Arthur Schopenhauer and the Philosophy of Solitude - The Antidot to Loneliness アーサー・ショーペンハウアーと孤独の哲学 孤独への解毒剤

A short disclaimer in advance, I am only a philosopher by heart and not by training. Therefore, the following text only reflects my personal interpretation and lessons, which I took from the philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, humanity did not just have to fight against a persistent virus, which restricted all of our freedom significantly, but also against the emotional backlashes of social distancing. It was only a matter of time, until the communal isolation begun to take its toll by spreading feelings of loneliness in the heart of the people.
A cross-sectional online survey revealed that, worldwide, the percentage of people, who suffered from being alone had risen from 6% to 21 % . This study included Japan as well. The newspaper "Japan Times" reported that according to a recent survey, nearly 40% of the adults in Japan felt lonely during the pandemic. To make the scope of the problem a little clearer, this would mean that around 41.84 million people in Japan suffered from being disconnected from their community. However, at the end, this emotional reaction was natural. People in many parts of the world used to take their social freedom for granted, but didn’t realize how privileged they were being able to enjoy social life to the fullest. Now, that we have come to this realization, remorse had turned into sorrow. This change of mind has formed a fertile ground which allowed forlornness to grow and spread rapidly.

Loneliness has a severe impact on our psychological and physical health. Unfortunately, the symptoms and consequences of aloneness are far-reaching and partly irreparable. Starting from sleep deprivation, weight gain, high blood pressure and immune system weakening, and up to anxiety, depression or even death . Once loneliness becomes a chronical disease, people will experience their state of isolation as a constant torture; caught in an eternal nightmare, without being able to wake up. Unfortunately, loneliness is an integral part of our emotional spectrum, which means that sooner or later every one of us will have to face the painful feeling of undesired isolation. But there is even worse news to come. Until today, humanity hasn’t found a reliable panacea against this widespread “disease”. Of course, it is possible to cloud the mind with medications, but it only conceals the problem and does not solve it. So, what else can we do when we are confronted with the feelings of lonesomeness?

Some people, like myself, turn to philosophy. German theoreticians, philosophers and thinkers in particular understood loneliness as an essential part of human existence. One of them, was the famous philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer. His view on the worldly life can be summarized bluntly as the following:” The safest way of not being very miserable is not expecting to be very happy” . Due to his dark and often cynical way of thinking, Schopenhauer even nowadays is often referred to as the “Philosopher of Pessimism”, the “Sad Prince of Pessimism” and the “Messenger of Misery” .

A brief background : Arthur Schopenhauer was born in 1788 in Danzig (Poland) . His financially wealthy background allowed Schopenhauer to travel all around Europe when he was young of age. During his journeys, he witnessed, the agony of the human existence first-hand, which inspired him later to pursue a career in academia. After briefly studying medicine, he became a student of Philosophy at the University of Göttingen and at the University of Jena. Smart as he was, it didn’t take long until he got a teaching position at the University of Berlin (Germany). However, Schopenhauer found very little success in his new job. Disillusioned and disappointed about the dry and tedious education system, he withdrew from his prestigious position at the University of Berlin. After his days at the institution of higher education, Schopenhauer spent most of his time in domestic solitude philosophizing and writing. However, alone is not quite correct. Faithfully by his side was his little poodle called Atman . Rumours say, that the neighbour’s children jokingly called his poodle “Mrs. Schopenhauer” . Despite his pessimistic view of the world, Schopenhauer never fell into a state of despair himself, and his philosophy explains why. The Antidot to Loneliness consists of three simple ingredients.

Perception – Loneliness Means Freedom
In his opera minore, Counsels and Maxims (1851), Schopenhauer argued once that: “A man can be himself only as long as he is alone; and if he does not love solitude, he will not love freedom; for it is only when he is alone that he is really free” . In fact, living in society is, to put it bluntly, basically a trade-off between freedom and protection. According to Schopenhauer, absolute personal freedom can only be achieved when the individuum is not restraint by human interactions. Therefore, solitude (even forced one’s) should be understood as a potential for personal liberation rather than as a psychological imprisonment. The strength of this quote lies particularly in its emphasis on the idea of discernment. In the end, the psychological harm of social isolation can only manifest itself if the mind of the individual allows it. Understanding that social exclusion does not necessarily have to evoke loneliness is of utmost importance. Therefore, the first ingredient for Schopenhauer’s Antidot to Loneliness, could be called the “the perception of the individual circumstances”.

