Chapter 14 Individuality And Genus

 
Chapter 14 Individuality And Genus
 
    [1] The view
         that man
            is destined
           to become a complete,
              self-contained,
                 free individuality
        seems to be contested
            by the fact
               that
                  he makes
                     his appearance
               as a member
                   of a naturally given totality
        (race,
           people,
              nation,
           family,
              male
                 or female sex)
           and also works
               within a totality
        (state,
           church,
              and so on).

    He bears
        the general characteristics
           of the group
      to which
         he belongs,
      and
         he gives to his actions
            a content
               that is determined
              by the position
             he occupies among many others.
 
    [2] This
        being so,
       is individuality possible
           at all?

    Can
         we regard man
            as a totality
               in himself,
       seeing
          that
             he grows
           out of one totality
               and
            integrates himself
               into another?
 
    [3] Each member of a totality
        is determined,
       as regards
           its characteristics
              and functions,
       by the whole totality.

    A racial group
        is a totality and
           all the people belonging
              to it bear
                 the characteristic
                features
                   that are inherent
           in the nature
               of the group.

    How
         the single member is constituted,
       and
          how
             he will behave,
       are determined
           by the character
               of the racial group.

    Therefore the physiognomy
        and
       conduct
          of the individual
             have
          something generic
             about them.

    If
         we ask
            why
               some particular thing
                  about a man
                is like
               this
                  or like that,
       we are referred
          back
             from the individual
           to the genus.

    The genus
        explains
           why
              something in the individual appears
           in the form we observe.
 
    [4] Man,
       however,
          makes himself
        free
           from what is generic.

    For the generic features
        of the human race,
           when rightly understood,
        do not restrict
       man's freedom,
      and should not
          artificially be made
         to do so.

    A man
        develops qualities
           and activities
              of his own,
       and the basis
           for these
          we can seek only
             in the man himself.

    What is generic
        in him
           serves only
              as a medium
      in which
         to express
            his own individual being.

    He uses
        as a foundation
       the characteristics that nature
         has given him,
      and
         to these
            he gives a form
       appropriate
          to his own being.

    If we
          seek
         in the generic laws the reasons
            for an expression
               of this being,
       we seek in vain.

    We are concerned
        with something
            purely individual
       which
          can be explained only
        in terms
           of itself.

    If
         a man
            has achieved
           this emancipation
              from all that is generic,
       and
          we are nevertheless determined
             to explain
            everything
           about him
               in generic terms,
       then we
          have
              no sense
                 for what is individual.

    [5] It is impossible
          to understand
             a human being completely
         if one takes
            the concept
           of genus
               as the basis
                   of one's judgment.

    The tendency
        to judge according to
       the genus
         is
        at its most stubborn
       where
          we are concerned
             with differences
                of sex.

    Almost invariably man
        sees in woman,
       and woman in man,
          too much
             of the general character
                of the other sex
                   and too little
                      of what is individual.

    In practical life
          this does less harm
             to men than
           to women.

    The social position
        of women
           is
        for the most part
            such an unworthy one
      because
         in so many respects
       it
           is determined not
              as it should be
        by the particular characteristics
            of the individual woman,
      but
         by the general picture
            one has
          of woman's natural tasks
              and needs.

    A man's activity in life
        is governed
           by his individual capacities
               and inclinations,
       whereas
           a woman's is supposed
          to be determined solely
             by the mere fact
                that she is a woman.

    She
         is supposed to be
            a slave
           to what
              is generic,
       to womanhood
           in general.

    As long
        as men continue to debate
       whether
          a woman
             is suited
            to this or that profession
       "according to
          her natural disposition",
             the so-called woman's question
           cannot advance
              beyond its most elementary stage.

    What a woman,
       within her natural limitations,
          wants
         to become
            had better
               be left
                  to the woman herself
              to decide.

    If it
        is true
           that women
              are suited only
           to that profession
              which is theirs
                 at present,
       then
          they will hardly have it
             in them
                to attain any other.

    But
         they must be allowed
            to decide
           for themselves
         what is
            in accordance
               with their nature.

    To all
          who
              fear
                  an upheaval
                     of our social structure
                    through accepting women
           as individuals
               and not
                  as females,
       we must reply that
           a social structure
         in which
             the status
                of one half
               of humanity
                  is unworthy
           of a human being
              is itself
                 in great need
                    of improvement.
 
    [6] Anyone
         who judges people
            according to
               generic characters
                  gets only
           as far
              as the frontier
         where people
            begin to be
               beings whose activity
                  is based on free self-determination.

    Whatever lies short
        of this frontier
           may naturally become
         matter
            for academic study.

