Friday, February 29, 2008

'Association' is preferable over 'Community'

I like 'associations' better than communities. A union of persons in a company or society for some particular purpose prevents the rise of group think. In associations, when the explicit purpose is no longer evident, one is freed from the ties of a value system that might no longer serve individual interests. New social contracts can then be initiated by autonomous individuals for new purposes. The idea that I must (or might need to) subordinate my interests for the benefit of the whole compromises my freedom of movement, and somehow assumes the group is of more value than the individual. Groups don't have value; only people have value.

I am against egoism; it's wrong to be selfish. But that does not mean one must be duty-bound to any socially-imposed morality. Nor are people somehow moral atoms, for humans are social creatures that need others to identify and reach their potential as individuals. (Ayn Rand, for example, was too simplistic of a thinker to recognize this.) Reasonable individuals, when allowed to determine their own goals, are in the best position to identify their own purposes. Again, this makes voluntary 'associations' the best vehicle. There are other reasonable people in this world, and I want them to have the same opportunity to set goals and identify purposes as I do. Communities make it too hard to reset goals and identify individual purposes. Associations allow flexibility.

I am not advocating relativism, either; for, an external society should interfere in an individual's acts, but only when a very compelling need to do so arises (such as someone threatening a person's life, or commonly granted freedom of movement, or pursuit of others' fair resources for self-advancement.)

This is why the whole emphasis on 'community' creeps me out, especially when repeated as a mantra by religious people.


[image] "Walking Man"


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At 2:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more. I suppose this language arose as a reaction against a certain type of individualism, but good gravy. You'd think people who fancy themselves the intellectuals of the church could either be a little more precise in how they talk about the relationship between the individual self at the group or at least go buy a thesaurus.

- Eich

At 2:47 PM, Blogger Isaac said...

What Christian community is supposed to do cannot be done if individuals approach it with the sole end of benefiting from it in some way. Christian community done right avoids group think and supports open mindedness by fostering fellowship amongst folks with heterogeneous beliefs, backgrounds and cultural affiliations. It highlights the fact that meaning in life emerges from our commitment to others and from our well-being getting tied up with that of others. Sure, communities don't have value without the individuals that comprise them, but the lives of individuals are hardly worth living if they are not involved in some kind of community. See the end of Peter Railton's "Alienation in Morality" for some interesting comments on this point.

At 10:22 AM, Blogger brinticus said...

Issac writes, "the lives of individuals are hardly worth living if they are not involved in some kind of community." I think this is overstated. It might be true of Issac, but it's not true of me, and I think others would say it's not necessarily true of them either. People who so love community seemingly are worried that others do not require the same kind of group affiliation. Apparently, it even irritates them that people would actually TURN DOWN participation in a community. Again, I find that people in a community will often claim heterogeneous beliefs are present and allowed; but, I've not seen this in the communities I've been around. It always works out that different ideas are fine as long as you don't dare ACT on those ideas or try to CONVINCE others in the community of those ideas. Nope, Isaac, I just don't buy it.

At 2:00 PM, Blogger Isaac said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 3:02 PM, Blogger Isaac said...

It would be natural to think that my position is overstated if someone didn't know what I mean by "community" :P Typically when Christians talk about community, "family of God" talk is in the background. So what I mean by community is pretty broad, encompassing family and family-like relationships, which are more than just "associations." One way of characterizing who this relationship applies to is people with whom one's own well being is tied up. I'm pretty sure Christianity is all about extending this kind of relationship as far as possible. To the extent that people fail to extend this relationship to people just because they have a few different beliefs, they fail to do Christian community well (although there are clearly limits on this). The rarity of such communities is consistent with my experience that Christian community is seldom done well. Regardless, I find myself the one with the different beliefs in my community and yet, I feel that I am loved and accepted as part of that community nonetheless. So it can be done, however uncommon it is that it this sort of relationship gets extended beyond conventional family ties.

It doesn't so much irritate as unsettle me when people refuse this kind of community. This is because, as I understand it, such community is only entirely dispensable for psychopaths, alexithymics and others with a limited capacity to enter into it (obviously, I wouldn't think a man falls in this class who clearly has functional relationships with others). But I am as sick of the word community as you are. It's often praised, but seldom performed to the extent that Christianity demands. And that makes talk about it sound hypocritical at times.

At 11:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Could you expound on how your "association" idea does or doesn't fit well with the idea of "body of Christ" when applied to christianity. i.e. "external society should ...," "freed from ties of value systems...," "... subordinate my interests...." As a few key phrases that jump out. I am not trying to push the community mantra. I think the church uses it in substitution for Body of Christ to often, and helps to further delude church into a social gathering.



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