Of Wolves and Ravens – Western Philosophy – Individual Rights

Happy Tyr’s Day


If one wants to point to the main difference between Eastern and Western Philosophy it is Collectivism vs. Individualism.  This is overly generalized on my part, and I would say there are elements of individualism in Eastern philosophy and Collectivism in Western.  It is just the results ultimately lead down these paths overall.

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Source: http://www.writeopinions.com/western-philosophy

We could argue all day which is superior, but there is one element that I personally take to heart because of where it leads. The focus on the individual over the centuries has led to an understanding of individual rights.  The people have certain rights like life, liberty, pursuit of happiness and ownership of property that no collective group can take away is something very Western.  In Eastern Philosophy you get more of a rights of the group mentality. This can be detrimental to the individual.  I suppose this debate will continue until the bitter end. I am going to side with the individual and the below cartoon illustrates how collectivism or majority rule can lead to evil.

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That said there is something to be said for Eastern Philosophy in other areas. I just get real rights conscious for the individual from Western philosophy and in this regard I think it is superior to Eastern. I am not going to go into the philosophy where our rights come from at this time.  That will probably be the subject of a Of Wolves and Ravens down the line.

To the Wolves and Ravens:

Needs (Geri):

The need for an understanding of individual rights is paramount to treating each other like human beings.  If you don’t think humans have rights then it is very easy to see them as non-human.  I think it is a basic test of humanity to see what a person’s feelings about the rights of other humans are or may be. If you find they give rights to themselves and people they like but not to others, I think they fail that test.  This discussion of rights fills to needs – a) tests your own humanity and b) litmus test for others being human by how they treat other humans.

Wants (Freki):

For myself I would rather have this rights issues than the collectivist one. If the thought that you could be killed for the benefit of the ‘greater good’ bothers you, you understand why you want individual rights.  They give you the power to live your life ad protect you from those who would try to take that away from you.

Reason (Huginn):

Of course reason gets us to the point that we realize that rights only have value if they are defended and stood up for. This is another matter for the ‘where do rights come from?’ issue.  But for now, it is simply noted that the basic rights require other rights to defend them.  One thing leads to another when it comes to rights and the right to defend one’s rights stems from calling those basic rights rationally essential.

Wisdom (Muninn):

A wise world would promote individual rights.  It allows one to be both for the individual but also if everyone collectively is given the same individual rights – all benefit collectively  from having those rights.


I would love to think balance between the collective whole and individual rights can be achieved, but I know people are inherently tribal and eventually they submit the rights of the individual to the fear or desires for power. There is always going to be that element in society that thinks they can come up with a better plan or system for you than you can and it seems inevitably they want you to hand over your rights to them or take them from you.  This needs to be resisted because if they can do it to you, they can do it to everyone. Individual Rights have to be defended against the mob.

I remain,

The Rabyd Skald – Wandering Soul, Bard and Philosopher. The Grey Wayfarer.


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