Eruditio Issue 1 Part 2 Editorial

July 3, 2012

We were pleased to introduce ERUDITIO, the new electronic journal of the World Academy of Art & Science, to you in June this year. We indicated then that this first issue of ERUDITIO is dedicated to the theme of individuality viewed from a multidisciplinary focus with implications of social consequences and policy possibilities. The papers emerged from a web seminar of the Academy on “Individuality” as well as a conference on “Humanities and the Contemporary World” organized by the Montenegrin Academy of Sciences and Arts in June. Issue 1 will eventually contain approximately sixteen (16) papers, which will be released in four (4) parts. This communication contains the second batch of four (4) articles attached as a pdf file. Links are provided so that you may also access the individual papers online.

Issue 1 – Part 2: Individuality

            Janani Harish has made an important contribution to the understanding of individuality with a focus on literature. She points out that scientific objectivity in the description of the individual in social process may miss many crucial psychological and social elements of consciousness, which are central to a deeper understanding of the dynamics of social change or social conflict. Harish presents a powerful case (in this instance, literature) for a much deeper understanding of the role of the narrative and its influence on social dynamics for good or evil. Her illustration, drawn from the work of Jane Austen, conventionally considered somewhat apolitical, demonstrates that Austen’s deft use of the narrative is brilliantly deployed to explore the interplay of individual personality and class conscious barriers. Austen demonstrates that the individuation of love provides a tool for generating a degree of permeability in otherwise rigid class barriers. She implicitly suggests that in a state whose class lines are rigid there is the prospect of violent resistance, as in the example of France. Harish establishes the point that creative consciousness is a powerful tool when deployed in the form of an effective narrative.

            Augusto Forti provides an insightful “history” of the individual in the context of European culture. He cautions us that cross culturally there are great similarities in the conception of individuality. He suggests this to implicitly endorse the view that the emergence of individuality in Europe is not necessarily an exclusive parochial European idea. Forti notes that the political culture and structure of European history, dominated by Greek and Roman ideas, recognize individuality only for the upper class: the aristocracy of philosophers, tyrants, priests, etc. In this sense, individuality was a matter limited to privileged individuals. The rest of humanity had no rights and no individuality. Forti sees the emergence of the notion of individuality as coming at the end of the Middle Ages, but recognizes that it needed a long incubation to become more universalized. Forti notes that changing forms of economic and craft activity generated experimental activity and research and stresses the implications of this perspective, which drove curiosity and the emergence of science. He notes that this period coincided with the idea that commoners enjoy status as individuals. This may be analogous to the shift from feudalism to mercantilism (from status to contract). Forti notes that we do not have an adequate explanation for the appearance of the machine, but that the machine and the human commune generated a concentration of labour and eventually, associations and guilds of free individuals emerged. He draws attention to the idea of ownership, of the enterprise, and the bourgeois as a new social actor, the capitalist and the entrepreneur. Forti also notes the role of law in the enhancement of individuality, reflected in the English experience of the Magna Carta. Notwithstanding, Forti’s conclusion is that in the West the individual is the progeny of the Renaissance.

             Nagan and Haddad in their paper bring in the dimension of human rights activism to the discourse on individuality. Their paper commences with a reference to a 26-year-old vegetable vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, who took a stand against the Tunisian dictator and whose example spread throughout the Middle East, in what is known as the Arab Spring. Their paper draws attention to the importance of the individual as a stakeholder and activist in the promotion and defence of human rights. Their paper reminds us that the modern culture of human rights emerges as a consequence of conflict and struggle. Their paper then examines the role of individual agency in deepening and broadening the idea of justice, drawing on references to the most modern philosophical and economic theories of justice and dignity. The paper then identifies the foundational values reflected in the culture of human rights and explores the advocacy aspects of the processes of decision making that are meant to defend and promote individual activism for the realization of the goal of human dignity.

            Orio Giarini has provided an original and unsettling insight into individuality choosing for his title the notion of a secretariat of the soul and its assumed place in a domain of certitude. What he is in effect getting at, is that the way we perceive and understand phenomena has been seduced by a version of science that no longer is defensible. To a large extent, scientific truth from a Newtonian perspective represents stability, stasis, and equilibrium. Giarini is struck by the implications of the insights of quantum physics in which instability appears to be the rule and stability, the exception. A powerful concept which has emerged from this field is the uncertainty principle. The idea here is that if you observe the mass of a particle, you cannot know its motion. If you can measure its motion, you cannot know its mass. Orio Giarini is interested in the broader implications of uncertainty in human relations and individuality, which he has applied in his other writings to an analysis of economic and social theory. Some of his views were anticipated in the US in an intellectual movement known as the “Revolt against Formalism”. It was also reflected in an approach to law known as “Legal Realism”. At the back of this movement was the idea that law, like life, mirrors its element of stability and instability. Indeed, Harold D. Lasswell, a former President of WAAS, once suggested in the context of the social sciences that instability is the rule and stability, the exception. These are the challenges that touch on society and individuality which Giarini’s piece explores.             

Click here for articles in Issue 1 – Part 1: Individuality

Winston P. Nagan
Chair, Program Committee
Editor-in-Chief, ERUDITIO