The Metaphysical Structure of Solitude

Dissertation, City University of New York (2000)


To be alone, one must be separated from something. Solitude, paradoxically, turns out to be a relational concept which requires for its logical foundation the duality of a subject and an object of isolation, of longing. Keeping this logical structure in mind, I distinguish between four types of solitude: ordinary, heavenly, cosmic and divine. Ordinary solitude lacks any metaphysical dimension for, here there is no ontological division between the subject and object of separation. It is not that these two are of the same kind, for this is true of all four types of solitude, but that here the element separating the subject from the object is not different in kind from either. In heavenly solitude, by contrast, the soul is separated from her objects of longing, by an ontologically inferior element, the sensible world. Here, instead of a mere logical foundation, we have a metaphysical one, instead of duality, dualism. To the metaphysical a cosmic dimension is added when the object of longing is no longer perceived as immanent to the cosmos but transcendent to it. Now the cosmos itself is seen as the obstruction separating the subject from its ultimate object of longing. The ascetic impulse is present even in ordinary solitude, , but it intensifies in heavenly solitude, as the soul turns away from the sensible world altogether, and finally, in cosmic solitude it reaches its logical extreme when it becomes the gnostic mission of world-destruction. At the end, these three human varieties of solitude are contrasted with divine solitude which, unparadoxically, is non-relational and has monism for its metaphysical basis. This divine variety is then hailed as the resolution, the end of all human solitude

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