Stendhal, On Love
, p. 267.
C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves
, p. 12.
Simmel, ‘The Metropolis and Mental Life’, p. 108. See also Simmel, Sociology: Inquiries into the Construction of Social Forms
, p. 95.
Simmel, The Philosophy of Money
, p. 298.
Tocqueville, Democracy in America
, pp. 665, 701.
Tocqueville, Selected Letters on Politics and Society
, p. 326. On solitude in the wilderness, see further Tocqueville, ‘Journey to Lake Oneida’ and ‘A Fortnight in the Wilderness’, p. 665.
Cf. Marquard, ‘Plädoyer für die Einsamkeitsfähigkeit’, p. 113; Moody, ‘Internet Use and its Relationship to Loneliness’; Monbiot, ‘The Age of Loneliness is Killing Us’.
Chen and French, ‘Children’s Social Competence in Cultural Contexts’.
Cf. Svendsen, Philosophy of Boredom
, p. 28.
Larson, ‘The Solitary Side of Life: An Examination of the Time People Spend Alone from Childhood to Old Age’.
Cioran, Drawn and Quartered
, p. 159.
, p. 116.
Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
, p. 23.
Kant, Idea of a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Purpose
, p. 44.
Byron, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage
, Canto III
, v. 90, p. 131.
Milton, Paradise Lose, Book IX
, 249, p. 192.
Bierce, The Enlarged Devil’s Dictionary
, p. 44.
Butler, ‘A Melancholy Man’, p. 59.
MacDonald and Leary, ‘Why Does Social Exclusion Hurt? The Relationship Between Social and Physical Pain’; Eisenberger, Lieberman and Williams, ‘Does Rejection Hurt? An fMRI
Study of Social Exclusion’.
A good, precise overview of the genetic and neuroscientific aspects of loneliness can be found in Hawkley and Cacioppo, ‘Perceived Social Isolation: Social Threat Vigilance and its Implication for Health’. There is an extensive psychoanalytic literature on loneliness that I will take up only in limited capacity. For an overview and discussion of many of the most central contributions, see Quindoz, The Taming of Solitude: Separation Anxiety in Psychoanalysis
ONE The Essence of Loneliness
For example, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health gives this definition of loneliness: ‘Good social support means that one receives love and care, is respected and valued, and that one belongs to a social network and a community with mutual responsibilities. The opposite of good social support is loneliness.’ Folkehelseinstituttet, ‘Sosial støtte og ensomhet – faktaark’.
Cf. Scarry, The Body in Pain
Eliot, The Cocktail Party
, p. 414.
An extreme expression of such metaphysical loneliness is Ben Lazare Mijuskovic’s Loneliness in Philosophy, Psychology and Literature
(1979), which reduces the entirety of human existence to a state of loneliness, and where those who might claim that loneliness is not so defining of his or her life cannot be described in any other way than individuals living in denial of their basic existential condition. Interpersonal communication is dismissed as a momentary, albeit comforting, illusion (Mijuskovic, Loneliness in Philosophy, Psychology and Literature
, p. 82). Mijuskovic claims that loneliness is the most fundamental fact of human life, that loneliness is the basic structure of self-consciousness, and that when one attempts to see through themselves completely, they find an emptiness
or desolation, in short: loneliness (ibid., pp. 13, 20). However, one can question whether this type of Cartesian introspection, where the self is made utterly transparent to itself, is even possible. Many philosophers, not least Kant, have provided arguments for why this is more than doubtful. One can further question why such introspection should yield a more basic truth than that revealed by extrospection. However that may be, the most important thing to keep in mind is that reflections such as Mijuskovic’s are so reductive and general that they overlook all multiplicity in the phenomenon they have set out to examine. It is tempting to turn to a Shakespearean citation that Wittgenstein considered using as a motto for Philosophical Investigations
, ‘I’ll teach you differences!’ (Shakespeare, King Lear
, Act I
, Scene 4.) As Wittgenstein underscored in his remarks to Frazer’s The Golden Bough
: ‘Nothing is ...