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Knowledge and Understanding Seminar: All Students Welcome
Speaker: David Bather Woods (Warwick)
Title: 'The World as One: Learning from Solitude with Schopenhauer'
Schopenhauer praises solitude and derides sociability. An active mind requires solitude, and tolerance of solitude requires an active mind, thus a capacity for solitude is an intellectual virtue, he reasons. The need for sociability, a sign of an inactive mind, is solitude’s opposite vice. Time has not been kind to this view. It is now widely accepted, and has scarcely been more apparent, that human beings are ineluctably social creatures, and better off that way. Worse still, Schopenhauer’s praise of solitude jars with his praise of worldliness as another intellectual virtue. Thinkers should learn from experience of the world, he believes; but can thinkers be both worldly and solitary? How can they know more about the world by getting out in it less? I propose a reading of Schopenhauer’s praise of the intellectual virtue of solitude which is neither insensitive to the patent human need for sociability, nor inconsistent with the intellectual virtue of worldliness.