Human beings encounter the world in a way that is characterized by confronting individual objects. Every object, as the specific object that it is, constitutes a unity that is not identical to any other object. Individuality is the principle of such unity – an immanent form that makes the object an individual, identical only to itself, and thus more than simply the sum of its parts. Accordingly, objects are individua, logically speaking: the elements of which the world is composed. In social ontology we are confronted with a more challenging concept of the individual, namely as the hallmark of our self-understanding as human beings. Human beings are individuals as persons. The principle of their individuality is not merely that of a continued existence in space and time, but instead the unity of their self-consciousness. Thus for persons it is not the case that individuality is exhausted by numerical oneness. Rather first and foremost the individuality of a person unfolds or is projected only insofar as the individual determines herself in and through her actions. The individual is what she makes herself. Against this background, we can view the concept of individuality as a critical concept, in two opposing ways: On the one hand one might argue that the nonidentical moment of individuality is coming under pressure in modern society. Critique in this context must defend individuality against the pressure to conform to conceptual and social systems. On the other hand critics of liberalism would argue that the very idea of individuality as the basis of modern society is itself problematic. The focus on the individual–so this critique goes–results in an atomism that loses sight of the larger social context, along with the social conditions of individuality. In a different perspective, individuality is regarded as an effect of domination or of techniques of subjectification. Accordingly, the job of critique is to disrupt the appearance of individuality in order to render the larger context intelligible.
How are these heterogeneous tendencies in the concept of the individual connected to one another? Are there criteria that would hold for this concept throughout its diverse areas of application? The 17th International Philosophy Colloquium in Evian invites philosophers to Lake Geneva to discuss the concept of individuality across the range of its manifold meanings. The International Philosophy Colloquium in Evian welcomes philosophers who are interested in engaging in discussion across traditional disciplinary boundaries. It is conceived particularly as a place where the divide between continental and analytic philosophy is overcome, or at least where their differences can be rendered philosophically productive.
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