Solitude. A Philosophical Encounter

Philip Koch “Solitude. A Philosophical Encounter” [Open Court Publishing, 1994]
413W87TMDBL
“What is the proper place of solitude in human existence? Some thinkers have claimed that solitude is our truest, most ultimate, metaphysically deepest state of being. Others have maintained the contrary view that it is in encounter that we most truly find ourselves. In Koch’s Solitude: A Philosophical Encounter, both solitude and encounter emerge as primary modes of human experience, equally essential for human completion. This book both joyfully celebrates and carefully analyzes solitude. Professor Koch first explores the roles of perception, emotion, thought, and volition in constructing the experiential world of solitude, then distinguishes solitude from such near-relations as loneliness, isolation, privacy, and alienation. He goes on to explain his surprising discovery: disengaged solitude is threaded through and hemmed around by diminished modes of engagement, while conversely, engagement is limited and hollowed by modes of disengagement. So, it turns out, experiences of solitude and encounter are shot through with each other, leading to a radically new understanding of personal experience.

The author identifies five intrinsic virtues of solitude: Freedom of Action; Attunement to Self; Attunement to Nature; Reflective Perspective; and Creativity. The common objections to solitude – that it is empty, pointless, vain, foolish, lonely, dangerous, unnatural, morbid, self-indulgent, selfish, escapist, evasive of social responsibility, irrelevant for post-modern women, and culturally limited to alienated privilege in late stages of capitalism – are each given their say and then critically dismantled. Professor Koch’s discussion includes an overview of historical restrictions on solitude for women, as well as contemporary women’s writings on solitude, and a detailed study of the role of solitude in the classics of ancient Taoism.”

“What is the proper place of solitude in human existence? Some philosophers have claimed that solitude is our truest, most ultimate metaphysically deepest state of being. Others have maintained the contrary view, that it is in encounter that we most truly find ourselves. In Koch’s “Solitude”, both solitude and encounter emerge as primary modes of human experience, equally essential for human completion. This work draws upon a vast corpus of literary reflections on solitude, especially Lao Tze, Sappho, Plotinus, Seneca, Augustine, Petrarch, Teresa of Avila, Meister Eckhart, Montaigne, Goethe, Wordsworth, Shelley, Cowper, Hugo, Emerson, Thoreau, Dickinson, Whitman, Proust, Lawrence, Rilke, Byrd, Stevens, Eisley, Tillich, Woolf and Sarton.”

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