Ethics of Individuation & Individuation of Ethics

Adam Smith is called the father of modern economics and acquired this title with his 1776 publication of The Wealth of Nations. Smith’s 1759 publication The Theory of Moral Sentiments he regarded as his magnum opus and is considered a modifying companion to the Wealth of Nations. In Moral Sentiments (Wikipedia),

…Smith critically examines the moral thinking of his time, and suggests that conscience arises from social relationships.[64] His goal in writing the work was to explain the source of mankind’s ability to form moral judgements, in spite of man’s natural inclinations towards self-interest. Smith proposes a theory of sympathy, in which the act of observing others makes people aware of themselves and the morality of their own behavior.[65]

Taylor (2011) discusses Smith’s philosophy as presented in The Theory of Moral Sentiments.

Giants of the Scottish Enlightenment Part 2: Adam Smith

In summary:

In The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Smith advocates for a form of moral sentimentalism. We naturally link sympathy to either approval or disapproval of an action or reaction. For instance, if an individual insults another person, we attach sympathy to the reaction of the person who was insulted. If the person insulted under-reacts or over-reacts, we will disapprove the response morally. If the reaction seems right, we will approve of the response morally. We will also sympathize with parties who are not sharing a similar sentiment. For instance, if a person loses their mental capacity or passes way, we will sympathize with that person even though they themselves are not feeling the same sentiment. Lastly, using Smith’s moral sentimentalism, we can judge our own actions. We can do this by looking at our own actions from a third person point of view” (Wikipedia)

A different slant on Smith’s Wealth & Moral Sentiments occurs with John Nash’s intuitive insight in this Beautiful Mind Bar Scene where Nash suggests that Smith needs revision.

Smith’s Wealth of Nations principle ruling the dominate institution of our time, the corporate, is “In competition, individual ambition serves the common good” and “The best result comes from everyone in the group doing what is best for himself.” Nash’s insight suggests that a revision is needed, “The best result will come from everyone doing what is best for himself and for his group.” The governing dynamic “in game theory, known as the Nash equilibrium is a solution concept of a non-cooperative game involving two or more players, in which each player is assumed to know the equilibrium strategies of the other players, and no player has anything to gain by changing only his own strategy unilaterally.[1]:14 If each player has chosen a strategy and no player can benefit by changing strategies while the other players keep theirs unchanged, then the current set of strategy choices and the corresponding payoffs constitute a Nash equilibrium. Stated simply, Amy and Wili are in Nash equilibrium if Amy is making the best decision she can, taking into account Wili’s decision, and Wili is making the best decision he can, taking into account Amy’s decision. Likewise, a group of players are in Nash equilibrium if each one is making the best decision that he or she can, taking into account the decisions of the others.”

Both Smith’s and Nash’s views look outward for reference. So, let us develop another slant on “The best results come from everyone doing what is best for himself and for this groups.” This slant is inward and presented by Murray Stein (2007) in The ethics individualization of and the individualization of ethics. Stein begins his essay with the favorite rainmaker story Jung was found of telling, which was told to him by Richard Wilhelm (translator of Chinese I Ching into German) at a Psychological Club of Zurich lecture in the 1920’s. Wilhelm actually witnessed this event,

…while he was living in Qingdao, China, there was a long dry spell in the region. The land in the countryside was utterly parched, and the crops were failing. As a consequence, many people were facing the prospect of starvation. Desperate, they tried to produce rainfall by performing all the religious rites they knew: the “Catholics made processions, the Protestants made prayers, and the Chinese burned joss-sticks and shot off guns to frighten away the demons of the drought, but with no result.
Finally the Chinese said, “We will fetch the rain-maker.” So they sent a message to another part of the country asking for the assistance of a well known rain-maker. Eventually a “dried up old man appeared. The only thing he asked for was a quiet little house somewhere, and there he locked himself in for three days. On the fourth day the clouds gathered and there was a great snow-storm at the time of the year when no snow was expected, an unusual amount, and the town was so full of rumours about the wonderful rain-maker that Wilhelm went to ask the man how he did it.”
When asked, the old man replied: “I come from another country where things are in order. Here they are out of order, they are not as they should be in the ordinance of heaven. Therefore the whole country is not in Tao, and I also am not in the natural order of things because I am in a disordered coun­try. So I had to wait three days until I was back in Tao and then naturally the rain came” (Douglas, 1997: 333) sited in (Stein, 2007: 65).

The idea behind Wilhelm’s story is that an individuating person has “the capacity to affect society and the cosmos (for good or ill) because the individual, society, and the cosmos are intimately connected parts of a single reality.” Thus doing what is best for oneself is to walk the way of individuation, which naturally flows unto the group. Erich Neumann’s (1945) Depth psychology and a new ethic develops this new ethics, which is presented in the Blog Deep Jesus, Us?. The new depth ethic is to consciously walk the way of individuation – the authentic transformational leader’s way.

Alan Watts’ tribute to Carl Jung captures the affect of Jung’s individuation onto others and also points to the unfolding individuation of ethics – Justice, which will be addressed in a future entry.

Alan Watts -Tribute to Carl Jung

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3 Responses to Ethics of Individuation & Individuation of Ethics

  1. Pingback: In Quest of Being a Great Lover | Dialectic Analytical Man

  2. Pingback: Individuation of Ethics – Justice | Dialectic Analytical Man

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