Solitude – Meditation and Self-Reflection
It is well known, that Schopenhauer praised Buddhism as most likely the finest of all world religions . Schopenhauer’s philosophy and Buddhism share the belief in meditation and self-reflection. In his own words: “In solitude each one has to face one’s own self” . As mentioned earlier, even the “Philosopher of Pessimism” himself spent most of his time in domestic isolation. One could argue that philosophizing in solitude had become his personal way of meditation and self-reflection. At the moment of spiritual self-confrontation, the individuum receives the opportunity to explore the origin of one’s own psychological anxiety; it enables people to practice “mindfulness”. Becoming consciously aware of one’s own emotional state allows the individual to identify the origin of his/her personal agony. Therefore, the second ingredient for Schopenhauer’s Antidot to Loneliness could be called “finding mindfulness in self-reflection”.

Boredom – Everyone Hates It!
If there is one archenemy of Schopenhauer, then it is boredom. To quote the “Philosopher of Pessimism” himself:” Boredom is certainly not an evil to be taken lightly: it will ultimately etch lines of true despair onto a face” . In fact, his philosophy deals quite a lot with the fight against the tediousness of human existence. Schopenhauer firmly believed that “The two enemies of human happiness are pain and boredom” . There is a clear difference between solitude and loneliness, and that is the degree of resistance against boredom, a distinction that is still accurate today. It is always advisable to have a work, a hobby or any other pastime, which keeps the mind busy, in order to prevent the emergence of boredom in life. Avoiding boredom was not just an essential part of Schopenhauer’s philosophy but also of his own life. The German philosopher himself had very strict daily routines, which kept him constantly busy. In other words, “The person who is busy, has no time to feel lonely”. Maybe that’s why Schopenhauer himself never gave in into the despair resulting of solitude, despite spending most of his time in social seclusion. Therefore, the third ingredient for Schopenhauer’s Antidot to Loneliness could be called “Resistance to boredom”.

Clearly, the above brewed potion is not directly based on the teaching of Schopenhauer, but rather inspired by his “Philosophy of Pessimism”. So, the next time when you sense a feeling of loneliness creeping into in your life, take a sip of the above presented Antidot to Loneliness, and who knows, maybe it will help to calm down your anxious mind as well. Remember that Schopenhauer also argued that “loneliness is the fate of all outstanding minds” . And if it doesn’t help you, maybe you are simply one of the magnificent minds of our time.


コロナのパンデミックでは、人類は、自由をかなり制限されるウイルスと継続的に戦うだけでなく、人々の間に社会的な距離を置くことで生じる感情的な反発とも戦わなければなりませんでした。そのような中で生じた社会的な孤立が、人々の心に孤独感をもたらし始めるのは時間の問題でした。あるオンラインの調査では、孤独に悩む人の割合が、世界全体で6%から21%に上昇したという事が明らかになりました。この調査の中には日本も含まれています。新聞「ジャパンタイムズ」の最近の調査によると、日本の成人の40%近くがパンデミック中に孤独を感じていたと報じられています。つまり、日本では約4,184万人がコミュニティから切り離され、苦しんでいたことになります。しかし、結局のところ、この感情は自然なものだったのです。世界の多くの地域で、人々はこれまで社会の中で自由に振る舞えることを当然と考え、社会生活を満喫できるという事がいかに特権がある事なのかを認識していなかったのです。そのことに気づいた今、人々の反省の心は悲しみへと変わっていきました。そのことが、"寂しさ "を急速に拡大させる土壌となったのです。



