The Enlightenment's Concept of the Individual and its Contemporary Criticism

Polish Journal of Philosophy 1 (2):41-59 (2007)
Abstract
Communitarian social philosophy was born in opposition to some tenets of liberalism. Liberal individualism has been among its most strongly contested claims. In their criticisms, the communitarians point to the Enlightenment’s sources of the individualist vision of society and morality. The aim of this paper is to demonstrate that, even if the communitarian line of argument has been justified in more than one way, it is at the same time important to remember that the greatest figure of the Scottish Enlightenment, that of of David Hume, does not fit the individualistic picture too well. I shall begin with a contemporary definition of individualism, as defined by John Watkins, then I shall proceed to argue that methodological individualism is rarely an innocent philosophical position, i.e. that it is very often a preliminary step in attempts to find a solution to many other, much more important and more practically relevant issues. For methodological individualism is usually associated with ontological, as well as moral and political individualistic doctrines, and they usually go hand in hand, influencing and strengthening each other
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