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Quotation of the Day…

… is from page 370 of Michael Oakeshott’s 1961 essay “The Masses in Representative Democracy,” as this essay is reprinted the 1991 Liberty Fund collection of some of Oakeshott’s work, Rationalism in Politics and Other Essays:

Human individuality is an historical emergence, as ‘artificial’ and as ‘natural’ as the landscape. In modern Europe this emergence was gradual, and the specific character of the individual who emerged was determined by the manner of his generation. He became unmistakable when the habit appeared of engaging in activities identified as ‘private’; indeed, the appearance of ‘privacy’ in human conduct is the obverse of the desuetude of the communal arrangements from which modern individuality sprang. This appearance of individuality provoked a disposition to explore its own limitations, to place the highest value upon it, and to seek security in its enjoyment. To enjoy it came to be recognized as the main ingredient of ‘happiness’. The experience was magnified into an ethical theory; it was reflected in manners of governing and being governed, in newly acquired rights and duties and in a whole pattern of living. The emergence of this disposition to be an individual is the pre-eminent event in modern European history.

DBx: Note that the emergence of individuality is not the emergence of venality, greed, or a narrow concern of each person with only his or her own material possessions. It is, instead, the emergence of each person’s awareness of, interest in, and insistence upon choosing his or her own goals – whatever these might be, and consistent with the same desire and right of every other person – rather than being an organism whose chief purpose and justification is to serve collective ends.