ショーペンハウアーは 1788 年にダンツィヒ(ポーランド)に生まれました。経済的には裕福であったため、ショーペンハウアーは若い間にヨーロッパ各地を旅行することができました。その旅の中で、彼は人間の存在の苦悩を目の当たりにし、それが後に学問の道を追求するきっかけとなったのです。医学を短期間学んだ後、ゲッティンゲン大学とイエナ大学で哲学を学びました。賢い彼にとって、ベルリン大学(ドイツ)で教職に就くまで、それほど時間はかかりませんでした。しかし、ショーペンハウアーは新しい職場ではほとんど成功を収めることが出来ませんでした。彼はつまらない教育制度に失望し、ベルリン大学での権威ある職を辞してしまったのです。高等教育機関での日々を終えたショーペンハウアーは、孤独に過ごす中で哲学をし、ほとんどの時間を執筆に費やしました。しかし、孤独だったというのは正しくはありません。彼のそばにはアトマンと呼ばれる小さなプードルがいました。噂によると、近所の子供たちは冗談で彼のプードルを「ショーペンハウアー夫人」と呼んでいたそうです。ショーペンハウアーは、その悲観的な世界観にもかかわらず、決して絶望に陥ることはありませんでしたが、その理由は彼の哲学にあります。彼の執筆した「孤独への解毒剤」は、3つの成分から構成されています。


認識 - 孤独というのは自由を意味する


孤独 - 瞑想と自己省察
ショーペンハウアーが、仏教を世界の宗教の中で最も優れたものであると賞賛したことはよく知られています。ショーペンハウアーの哲学と仏教とは、瞑想と自己省察という点で同じ考え方をしています。彼の言葉を借りれば 「孤独の中で、人はそれぞれ自分自身と向き合わなければならない」。先に述べたように、「悲観主義の哲学者」である彼自身も、ほとんどの時間を孤独に過ごしていました。孤独の中で哲学をすることが、彼自身の瞑想や内省の方法になっていたとも言えます。自分の心に向き合う瞬間、人は自身の心理的な不安の原因を探る機会を得ることが出来るのです。すなわち、“マインドフルネス”を実践することができるのです。自分の感情の状態を意識することで、苦悩の原因を特定することが出来るのです。したがって、ショーペンハウアーの『孤独の解毒剤』の二つ目の成分は、「自己省察の中にマインドフルネスを見出すこと」と言えるかもしれません。


退屈 - 誰だって嫌になる





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ソシエタス総合研究所 研究員Niklas Holzapfel ホルツ アッペル ニクラス
ドイツ出身。Goethe University Frankfurt am Main(ヨハン・ヴォルフガン グ・ゲーテ大学フランクフルト・アム・マイン)にて日本学・中国学(学士、 法・経済分野)専攻して卒業後、1年間立教大学に留学。その後、Martin- Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg(マルティン・ルター大学ハレ・ヴィッテ ンベルク)大学院に進学し、日本学と南アジア学を専攻。同時に、経済・経営 学、英米学学士号(経営倫理分野)も取得。研究テーマ・関心は、現代日本社会 の構造、システム、制度をめぐる言説と、それらの社会哲学的・社会経済的視点 からの脱構築化の実践。2022年4月より、橋本財団ソシエタス総合研究所に 勤務し、主に日本の福祉制度をめぐる動きとその社会福祉政策(生活保護など) への影響についての研究に従事する。
ドイツ出身。Goethe University Frankfurt am Main(ヨハン・ヴォルフガン グ・ゲーテ大学フランクフルト・アム・マイン)にて日本学・中国学(学士、 法・経済分野)専攻して卒業後、1年間立教大学に留学。その後、Martin- Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg(マルティン・ルター大学ハレ・ヴィッテ ンベルク)大学院に進学し、日本学と南アジア学を専攻。同時に、経済・経営 学、英米学学士号(経営倫理分野)も取得。研究テーマ・関心は、現代日本社会 の構造、システム、制度をめぐる言説と、それらの社会哲学的・社会経済的視点 からの脱構築化の実践。2022年4月より、橋本財団ソシエタス総合研究所に 勤務し、主に日本の福祉制度をめぐる動きとその社会福祉政策(生活保護など) への影響についての研究に従事する。
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