Individuality


Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Legal, Financial, Wikipedia.

Individuality

 

the unique particularity of each phenomenon, being, and person. In the most general terms, individuality as the special quality that characterizes a given entity in all its distinctive qualitative features is contrasted to the typical, that which is general to all the elements of a given class or a significant number of them.

The idea of individuality arose in classical Greek philosophy first of all with the development by the atomists Leucippus and Democritus of the concept of the atom, or individual (Greek atomos; Latin equivalent, individuum). In their theory, atoms were a plurality of qualitatively distinct elements of existence, each possessing a definite “form” and “position,” that is, manifesting themselves as individuals. After the ancient Roman philosopher Seneca, individuality was given the meaning of a distinct entity that could not be divided without losing its specific nature. In medieval Scholasticism, the concept of individuality was limited to the human personality. Beginning with the Renaissance, the accent on the individuality of the particular person as opposed to the traditional social bonds and institutions became the point of departure for the various modern European concepts of individualism. In 17th-century philosophy the concept of individualism was most fully developed by the German philosopher Leibniz, with his doctrine of the monads as a plurality of self-contained, specific substances of existence. The concept of the monad as an animated living individual was also used by Goethe. Concern for the individual, in particular the interpretation of historical epochs as irreversible individual formations, was characteristic of the world view of romanticism and, later, for the philosophy of life, whose intellectual roots may be traced back to romanticism.

At present the concept of individuality has acquired different meanings in various sciences and in philosophy, depending on the way it is applied concretely. In biology (physiology, zoology, ethology, and genetics) individuality is what characterizes the specific features of a given specimen or organism, features that constitute the particular combination of inherited and acquired characteristics that are the result of ontogeny and are expressed in the distinctive features of the genotype and phenotype.

In psychology the problem of individuality involves above all the total characterization of the particular individual in the unique multiplicity of his qualities of thought, feeling, will, aspirations, hopes, needs, motivations, interests, moods, experiences, state of health, actions, behavior, habits, dispositions, aptitudes, and other characteristics. The concrete combination of these constitutes the unique and complete structure of the acting and experiencing self. In this regard, the question of individuality first arises in psychology in relation to the analysis of a person’s temperament and character, in the search for grounds upon which to distinguish people into types (for example, such systems of classification as characterology, physiognomy, and graphology); the question is later formulated as the problem of the relation between typical features and individual differences within a single person. Here individuality is described as the collection of characteristics in the given person.

In social psychology the individual is usually contrasted to the collective (or the group). Individuality is regarded as the basic structure defining the wholeness and uniqueness of a particular person. The process of individualization, that is, the process by which a person becomes conscious of and cultivates his own individuality, is regarded as secondary to the process of socialization, by which the individual becomes accustomed to the world of culture. Individualization consists in the reflective separation by a person of his “self from the social roles that have been adopted by him and that have become part of his inner world through the process of internalization. Individuality is expressed in a person’s behavior in communicative situations as well as in his cultivation of various abilities for action.

REFERENCES

Lazurskii, A. “Sovremennoe sostoianie individual’noi psikhologii.” In Obozrenie psikhiatrii. newologii i refleksologii. St. Petersburg, 1897.
Jung, C. G. Psikhologicheskie lipy. Moscow [1924].
Williams, R. Biokhimicheskaia individual’nost’. Moscow, 1960. (Translated from English.)
Teplov, B. M. Problemy individual’nykh razlichii. Moscow, 1961.
Dilthey, W. Beiträge zum Studium der Individualität. Berlin, 1896.
Volkelt, J. Das Problem der Individualität. Munich, 1928.
Allport, G. W. Personality. London, 1949.
Lersch, P., and H. Thomae. “Persönlichkeitsforschung und Persönlich-keitstheorie.” In Handbuch der Psychologie, vol. 4. Gottingen, 1960.

I. N. SEMENOV

References in classic literature ?
I should never have got his consent, on my visit to Scotland, to read in those precious pages for so many hours, had I not promised to designate it by some emphatic mode of printing, as {The Wardour Manuscript}; giving it, thereby, an individuality as important as the Bannatyne MS.
And the abolition of this state of things is called by the bourgeois,abolition of individuality and freedom
We must hurry after him along the street, ere he lose his individuality, and melt into the great mass of London life.
Perhaps the men she carried had asked her to do too much, had stretched beyond breaking-point the enduring faithfulness which seems wrought and hammered into that assemblage of iron ribs and plating, of wood and steel and canvas and wire, which goes to the making of a ship - a complete creation endowed with character, individuality, qualities and defects, by men whose hands launch her upon the water, and that other men shall learn to know with an intimacy surpassing the intimacy of man with man, to love with a love nearly as great as that of man for woman, and often as blind in its infatuated disregard of defects.
There is a pleasure--perhaps the greatest of which the sufferer is susceptible--in displaying the wasted or ulcerated limb, or the cancer in the breast; and the fouler the crime, with so much the more difficulty does the perpetrator prevent it from thrusting up its snake-like head to frighten the world; for it is that cancer, or that crime, which constitutes their respective individuality.
A remarkable instance of the great power of mere individuality over the young.
It is a curious thing," remarked Holmes, "that a typewriter has really quite as much individuality as a man's handwriting.
Nothing has more individuality, save perhaps watches and bootlaces.
Set in dreamy and exquisite scenery, and moving in mystical dances, the green costume, like burnished beetle-wings, expressed all the elusive individuality of an elfin queen.
Very fitly therefore I assert that every man is a partialist, that nature secures him as an instrument by self-conceit, preventing the tendencies to religion and science; and now further assert, that, each man's genius being nearly and affectionately explored, he is justified in his individuality, as his nature is found to be immense; and now I add that every man is a universalist also, and, as our earth, whilst it spins on its own axis, spins all the time around the sun through the celestial spaces, so the least of its rational children, the most dedicated to his private affair, works out, though as it were under a disguise, the universal problem.
It was from him that Lawson got his paradoxes; and even Clutton, who strained after individuality, expressed himself in the terms he had insensibly acquired from the older man.
There is as much individuality among the lower orders, gentlemen, as there is among ourselves.