Saturday, December 07, 2013

The Freedom of the Solitary Life

Solitude: A Philosophical EncounterSolitude: 
A Philosophical Encounter 
by Philip Koch

"For it is not the mere name of solitude but the good things which are proper to it that I praise.  And it is not so much the solitary recesses and the silence that delight me as the leisure and freedom that dwell within them." - Petrarch, De Vita Solitaria

This is an encounter with both the nature of solitude and the thinkers who have written about solitude. Some of these thinkers are writers who I already knew and admired and some, at least on this topic, were new to me. Comprising two sections, one on the "nature of solitude" and another evaluating its existence it seems to encompass the subject well without exceeding the patience of the solitary reader. 
The author presents arguments for and against solitude as a theoretical and practical matter. The culture and philosophy of solitude is considered. But most to my liking were the moments when specific writers' thoughts were presented. They ask questions like Byron's "Then stirs the feeling infinite, so felt
In solitude, where we are least alone;". 
Are we alone or not when we cling to solitude? Is solitude like Robert Byrd's "long night as black as that on the dark side of the moon" or is it brightly illumined by our own "power of joy, we see into the life of things" as Wordsworth poetically proclaims. The wealth of questions and information about solitude is presented and assessed, but each individual reader will have to decide for himself what answers are best suited to his life.  However for me, I prefer the freedom expressed by Henry David Thoreau:

"I go and come with a strange liberty in nature." 

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Brian Joseph said...

I really like the concept here. That is, taking a theme and exploring how various minds have dealt with it over the centuries.

Having recently read Walden, Thoreau's views on the subject are bubbling through my mind.

James said...

Even though I have not read Thoreau as recently as you have, his thoughts are still with me as they always will be. I find Thoreau simpatico.