Thursday, April 11, 2013

Some Solipsisms

Individualism is solipsistic. It assumes that I can act independently of others, i.e., that I can behave as if I am the only intelligent being and the world has all been made for me. Even christian individualism leads to the upside-down notion that God is all about me. Now, certainly, the statements that "Christ died for me," "God has a wonderful plan for my life," and so on are true, but to treat these statements as an individualist, i.e., as a practical solipsist, results in the false statements that "Christ died for my good," or "God has a plan for my life which I would like if I knew what it was." Which arise from denying that there are other people who God loves, and there are some things which God values, such as the good of others, which entail that a wonderful life will likely involve, humanly speaking, inconvenience to me. There is another sort of christian individualism, where God exists for me alone, and has no necessary bearing on how others live. This is equally solipsistic in that, in this view, I think of myself as the only religiously conscious being.

Collectivism is pantheistic (which is a sort of solipsism where the person being a solipsist is different from the one who believes the view). Where individualism assumes that I am a world unto myself, collectivism assumes that the world I live in is simply the world we live in. Not only must I act dependently on others, but I, and therefore my actions, are simply an extension of the larger whole. What I do is not so much what I do, but what the community does through me. I no longer really exist, except as given existence by the collective will. Because my existence is simply a matter of the collective's existence, I do not matter except insofar as the will of the collective is performed. Thus, my own happiness, success, values, etc., do not matter except insofar as they aid the collective.

Thus the question that arises is "Which one should we take?" But this seems likely to be a false dilemma: why not some kind of middle, or at any rate alternate, route? Thus the question is what that alternate route may be. I will not present my view in this post (largely because it is quite undeveloped), but I would point to the direction I want to look to begin. The church is called to be the ideal community (though until Christ returns she will do so imperfectly, just as we shall be imperfectly fulfilling our call to be holy until we reach heaven). Thus, whatever the church is called to be is what the ideal community will be. The church is one body with many members, and we are united in Christ, and thus we are to be one just as the Father and the Son are one. Thus, individualism is corrected by this oneness, but collectivism by this "just as the Father and the Son": just as God is three-in-one (God is not a solipsist), so the Church is to be many-in-one, and in this "many" I expect to find the corrective to collectivism.

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