26/03/2017

Adam Schaff: "Marxism and the Human Individual", McGraw-Hill, 1970, s. 5-6

Problems of the philosophy of man, and particularly the question of the relationship between the individual and society, become historically important when the stabilized social order begins to waver and when, together with it, the socially accepted system of values is shaken. As long as the social machinery functions without friction, as long as – to use a Marxist phrase – there is harmony between the forces of production and the relations of production, the individual, formed as he is by social relations, tends to regard them as natural; in the same way he accepts the prevailing norms of social intercourse be which his relationships with society are regulated. This is a very simple process, and in most cases it takes place unconsciously since people, through their upbringing within a social group, receive from society a language, a definite way to see the world, a way of thinking, and a system of values with its habits, customs and morals. It is only the collapse of the social order, the rise of objective conflicts within the base, and consequently in the superstructure, the upsetting and disintegration of a traditionally accepted system of values that make the individual begin to consider his separate identity and to ask about his relationships with other individuals and society. What makes a decent life? This is a question that, in various forms, has always faced human beings. But in times of revolution or of transition from one socio-economic system to another, when there is both a breakdown in the traditional relations between the individual and society and also the arduous formation of new ones, this question asserts itself before mankind with particular force. People become acutely aware that they are no longer able or willing to live in the old way, without not yet knowing how they should live. Such periods encourage the individual to reflect on his status and destiny; and they stimulate the development of a philosophy of man. Historically, these have been the periods of an “explosion” of this kind of inquiry, when the Socratic current in the history of philosophy, for which man is the primary object, has driven out the Democritean current, the philosophy of nature for which the overriding task is to investigate and formulate the general laws governing reality.