Society vs Individual

Society is an abstraction, equivalent to the individuals who compose society weighted by each individual's influence within the society. In a pyramid society, those at the top have more influence than those at the bottom, whereas in an egalitarian society, everyone has equal influence. In practice, all societies are somewhat pyramidal. In particular, young children and mental defectives never have much influence.

It is in the interest of each individual to take more from society than he gives. For this to be possible, each individual must also want at least some of the other individuals to give more than they take. Given that all societies are pyramidal, what happens is that the more powerful members of society set up a moral code whereby the weaker members of society must give more than they take, while the powerful members take more than they give. This moral code can and ultimately must be enforced by brute physical violence. However, it is also possible to put a policeman in charge of enforcing the moral code inside the individual's head, via early childhood programming or social conditioning. The goal is to punish the individual, via guilt, for even thinking in a way that violates society's moral code, much less acting in violation of the moral code, so as to reduce the number of instances in which a resort to expensive physical violence is required. Social conditioning is possible in humans because of the massive development of the outer cortex of the brain. None of the other animals has a comparable brain.

Moral codes that reflect real material world power imbalances and hierarchies might be called "fair". That is, if human A is physically much stronger than human B, then a fair moral code is one which gives A a bigger piece of the pie than B, exactly in proportion to their differences in strength. But human strength is not static. We are weak when young, then grow stronger until reaching a peak sometime in early adulthood, then grow weaker again. There will thus be a temptation by the adults to take advantage of their temporary position of greater strength relative to the young, so as to implant a moral code that disadvantages the young. For example, the older males may implant a moral code in the younger males such that it is the younger males who are obliged to do all the fighting (and thus dying) in warfare. Obviously, these younger males will themselves someday be older males and so have an interest in preserving, to some extent, a system which favors the aged. On the other hand, it is easy to conceive of situations where the young adults are clearly getting the short end of the stick and would be much better off on an overall basis (that is, taking into account both short-run and distant futures, perhaps using some sort of temporal discounting function) if they revolted again their programming. Indeed, it is the rule in highly developed societies that young adults would be advised to spend considerable amounts of time and energy reprogramming themselves (studying religion and philosophy).

Furthermore, as society becomes more complex, we can no longer simply compare individuals, but rather must consider alliances as well, and this makes determination of relative strength extremely difficult, which open the door to deceit, bluffing and other advanced negotiating tactics so as to get a bigger slice of the pie than would result from the fair distribution (as defined above). In other words, potentially anyone in society can have a less-than-optimal spiritual configuration, meaning a belief system or pattern of thinking such that they give more to society and receive less, and hence are less happy, than would be the case if they reconfigured their spiritual configuration. That is, it is normal for a large proporition of the population in complex society to be mentally ill (the state just described).

Conflict between society and individual is mirrored in conflict between spirit and soul within the individual, except that it is normally the individual who changes, not society, whereas it is always spirit which changes, and never soul.