In other words, thinking always involves the search for universals behind phenomena -- for the principle behind the manifestation; and also the exploration of new instances and exemplifications of the principle. Cognitive metabolism consists of analysis and synthesis, unity and plenitude (which I suppose are prolongations of Absolute and Infinite).
A lot can go wrong with both of these. Some people get lost in particulars. We call them nominalists. Others are stranded in the dream world of abstract principles. This can result in anything from philosophical idealism (culminating in a Hegel) to political demagoguery to religious and secular cultism.
Obama, for example, cannot cope with what you and I call "economic reality" because the principles he holds dear simply do not go there. In short, the economic theory to which he is beholden is inadequate to the real world of a complex market economy.
For example, to express the desire to "spread the wealth around" conveys breathtaking ignorance of how wealth is created, and more importantly, how to continue creating it. True, a politician can force the distribution of income at the point of a gun.
But this only works once (or up to a point), since it puts in place a huge disincentive to the wealth creators. As we know, leftists embrace science so long as it doesn't clash with their ideology. In this case, the needs of the state require operant conditioning to be underbussed.
Likewise the fantasy of a "right to healthcare." First, let's be clear on what we're talking about here. Obama isn't really talking about a right to healthcare, since we already have that right.
Rather, he's talking about the state forcing one party to render its services to another. That's an obligation, not a right. A genuine right, as understood by the founders, entails no one's obligation. For example, my right to freedom of speech doesn't mean that MSNBC has to give me airtime to rebut their wild beliefs and accusations.
But we're getting far afield. What I really want to discuss is the complementarity of universal and particular as it manifests in human beings. This obviously occurs in the exterior/anatomical sense, in that we are all "human beings," even though each of us is unique. This is most noticeable in the face, each human face being unique.
We all have the ability to instantly distinguish one human face from another, to such an extent that we don't even think about how remarkable a feat this is.
For example, I'm guessing that if a dachshund looks us in the face, our face will be as indistinct to it as dachshund faces are to us. Sure, there are some differences. But if you were to put seven billion dachshunds in a room, yours would blend in with the rest. However, you could pick your own child out in an instant.
The fact that we can do this must mean that individuals are Very Important, both to Nature and Nature's God. And they are. For whatever reason, the cosmos puts a very high premium on Persons.
Specifically, as it pertains to our interior humanness, the universal/particular complementarity appears in the form of group/individual, or community/person. Human beings are, of course, "social animals." But they are equally "personal animals," or just say persons, each one as unique and unrepeatable as the face that exteriorizes him or her.
One obvious way this complementarity plays out is in our political arrangement. Democrats and leftists more generally emphasize the group at the expense of the individual. This is the reason why leftism feels so "un-American" to us, because our classical liberal founders emphasized the sanctity of the individual.
For such conservative liberals, the group exists for the individual, whereas for the left, the individual is subordinated to the group. If one is grounded in the latter metaphysic, then something like Obamacare is both logical and necessary.
This is the topic of Mark Perry's new book, The Mystery of Individuality: Grandeur and Delusion of the Human Condition. He is a traditionalist of the Geunon/Schuon school, and too hardcore for me.
However, this doesn't mean that he doesn't have some valuable insights, just as the fact that a scientist happens to be an atheist doesn't imply any kind of blanket refutation of his genuine insights. Again, we take truth where we find it, since any and all truth -- and even the very possibility of truth -- is of God.
All religions address this issue in one way or another, and usually in a negative way. In other words, most religions try to serve as a kind of brake on runaway individualism, and emphasize our indebtedness to the group.
In itself this is not necessarily problematic, so long as we don't confuse "group" and "state." The state is not a genuine group, contrary to the left's belief that it is "the one thing we all belong to." There is no interior to the state except in extremely pathological cases such as National Socialism, in which case the state embodied "the will of the people"
Or, think of eastern religions which focus on the eradication of the "ego." This is a very problematic word, since it is based on a bad translation (a latinisation) of Freud's German "das Ich," which essentially connotes the I.
Why would anyone ever want to get rid of his I, since this would be the equivalent of suicide? More generally, the term "ego" doesn't actually appear in any Buddhist or Hindu scripture, since it was only coined in the early 20th century.
Anyway, a lot of religions attempt to tame or "eliminate" the ego-I, but not too many seem to celebrate it. And there are good enough reasons for this, since excess or disproportionate celebration of the I is what we call narcissism or sociopathy.
Criminals and politicians, for example, generally do not suffer from low self esteem, but way too much. It takes an absurd amount of self-esteem and ego-inflation to feel entitled to rob a man, whether with a gun or through legislation. It would never occur to an appropriately humble man to be an Al Capone or Barack Obama.
So there is that negative reality of the ego-I. And if we look around us, it isn't hard to condemn its excesses and abysses. Just turn on the television. It's everywhere. But does this mean that there is no appropriate -- and even sanctified -- individualism?
To be continued...
Yeah, I'd recognize that mug anywhere: