Category Archives: Sociology

Altruism versus Individualism

There are different paradigms to look at this issue. One of the paradigms is from Sociology. A paradigm of Sociology is that the Society exists for the Individual, rather than vice versa. The society exists for the individual to prosper. A stable, developed society may be beneficial for everyone and it appears that society comes above the individual. However, it is still the Individual that matters. Society collectively exists so that each member benefits by co-existing. Nation is a formal structure given to the society. The laws for the proper functioning of the Nation exist categorically, where a society exists because of traditions. The principles that make a Society exist are abstract. For the societal norms to become laws, they have to be documented so that they become statutory laws.
The other paradigm that exists is from Ayn Rand’s book Fountainhead. In her books, Ayn Rand talks about the inherent Selfishness of the Individual. She appears to endorse Selfishness, as it is a fact of life by my interpretation of her.
The Individual is almost always at war with the Society. An individual grows by responding to the stimuli. The individual has desires which may be morally acceptable or unacceptable. But in a social structure, the actions of the individual are governed and limited by social standards. What may be morally right for one person may be morally wrong for another. However, both sides have to agree to the civil or statutory law. The statutory law in this case may in favour of one, or the other; or it may be a compromise. In any case, certain elements feel disadvantaged. A law in favour of A may make B feel disadvantaged and vice versa. A compromised law may in different situations, on different occasions may make one or both parties disadvantaged. A compromise may appear like appeasement. Appeasement of A and B may make another element C completely sidelined by A and B.
Statutory laws that are accepted unanimously relate to public infrastructure. Laws that maintain a smooth flow of traffic are universally liked, no matter if you are A or B or C. A driver driving a car follows the same rule whether they are A, B, C or D. A pedestrian crossing the road has to wait for the pedestrian signal to turn green whether they are of group A, B, C or D.
The Nation is defined by its ideology – Democratic, Secular, Christian, Islamic etc. Ideologies that define Governance encompass Religion. That is when they are effective. In other words, they are effective when they are implemented by looking at the human needs of the society rather than ethnic or religious. They are effective when there is no preferential treatment to one group over another – whether the group in question is a majority group or minority. The ideal situation may never occur where everything is black and white for everyone. The Nation still has to stick to its national ideology for it to be considered a Nation.

Human Nature and Law

It has been a human endeavour to know how things work. Humans have had the interest in understanding how the world works, how the universe works, and how humanity or human life works.

To simplify this quest for knowledge, humans have formulated laws in every area, or every science.

The science of Sociology talks about three kinds of laws – Natural Laws, Moral Laws and Civil (municipal) Laws. The natural law tells us what we CAN do. The moral laws tells us what we OUGHT TO do.The civil law tells us what we MUST do.

The Natural Law gives us an understanding of our current existence as a society. It explains to us why things are the way they are, how they got to be. Natural laws give us the explanation of historical events – how and why the past events might have taken place. They give us an explanation of how things might have developed starting from the past events, i.e. the chronology of the way things were then, in the past, until now. The natural laws are the Universal Truth, so to speak! ‘What goes up, comes down’, for instance is a universal truth that explains gravity (which itself is another universal truth).

In the social context, the natural law tells us what we can do. For instance, when it rains, there are floods. “What we can do” is evacuate or dam the rivers that cause flooding.

Moral law tells us what we OUGHT TO do. The human society appears a little different from the animal world in that humans have definitions for things which distinguish us from animals who follow their instinct. Humans have the civil society which has laid down rules for the advancement of the society, rather than just following instinct for individual survival. A civilised person has a clear understanding of doing the morally right thing. The morally right thing complies with their own, individual standard of morality. They might inherit their moral standards from their family, social, cultural or national backgrounds. Their background determines for them as an individual what is right and what is wrong.

The civil or municipal law tells us what we MUST do. In the human society individuals, communities, groups of diverse backgrounds and needs live together, though not necessarily harmoniously. Civil society, shares the regional boundary, resources and infrastructure therein for every individual and group of individuals to live without conflict. An individual’s instinct to survive combined with their group’s or community’s need to exist puts pressure on the civic system for itself to exist.

Natural Law takes precedence over the civil law which, in turn, takes precedence over the moral law. If civil laws fails, so does the moral law, and both of them fail to exist because now the Natural Law prevails.

Human Nature

Human interest in Human Nature: Many humans are confronted by the question, “Who am I?” At a philosophical level this question becomes more complex. we tend to ask ourselves further questions like, “Am I my body”, “Am I my mind” etc. Ultimately, inquiry leads to further inquiry. Humans’ quest for knowledge is almost never ending.
Sociology attempts to answer the questions about Human Nature at a scientific level. Human Nature is the easiest point of inquiry in my opinion. Inquiry into human nature in my opinion, begins with the comparison of two individuals and their behaviours. No two humans are identical in their behaviours, with similarities and differences. People with similar backgrounds show similarities in their behaviour, and those with different backgrounds exhibit difference.
It is logical that the inquiry should lead in the direction of social and economic variables. The study of the social behaviour of humans and the characteristics of the human society lead to the research to the science of Sociology.
Human Nature is a ‘product of’, or a ‘response to’ the various environmental stimuli. The Environment in this context may comprise of family, neighbourhood, locality, nationality, social clubs, education, educational institutes, work environment etc. The study of human nature takes into consideration all these factors.