What Is Solitude?

I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.

- Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Podcast of the Day

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the philosophy of solitude. The state of being alone can arise for many different reasons: imprisonment, exile or personal choice. It can be prompted by religious belief, personal necessity or a philosophical need for solitary contemplation. Many thinkers have dealt with the subject, from Plato and Aristotle to Hannah Arendt. It's a philosophical tradition that takes in medieval religious mystics, the work of Montaigne and Adam Smith, and the great American poets of solitude Thoreau and Emerson.

Listen to the In Our Time episode on The Philosophy of Solitude

Video of the Day

Short Article of the Day

‘I have a great deal of company in my house; especially in the morning, when nobody calls.’ Henry David Thoreau’s remark about his experience of solitude expresses many of the common ideas we have about the work — and the apparent privileges — of being alone. As he put it so vividly in Walden (1854), his classic account of the time he spent alone in the Massachusetts woods, he went there to ‘live deep and suck out all the marrow of life’. Similarly, when I retreat into solitude, I hope to reconnect with a wider, more-than-human world and by so doing become more fully alive, recovering what the Gospel of Thomas called, ‘he who was, before he came into being’...

Continue reading John Burnside's article: The allure – and danger – of the solitary life

Further Reading

Solitude is a state of seclusion or isolation, i.e., lack of contact with people. It may stem from bad relationships, loss of loved ones, deliberate choice, infectious disease, mental disorders, neurological disorders or circumstances of employment or situation (see castaway).

Short-term solitude is often valued as a time when one may work, think or rest without being disturbed. It may be desired for the sake of privacy.

A distinction has been made between solitude and loneliness. In this sense, these two words refer, respectively, to the joy and the pain of being alone...

Continue reading the Wikipedia article on Solitude

Bonus Webcomic

Isolation - xkcd

Related Topics

Anthropology | Culture | Human Nature | Psychology

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