Wednesday, December 07, 2005

What He Said

"Society is something emergent that occurs when people interact with each other, you cannot point at it and you cannot owe it anything. When any politician says the word 'society', you can be damn sure what he really means is 'the state'.
- Perry de Havilland"
I've been having a running discussion with a friend about whether society really exists or not. He claims there is, and I say that it is nothing more than an aggragate of individuals. I hold that my view is actually stricter than his. If so much as one individual has his personal rights violated, then one's action should be curtailed. Drive recklessly? No go, as you don't know if you will run into (figurative or literal) someone on the street.

My friend then says that what I am talking about, the unknown other, is society. My response is that when one invokes "society", it carries the implication of everyone else. It is fundamentally impossible then to effect society, and hence it becomes a non-entity, at least on the first order of interaction. Beyond the first order, the responsibility an individual has decreases rapidly as predictability becomes more and more tenuous. Someone, somewhere, is driving recklessly. Is that person harming you as you read this? If not, then the society that person is threatening does not include you. If yes, then I hope you're the passenger because you shouldn't be reading blogs while driving.

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