It has been asked whether or not Man has a right to his own free actions at all times, or if it is more morally correct to be bound by the Social Contract he has signed in order to protect himself from Hobbes’ famed state of man, being “nasty, brutish, and short.” When considering the continuum of the individual versus the majority, one’s first reaction would be to seek the knife’s edge of reason, somewhere in the middle. But should one be forced to arbitrarily decide in the favor of one or the other, it is the clear discovery through the vessel of scientific application of the Theory of Evolution and historical example, that the basic force behind human betterment (both as individuals and as a society) is change, and that change cannot be accomplished unless the will of an individual is seen as taking precedent over the will of society.
Evolution, as a theory has helped to explain the way that organisms grow and become more suited to their environment; in essence, the theory of evolution states that as organisms reproduce, they strive to become the best version of themselves that they can. The process which allows the development of evolution is that of mutation, literally “a significant and basic change in something”, which modifies an organism either favorably or unfavorably to its environment. It is change itself which drives a species to a better state. With this vessel, the same concept applies to social change as well, as can be seen by the social upheavals which have directly impacted the future of our species; both for our detriment, such as the Dark Ages or the Cold War, and to our benefit, such as the Renaissance or the Civil Rights Movement.
In Origin of the Species, it was first proposed the concept of ‘Survival of the Fittest’, being that of “individuals having any advantage, however slight, over others, would have the best chance of surviving and procreating their kind”. Though he did not know the exact mechanism of the change itself, he was astute enough to observe that it change was necessary for an organism to stay viable in its environment. The Red Queen Theory even goes as far to state that constant change is needed in order for a species to maintain its relative fitness amongst the systems with which it is being co-evolved. Without this change, an organism fails to adapt to its new environment and loses its opportunity to move towards a more viable version of itself.
In Biology, mutation is often the result of outside forces acting upon the genetic code of an individual organism; so, too, do outside forces often force a change in a social ‘gene’ (or meme as is the accepted term) in such a way as to be favorable to the new conditions in which they exist. The forcing of such a change has even been the purpose of many demonstrations during the Civil Rights Movement, and through this example alone, we see the benefit of individuality; namely, that of making change possible, for if an individual is constrained to only those ethics and morals which are presupposed for him, it becomes impossible for one to make any decision, for the decision has already been made. Emerson described this phenomenon when he said, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency, a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall.” Though uniform conformity may come with its uses and may be necessary at times, all changes are by their nature a shift from what is to something that is not.
Thus it would stand to reason that when considering the continuum of the individual versus the majority, and one is forced to arbitrarily decide in the favor of one or the other, individuality is the only paradigm that can sustain us as a species. Though the Social Contract helps ward off a primal state of war, unthinking conformity to the majority prevents the advancement of mankind as a moral being, effectively undoing the work of the Social Contract as a whole.