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1) What's the difference between concept of individual and just some complex functional category

A complex functional category would be : "I have a concept of a class, X, such that members of which have X-like interactions with me; have certain spatial constraints (I can not know of Xness in two places at the same time - or two distant places within a very short interval of each other.)"

My answer : either

  • a) it is a complex functional category but still an interesting one.


  • b) it isn't because we can keep criticising it in ways that drive a wedge between mere functional category. Eg. when we discover that a new transport mechanism is available, we can revise our spatial constraints such as that X in UK on MOnday and US on Tuesday can not be the same X. There is a deeper concept of individual than the behavioural characterizations we associate with it, that suggests how we can revise these behavioural assumptions. For example some cultures have no problems with deities that violate the spatial constraint (and appear in different places at the same time) yet retain their identity.

Taking the latter aproach could lead in one of two directions :

  • either individual has no essential functional properties therefore is not a functional category OR
  • (the less interesting for me) nothing has essential properties anyway therefore individual could be a functional category

But in general there's another interesesting question : "What's the difference between the concept of a function and the concept of something else? - Are there things that are NOT functional?"

2) If I am looking for behavioural decomposition of the IR competence - how can I be talking about a non-functional concept of individual?

If I say creature X has a concept of individual - but my only criteria is some behavioral sub-component eg. niceness (though something better would be better.), and indeed I deny an explicit representation of individuals (or the concept is-an-individual) aren't I relying on the slide between the concept of individual and the complex functional concept - the distinction between which is precisely what I seem to be interested in.

My answer : [to be continued]

3) What's the connection with human history?

For example, human surnames used to be named after their job (or function). Perhaps individuality is a thoroughly modern concept.

: You might find this piece on the fall and rise of [Mongolian Mongolian family names] interesting. – AdrianHoward

I don't have a lot to say about this. I've been reading a book by Alain Renaut : The Era of the Individual (which which) criticises Heidegger's attack on humanism and traces a history of the notion of the human subject. It's suggestive, though I'm a bit loath to argue that phylogeny recapitulates philosophy.

There's a sense in which parallels between human institutional developments, (as described by economics) and biological evolution, can be interesting analogies. They can suggest something of the ecological relevance of certain behaviours.

For example, a lack of emphasis on individual identity, as opposed to role, in cities compared to villages, may be symptomatic of a lack of repeat encounters between the same individual. And correspondingly, a species where repeat encounters are rare, may never have evolved the concept of persistent individual.

Nevertheless, it is analogous behaviour due to analogous circumstances. I believe that people in cities really do have a concept of individual. (Though it might slip in those who carry a grudge against members of a race or class.)

A more general question about wholes / bodies

Why does material organize itself so that it is bodies which have personal relationships with each other rather than either cells or institutions. As I assuming that the answer to why things recognise each other as individuals can be explain by appeal to evolutionary necessity - I guess this question is one way of asking the same thing. Especially as Andy introduced the notion from evolutionary theory of "Common Fate" which binds parts together into wholes. My question can be rephrased what "what kinds of fate" bind parts together into wholes that have the characteristic of carrying out personal relationships with each other.

Does the idea of individual help demarcate bodies? It would be nice to think that my are was that important. But I suspect that there are already other criteria to demarcate bodies. And certainly even animals that don't have a notion of individual do demarcate their own and others' bodies.

Note though, I'm interested how often people rely on an unproblematic demarcation of bodies to answer other questions.

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