The Evolution of Individualism Through Christianity
Heath, Maureen Patricia
Moran Cruz, JoAnn H
This thesis explores how Christianity and the birth of a Christian worldview affected the evolution of individualism in Western culture as a cultural meme. Applying a biological metaphor, the focus is on how mutations in the cultural genome arose from the advent of Christianity within a Eurocentric context. Utilizing a diachronic examination of selected authors and writings, this thesis explores that cultural evolution and shows the progression to the modern individual.Beginning with Augustine and extending to John Locke, the focus is on writers who are emblematic of a concept that becomes an adaptive trait or cultural meme in the evolutionary process. They include: Augustine exhibiting the inner self, Abelard and Ockham displaying the intentional self, Dante manifesting the responsible self, Pico della Mirandola and the self-made man, Montaigne presenting the subjective self, Luther with the autonomous-self meme, and Locke presenting the natural rights meme. These historical figures did not necessarily invent the concept that was crucial to the adaptation. Rather, due to a confluence of events, timing, and just as in biological evolution, chance, the idea they wrote about reached a critical mass of acceptance and “stuck,” thereby mutating the prevailing social culture from both a historical and linguistic point of view.Finally, the question of whether individualism has now mutated to the point that there is an exaggerated emphasis on it, to the detriment of shared societal bonds and values, is addressed in the conclusions.
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