Tuesday, September 16, 2014

More on Community and Character

More on Community and Character
P. Schultz
September 16, 2014

Here is a follow up to my last post on Character, from an email exchange with a friend.

On Sep 15, 2014, at 1:25 PM, MB wrote:
Dear Peter,
I concur with your reversal of Berry; the corruption of the individual has its source in the corruption of the community.  I wonder, do you think that the cultivation of the individual or the cultivation of the community is more necessary and more important and critical in our time?

My response:

I like your question and here are some speculations: 

How does one cultivate character in individuals when those individuals are not in communities? Or, how does one cultivate what is now called  "character" when we think of human beings as "individuals?" As I use to say in class, I never met an "individual," only particular human beings who live somewhere, speak a particular language, know and tell particular stories, have a gender, a "race," often a religion, etc., etc., etc. "Individual" is a strange concept, an abstract concept, if you think about it. Perhaps once you begin to think of human beings as "individuals" then the pursuit of "character" is fated to fail. And how does one build and maintain a community, a genuine community or as Aristotle would say, a "polis,"  composed of "individuals?" Isn't that a pipe dream? Just wondering. 


p.s. As I read the quotes from Berry in the attached essay, I am not sure Berry would disagree that once communities disappear or are repressed, then "individuals" are corrupted too. Human beings, like flowers and other plants, need to be nurtured, they need "a garden," a setting which will allow them to grow and flourish [and not just "work" or be "civil"].

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