The individual and Society

The individual and society are two terms and concepts that cannot exist without one another. A society is not possible without the individual. The individual depend on society for basic psychological and physical needs. However, the individual often becomes overpowered by society's norms and the pressure to occupy a status. The relationship of the individual and society creates many questions about morals and values. It is hard to determine how much society should affect an individual and how much the individual should conform to society. This is a look at these terms first hand and their interaction with one another.

Rosa Parks is an example of an individual versus society as she was discriminated against the white community for riding in the front of a bus as a black woman. Even though Rosa knew her place within society, should she be considered a just or unjust individual for refusing to give her seat her up in the front of the bus for a white person? I believe Rosa Parks is a just individual according to Plato for many reasons. First, she was knowledgeable about her rights as a human being. She knew that she could not be discriminated against for her skin color. Also, Rosa Parks was working for the interested of other people, not for herself, "...because in the exercise of his professional skill, if he does his job properly, he never does or orders what is best for himself but only what is the best for his subject" (Plato 29). Rosa Parks went to jail and ultimately risked her life for the justice of all black people within her society. She overcame the power of society over the individual by being a just individual.
The books symbolize education. Education, according to Plato, symbolized knowledge. Knowledge is important for a successful society because it is knowledge of the good, "...the highest form of knowledge is the knowledge of the form of the good" (Plato 229). However, this society is not possible without educating every individual within the society. Plato believes all philosophic rulers of a society should be guardians, represented by legs and feet within this picture, "...but now let me be brave and say that our Guardians, in the fullest sense, must be philosophers" (Plato 227). They are all very similar because Plato believes they should all carry a very strict amount of characteristics and all go through the same education. The only difference within them is the subject of their knowledge. This leaves little room within Plato's ideal society for unique individuals or leaders. This could cause problems within Plato's ideal society because those who are unique individuals within the society will not be able to use their skills or knowledge. This is ironic because Plato (Socrates) would be (or is) one of these individuals.
This picture represents Socrates versus the individuals he converses with throughout The Republic. Socrates is an example of an individual that is constantly disagree with the society he lives in. Socrates is an especially important example of an individual versus society because he know he disagrees with those within his society. First, Socrates disagrees with Thrasymachus and Glaucon about just and unjust individuals. Second, Socrates also creates an ideal society about education and philosophical rulers but other are bound to disagree with him as stated by Adeimentus, "But I think the majority of your audience will be all the bolder to contradict you, and remain quite unconvinced" (Plato 221). However, Socrates is an unique individual because this disbelief from society does not stop him from portraying his beliefs.
This picture was an acceptable representation of nature because it is unique. Nature is unique. As an individual, in the primitive state of nature, we have everything we need to survive, "In instinct alone man had all he needed for living in a state of nature" (Rousseau 98). However, society has this power over us that causes the individual to acquire items they do not necessarily need for survive, "It is clear that the first man who made himself clothing and a lodging provided himself with things that were not really necessary, since he had done without up to that time; and it is hard to see why he could not endure as a grown man the kind of life he had endured from his infancy" (Rousseau 86). Today, it is nearly impossible to live without the unnecessary items we have acquired over the centuries because society has this power over us to conform to the rest of individuals in society.
In this picture, knowledge is represented by the lightbulb. Knowledge was the source of life to inequality like a lightbulb is the source of life to a chick. Knowledge allowed man to realize his power over animals, "The new knowledge which resulted from this development (of reflection) increased his superiority over other animals by making him conscious of it" (Rousseau 110). In other words, man discovered or acquired the knowledge necessary for him to rule over animals and enacted on this knowledge making him superior to animals. As years went on and societies were created, this knowledge of superiority was forced not only on animals, but also human beings. Along with other factors, such as possessions and property, knowledge has corrupted the individual within a society. Individuals combining to form a society or group such as government eventually become superior over slaves and savages.
Every individual is born with the right to life, liberty, and property according to Rousseau and other philosophers. It is believed a leader is supposed to protect one's life, liberty, and property beyond controls of the average individuals. Therefore, the leader must protect its citizen's by creating peaceful relations among other societies so no wars or murders break out. It is believed that these rights are taken for granted, "the value of it (liberty, life, and property) is appreciated only so long as one possess it" (Rousseau 125). Living in America, represented by the American flag, I also believe this right and protection of life, liberty, and property is taken for granted. Before reading Rousseau's beliefs, I never really thought about my rights to liberty, life, or property as an individual because I am too caught in society's materialistic items such as technology, celebrities and the newest fashion. Therefore, I think it is important that we all step back and think about how far our country has come so that each individual has the right to life, liberty, and property. Some countries, such as North Korea, do not have the same rights as we do as an individual.
Today, communism is based off the basic ideas of that Marx created. One of these ideas was to strip the citizens of their right to freedom, justice, and religion, "There are, besides eternal truths, such as Freedom, Justice, etc. that are common to all states of society. But Communism abolishes eternal truths, it abolishes all religion, and all morality, instead of constituting them on a new basis; it therefore acts in contradiction to all past historical experience" (Marx 29). These ideas created by Marx have been amplified by countries such as North Korea, China and Russia. All individuals are identical to how they think and what they believe because of the government, as displayed in this picture. The government makes them believe certain ideas and if an individual is to speak against these ideas or believe otherwise, they are given a punishment. In North Korea, this could be a number of things such as being sent off to a labor camp or restricting that individual and his family's food and water supply. This shows that communism enforced by the government has a large power over individuals.
Society is constantly influencing individuals on self-image and beauty. Wollstonecraft writes of a society where woman are powerful because of their beauty, "When a woman is admired for her beauty, and suffers herself to be so far intoxicated by the admiration she receives, as to reflect to discharge the indispensable duty of a mother, she sins against herself by neglecting to cultivate an affection she would equally tend to make her useful and happy" (Wollstonecraft 146). Women's power and purpose is their beauty. Women are given a home, husband, clothing and food for their beauty. Women are looked down upon by society and will lose their power if they want to be a mother or earn an education. Although this duty to become a mother is a natural instinct of all women, women in this time do not do it so that they will not lost their power and be looked down upon. Therefore, society has this influence and power over the individual woman to look beautiful all the time and for this beauty to be their main purpose in life or she will be neglected. This is similar to today's society because popular celebrity images make individual to believe they have to have clear skin and a thin figure or he or she is not good enough within society.
This propaganda poster from World War II signifies some of the ideas Wollstonecraft spoke about with women's rights. Wollstonecraft believed women needed to become independent of men in a society where women were only cherished for their beauty. This could be done by earning an education and participating in work beyond the typical domestic duties of women as mothers and wives. During World War II, women were forced to pursue careers because all the men were at war. This surge of independence from men caused women to become better individuals, "Would men but generously snap our chains, and be content with rational fellowship instead of slavish obedience, they would find us more observant daughters, more affectionate sisters, more faithful wives, more reasonable mothers -- in a word, better citizens" (Wollstonecraft 154). The ability to for the woman to work during the war changed the individual woman in society. Before this, woman were overpowered by society's (men's) expectations for typical domestic duties. However, women overcame this power and are now more respected individuals within society and have shaped our perspective on individual women within society today.
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