Courageous or Indifferent Individualism

Ethical Perspectives 5 (2):92-101 (1998)
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Abstract

‘Courageous or Indifferent Individualism’ is the subject on which I have been asked to speak, and I must first attempt to interpret what the conveners of this conference had in mind in asking me to speak on this subject. First of all, individualism must be taken for granted as our fate as modern persons; but, second, there is more than one kind of individualism and we must discriminate between them. Courage is the first, though not the highest, of the classical virtues. Indifference cannot be considered a virtue in any context.Thus I might reformulate my title as ‘Virtuous or Vicious Individualism.’ Put this way, my subject might seem to be concerned exclusively with ethics. Ethics will be central in my discussion, but I want to talk about more than ethics. I want to talk about the philosophical anthropology which lies behind these two forms of individualism, and I about their connection with different kinds of political and economic policy.But before I proceed further I want to be honest about why, after reading the position papers and other materials sent to me in advance, I think I was asked to participate in this conference and speak on this subject. If I am wrong, you can correct me in the discussion period. I believe it is because the American economy, American political influence, and American culture are all exercising an enormous pressure in a single direction on Europe, and indeed on the whole world, to be more like us, to be Americanized.As a strong critic of recent tendencies in my country, I think I have been asked to help you understand the nature of this pressure and even maybe to suggest some ways it might be resisted. Later this year I will go to Italy and Brazil with the same mission. Globalization is often a euphemism for this kind of Americanization and I have begun to feel that it is into the discussion of globalization that I am being pulled

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