14 | CR Book VI

the self has in common with others, the more we try to seize it in its
general features, the more do we get as the real self an impersonal
self, common to all selves. But then we must conclude that, if one and
the same factor is the core of each individual's selfhood, no individual
in its true essence has individuality. There would be nothing like my
self; there would be only the self.

Those who favour the universal features of ourselves seem to
describe us rather as what we should be than as what we actually are.
It may be that individual selfhood is an illusion as compared with the
common Self, but usually we do not treat our individual self like that.
In certain social conditions - especially under bourgeois modes of
production - we are made to believe that the self in its singularity is the
real self, that our true selfhood is seized on the lowest level of generality.
This assumption leads not only to the fallacies of nominalism. It also
makes the self incomprehensible - for, insofar as the self is unique, it is
different from everything else, it resembles nothing, and therefore is
nothing, as far as our intellect is concerned. Neither can sympathy reach
it, because in acts of sympathy we can find in others only what we found
in ourselves, and therefore we never reach those features of others
which they have alone by themselves. If one says that it is the
combination of properties which is unique, that which is unique in us
will turn out to be far more a piffling peculiarity, than that which
constitutes our dignity and essence. This argument is borne out out by the
practical attitude to human individuality and dignity which is connected
with the theoretical glorification of individuality. If the meaningless
label of uniqueness is the essential thing about people, all unique
realities would be essentially alike for the intellect, for this factor would
be common to all. All individualities would be levelled down to a grey
mass leavened by a few eccentrics, and for all practical purposes one
could treat as non-existent, and one has treated as non-existent, that
incomprehensible factor of uniqueness. In actual practice, the cult of
strict individuality is bound up with an extermination of individuality,
sometimes coupled with a clinging to the cherished external tokens of
an imagined "distinguished" personality. In addition, we are faced
with the practical difficulty that human nature does not show itself at
its best in its isolation and in those conditions which foster a sense of
uniqueness and individuality.

Seeing that the self can be seized neither on the level of universal
being nor on that of strict individuality, we may plump for the medium
levels of generality. We find that they form an indefinite ladder, and that
we have no standard by which to decide on which one the self can be
seized. On each layer I belong essentially to something. On the top
layer I belong to being, or to everything. On the bottom layer II belong
to myself, or to nothing. Each medium layer leads us away from
individuality, and from a personal to an impersonal self. Neither taken
separately, nor in their sum total - which lacks in unity - can they
constitute our selfhood. The ladder of levels of generality leads us
towards the general or universal self, and we have no reason to stop at
one rung rather than at another.

The difficulty of our cognition reflects the presence of two opposite
processes in our self - it desires to combine with others, and it strives
away from others. At the bottom of these opposite processes is a basic