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1. Biology
a. a single animal or plant, esp as distinct from a species
b. a single member of a compound organism or colony
2. Logic
a. an object as opposed to a property or class
b. an element of the domain of discourse of a theory
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the indivisible unit of life on the earth. It is impossible to subdivide an individual without losing those qualities that permit the organism to be termed an individual. The individual is the smallest unit that is subject to the action of evolutionary factors within a given biological species. The concept of individual is applicable in full measure only to non-colonial organisms; strictly speaking, the concept is not fully applicable to colonial and symbiotic organisms and organisms that reproduce vegetatively.



a philosophical category referring to a real object as a totality uniting and correlating its two antithetical aspects—the particular and the universal.

Usually the individual is regarded only as something that mediates between the particular and the universal. For example, the concept “Russian” is something universal in relation to each particular Russian and something individual in relation to the concept “Slav.” The concept “Slav” is something universal with respect to the concept “Russian” and something individual in relation to the concept “human being.” But this is only an extensional, quantitative relation. It is correct, but insufficient for comprehending the essence of the category of the individual. Upon closer examination, we see that the individual is not merely an intermediary link between the particular and the universal; it is primarily a principle that unifies the particular and the universal within some totality.

In the cognitive process, the opposites universal and particular are transcended in the category of the individual, which expresses the universal in its real, particular embodiment and expresses the particular in its unity with the universal. Thus, the individual is the realized universal. For example, the Great October Socialist Revolution may be regarded as a concrete, particular manifestation of the lawlike regularities of socialist revolution. The individual is conceived as distinct from all else and as having something that no other objects have; at the same time it is conceived as having manifold connections and lawlike relationships with other objects.

The category of the individual is relative, mobile, and fluid. In one respect, the individual may “approximate” the universal and function and be conceived as something universal in relation to its own particular; in other cases it may function and be conceived as the particular in relation to its own universal. The individual stands, as it were, between the universal and the particular, at the same time including them both “within itself.” The category of the individual is a very important aspect of the cognitive movement into the depth of an object, of the ascent from the abstract to the concrete.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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