    The characteristics
        of race,
           people,
        nation
           and
          sex are
              the subject matter
            of special branches
                of study.

    Only men
         who wish
            to live
           as nothing
              more than examples
                 of the genus
                could possibly conform
           to a general picture
               such as arises
                  from academic study
                     of this kind.

    But none of
         these branches
            of study
               are able
          to advance as far
             as the unique content
                of the single individual.

    Determining the individual
          according to
             the laws
                of his genus
                   ceases
         where the sphere
            of freedom
        (in thinking and acting)
            begins.

    The conceptual content which man
        has to connect
           with the percept
               by an act
                   of thinking
                      in order to have
                     the full reality
                        cannot be fixed
                       once and for all
                          and bequeathed ready-made
                       to mankind.

    The individual
        must get his concepts
           through his own intuition.

    How
         the individual has
            to think
               cannot possibly be deduced
           from any kind
              of generic concept.

    It depends simply
        and
           solely on the individual.

    Just
         as little is it possible
            to determine
           from the general characteristics
               of man
         what concrete
            aims
          the individual
             may choose
           to set himself.

    If
         we would understand
            the single individual
         we must find
            our way
           into his own particular
              being
                  and not stop short
               at those characteristics
                  that are typical.

    In this sense
          every single human being
              is a separate problem.

    And every kind
        of study
           that deals
              with abstract
             thoughts
            and
               generic concepts
                  is
      but
          a preparation
             for the knowledge
                we get
       when
          a human individuality tells us
             his way
        of viewing the world,
       and
          on the other hand
             for the knowledge
                we get
               from the content
                   of his acts of will.

    Whenever
         we feel
             that we
                are dealing
               with that element
                  in a man
         which
            is
               free
           from stereotyped thinking
              and instinctive willing,
                 then,
               if
         we would understand him
            in his essence,
       we must cease
          to call
             to our aid any concepts
                at all of
                   our own making.

    The act
        of knowing
           consists
              in combining
                 the concept
        with the percept
            by means of thinking.

    With all other
        objects
           the observer must get
              his concepts
           through his intuition;
              but
             if we
                are
              to understand
                 a free individuality
              we must take over
                 into our own
                    spirit those concepts
             by which
                 he determines himself,
       in their pure form
          (without mixing
             our own
                conceptual content
           with them).

    Those
         who immediately mix
            their own concepts
           into every judgment
               about another person,
       can never arrive
           at the understanding
              of an individuality.

    Just
         as the free
            individuality
               emancipates himself
                  from the characteristics
                     of the genus,
       so must
           the act
              of knowing
                 emancipate itself
           from the way
         in which
             we understand
                what is generic.
 
    [7]
         Only
            to the extent
               that a man
                  has emancipated himself
           in this way
               from all that is generic,
       does
          he count
             as a free spirit
                within a human community.

    No man
        is all genus,
       none
          is
             all individuality;
       but
          every man gradually emancipates
             a greater or lesser sphere
           of his being,
       both
          from the generic characteristics
             of animal life
                and from domination
           by the decrees
               of human authorities.
 
    [8] As regards
        that part
           of his nature
      where
          a man
             is not able
           to achieve
               this freedom
            for himself,
      he constitutes
          a part
             of the whole organism
                of nature and spirit.

    In this respect
         he lives
            by copying others
               or
                  by obeying
          their commands.

    But
         only that part
            of his conduct
          that springs
             from his intuitions
            can have ethical value
           in the true sense.

    And those moral instincts
          that
             he possesses
                through the inheritance
                   of social instincts
         acquire ethical value
            through being taken up
               into his intuitions.

    It is
        from individual ethical intuitions
            and
          their acceptance
             by human communities
                that all
               moral activity of mankind originates.

    In other words,
       the moral life
           of mankind
              is the sum total
                 of the products
                    of the moral imagination
                   of free human individuals.

    This is
          the conclusion
             reached by monism.

    Footnotes:
 
    [1] Immediately
        upon the publication
            of this book (1894),
      critics
         objected
            to the above arguments
        that,
           even now,
          within the generic character
             of her sex,
          a woman
       is able
          to shape her life individually,
             just
                as she pleases,
          and far more freely
         than
        a man
            who is already
               de-individualized,
          first by the school,
      and later
          by war
              and profession.

    I am aware
         that this objection
            will be urged today (1918),
       even more strongly.

    None the less,
       I feel
          bound
             to let
                my sentences stand,
       in the hope
          that there are readers
         who appreciate how violently
            such
               an objection
                  runs
                counter
           to the concept
               of freedom
                  advocated
                     in this book,
       and
          who will judge
             my sentences
           above by a standard other
          than
             the de-individualizing
                of man
                   through school
               and profession.