The aim of the current paper is to discuss some of the common obstacles to becoming a fully functioning and balanced individual. A close look at the historic development of humanity shows that the concepts of individuality constantly changed in accordance with philosophical and religious teachings. For instance, Islamic culture implies the necessity for the man to be a warrior. At the same time, education plays a huge role for the individuals, who want to achieve the ideas represented in Divine texts. Therefore, an individual needs to be both educated and courageous in order to be fully functioning and balanced. Such position helped the Muslims to conquer huge territories in the early Middle Ages due to the success in the military sphere and scientific achievements.
In Buddhism, the ideal individual aims to achieve Nirvana. According to the teaching of Buddha, life is suffering (Ariew, 37-38). The suffering comes from the desires, which lead to disappointment and sorrow. It is necessary to avoid sufferings. The aim of the balanced individual is based on a meditation about the essence of things. He needs to decrease the number of his wishes and try to achieve the state of awakening in order to pass through the process of the purification from sufferings. At the end, the balanced individual becomes Buddha or enlightened.
The Daoism practices in China imply the similar practices. The Chinese religious and philosophical beliefs also imply the teachings of Chan Buddhism and Confucianism. Confucianism teaches that the respect for elder people and dedication to hierarchy is the best way for the person to become balanced and fully functioning. With the help of this teaching, Chinese people demonstrate brilliant results in the modern epoch. Evidently, they are not very demanding in clothes and food. They are very traditional, especially in the rural regions. Their vision of the balanced individual is inextricably linked to polite behavior and social interaction.
In Japan, the social interaction also plays a huge role. In general, the Eastern mentality requires the balanced individual not to demonstrate ego. On the other hand, the primary intention of the Eastern teachings aims to dissolve ego in the flow of Being. Therefore, it is impossible to discuss the theories of individuality, avoiding the opinion of the East.
In European or Western tradition, there existed a huge amount of various thoughts regarding the balanced and fully functioning individual. In the Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome different thinkers and philosophers created various theories connected with self-development. Evidently, the period of Antiquity is carefully analyzed by the political and social researchers due to the appearance of first notable scientists and warriors, who had a high level of individuality.
The representatives of stoicism ethical system argued that the individual needed to be ascetic and ready to any hardships during life. It is curious that some of the Stoics argued that suicide could be a good solution for a wise individual to behave in accordance with the laws of nature. Such type of behavior, which is based on the Cosmic laws, was the basic principle of the balanced individual. Stoics taught that the human beings need to think pragmatically and avoid emotions. They have chosen logic, concentration, and reflection as the methods of self-discipline.
It is necessary to mention that the phenomenon of virtue was also very important for stoicism. They had the same intention with Buddhism to avoid sufferings. However, these two teachings stated different methodologies. For instance, virtue was considered to be one of the main aspects of the Cosmic existence. The following of this virtues was more important for Stoics than the achievement of some mental state like Nirvana.
The balanced individual had to follow four basic virtues, such as wisdom, courage, justice, and temperance. Thus, in order to be a fully functioning and balanced individual in the stoicism system of values, it is necessary to prefer ratio more than emotions, to be virtuous, and to follow the natural way of life. However, I suppose that the most qualitative theory regarding the balanced and highly functioning individuality belongs to Aristotle with his ideas of entelechy. Evidently, in the epoch of Aristotle, there was a specific concept of Kalokagathia, which reflected the understanding of the balanced individual. According to this concept, the truly beautiful and balanced individual needs to possess various qualities, such as virtue, honesty, bravery, and physical power. Kalos means noble, beautiful, handsome while agathos means honest, good, courageous. It means that it was crucial for the individual to possess the mixture of different qualities in order to be highly functional (MacKinnon, 132).
The concept of kalokagathia was usually related to Greece aristocracy. However, Aristotle modified the understanding of the inner beauty of the individual by implementing the idea of entelechy into his studies. This idea later influenced the theories of existentialists in the 19th and 20th century. For instance, the ideas of Friedrich Nietzsche were partly based on the concept of entelechy. His concept of “uberman” implies the possibility for a person to overcome personal borders of humanity (Macionis, 97). This possibility reveals the main idea of entelechy. Any person could overcome the existing borders and become something bigger in accordance with the hidden nature of individuality.
According to Aristotle, entelechy is some kind of destination, which any person has. Entelechy is like a seed, which could become the tree in future. The same situation is with any human being. Each individuality has the possible way of development. The choice of the person is absolutely free. It makes any of us to be responsible for the personal development.
Obviously, the human being could use the freedom of choice in order to become a balanced individual. However, the main change made by Aristotle and his followers is that this balance is subjective. There is no common law for any individual that explains what does it mean to be fully functional. Consequently, any person could find his own way in this world without being dependent on cliché.
Needless to say, that Aristotle and his followers explained the possibility to find the secret of the individuality differently. Aristotle was more traditional in accordance with the Ancient Greek concept of kalokagathia. He thought that such virtues as physical strength, nobility, and intention to knowledge were basic for the individual to be balanced. In the other epochs, this position changed on the basis of the sociocultural and philosophical reasons. For instance, in the Middle Ages, the love of God was obligatory even for the followers of Aristotle. In the modern days, such writers as Herman Hesse argue that the individuality could be found after the long period of experiments and spiritual searches. It seems fair to suggest that even the secret of finding the entelechy could also be subjective.
It is possible to conclude that there is a huge amount of different theories that describe the basic features of the highly functional and balanced individual. The basic obstacles to become a fully functioning and balanced individual depend on the subjective choice of each person. There seems to be many theories regarding the scheme of becoming good person. However, the concept of entelechy developed by Aristotle and his followers is the most attractive due to its subjective character.
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Ariew, Roger. 2009. Modern Philosophy. Hackett Publishing. Print.
Macionis, John. 2012. Social Problems. 5th ed., Books a la carte, Pearson Education. Print.
MacKinnon, Barbara, Fiala, Andrew. 2014. Ethics: Theory and Contemporary Issues. Wadsworth Publishing, Print.