, and can bring you into conflict with others even as you seem to be doing what you honestly believe to be right. (Philosophy for Everyone points out some of the rewards and hazards of a personal Moral Philosophy.)

Ethics, on the other hand, are those codes of behavior which apply to us as members of a group or society. They must be (at least on occasion) forcefully applied upon individuals by a society at large, or at least some authority which is widely recognized by the group as a whole. They are applied either through willing consent, or through the absence of effective dissent.

Because these two terms are distinct in their definitions based on their sources of motivation, they are much more useful in explaining many observations an individual might make, and help to better define and address various social phenomena as well.

1. Peer Pressure
Occasions of peer pressure are the phenomena of individuals' Moral sense being overcome by the Ethical stance of groups. This conflict of values can be for the better or the worse, depending on who wins, and the relation of the prevailing values to the values of other individuals and groups with which they come into contact.

2. As you are accessing this page and reading these words, perhaps you'd like to put your two cents in here. What's stopping you? P:D

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