Ways of Being Singular
Ordinary thought has always operated with four distinct conceptions of individuality. The first, a minimal conception, which is ingredient in all the others, is the notion of an individual as merely the countable referent of a singular term, more precisely of a proper name. In this minimal sense of individuality, an individual is whatever is one, or single and namable, as a target for speech and thought. Thus, on the minimal conception, individuality pertains to virtually anything to which singular reference can be made. The three additional ideas of individuality presuppose, but go beyond, this minimal conception. Individuality as exclusivity is the idea of the sole or exclusive one – one of a kind. The God of monotheism is a paradigm of this conception of individuality. Individuality as virtuosity is that of a one singled out because it is the best of the bunch, the virtuoso. Finally, individuality as novelty is the idea of a one that, due to its uniqueness, escapes virtually all classification, for it is like nothing else. It is so radically different that it is literally sui generis and, for that reason, in a class by itself. An exemplary case of individuality embodying virtuosity and novelty is suggested by Hegel’s understanding of Socrates’ singularity as the philosopher of world-historical significance.
KeywordsPosit Univer Berman Haldane
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