Individuality is the mark of non-conformity, the ability to be spotted in a crowd, and a death sentence in a police line-up. In modern culture, individuality is often mistaken for personality. This, however, is a fallacy, as many people who stick out like sore thumbs often have as much personality as a garden slug but with lower IQ.

Individuality is what sets us apart from the herd, what distiguishes me from you and them from them. There are two levels of individuality, the first of which is physical. People just plain look different from each other, and at the same time they also dress differently as an expression of the second level, which is mental or internal individuality. Everyone has different thoughts, opinions, and morals which come together to make up who we are. Of course, not every living being is blessed with individuality, so relish what you've got...

For example, here's the world without individuality:

Ant Drone 984954: Hey, other ant! We look the same!
Ant Drone 980739: Yeah, and this damn hive mind isn't helping any!

Not too pretty. Now here's the world with individuality:

Jimmy Joe: Gee ditty, I sure am different than you.
Billy Joe: You sure are, now let's fight about it.
Individuality is all about how you define it. Though many speak of individuality, seldom is it defined and, really, doesn't all rational debate stem from an accepted set of definitions? There are a few schools of thought on the matter that are of interest.

Some people believe that, in order to be an individual, one must not embrace any thought but one's own and, instead, gather raw data and form one's own thoughts. Allowing another's thought to become accepted in its original form would be a complete collapse of one's individuality. This is all well and good but it is a relatively safe assumption that there is no human being on Earth that adheres to this completely.

Instead, what usually happens is that one will begin by absorbing many ideas and thoughts on a topic and then either adopting one of the gathered viewpoints, adapting one slightly, or combining any or all into a comprehensive point of view. Some will argue that this is not individualism since one is simply choosing from available ideas and not forming one's own. However, this viewpoint is valid because proponents of this form of individualism will also purport that humans are the sum of all their parts - a vector-like entity for all you physics nerds. For instance, if someone believes that homosexuality, abortion, and divorce are morally wrong, they are different from someone who believes that divorce is okay but the other two are morally wrong. Since no two humans share the exact same beliefs, this makes everyone an individual.

Since the first theory on individualism is essentially universally exclusive and the second universally inclusive, neither truly helps in forming a basis for debate. However, using the second theory and asserting that some people are more of an individual than others is a very useful base for debate on the matter.

To truly be an individual, all one must do is to think for oneself. Simply holding an opinion based on fact(s) and not on others' ideas is enough. To seek to be regarded as an individual, however, is socially dependent and to be socially dependent is not to be an individual. Trying to be regarded as an individual is the opposite of being one. One of the great things about being human is that we benefit from society yet we do not need its collective blessing to survive. People laud individuals, yet individuals do not intend or need to be lauded. Those who seek praise as a primary goal and seek to be an individual as a means to accomplishing that goal are missing the point.

In`di*vid`u*al"i*ty (?), n.; pl. Individualities (#). [Cf. F. individualit'e.]

1.

The quality or state of being individual or constituting an individual; separate or distinct existence; oneness; unity.

Arbuthnot.

They possess separate individualities. H. Spencer.

2.

The character or property appropriate or peculiar to an individual; that quality which distinguishes one person or thing from another; the sum of characteristic traits; distinctive character; as, he is a person of marked individuality.

 

© Webster 1913.

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