Solitude and Society

Winchester Crypt & Gormley Statue


Excerpts from Solitude and Society by Nicholas Berdyaev


“The most extreme and distressing form of solitude is that experienced in society, in the objective world. The Ego’s contact with the Non-Ego, with the objective world, does not solve the problem of solitude. It is beyond dispute that no object can really alleviate man’s solitude. This latter can only be overcome by the confrontation of the Ego with another Ego, with the Thou. With the subject… human solitude postulates tragedy – an endeavor to surmount the inherent tragedy of a situation and the inability to achieve this end. Hence the even greater contradiction between the impossibility of resolving the inherent tragedy of antithesis,  on the one hand, and the necessity of resolving it on the other.

The Ego attempts to overcome its isolation in many ways: through knowledge,  sexual life, love, friendship, social life, moral acts, art, and various other ways.  It would be untrue to say that solitude is not to some extent alleviated in these ways; but it would be a gross exaggeration to maintain that it is thus definitely overcome; for all these ways involve objective processes, the Ego’s confrontation with the object and society instead of with another Ego,  with the Thou, in the depths of inner communion.

There are various forms and degrees of solitude: as an experience,  it is not restricted to any one form or quality. Dispute, conflict, and even hatred are all social manifestations which often serve to suppress or to allay the sense of solitude. Their ultimate effect however is to increase that sense.




I have been unable to find the origin of the image in this article, but hope the photographer will forgive my posting it without permission. 

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