Nietzsche: Loneliness and Solitude

Featured in the new issue of Harper's Magazine
Caspar David Friedrich, Eiche im Schnee (1820)

Harper's Magazine on Hannah Arendt, Friedrich Nietzsche and solitude:
Hannah Arendt ends The Origins of Totalitarianism with an extended essay on loneliness and solitude. Why? “Loneliness, the common ground for terror, the essence of totalitarian government, and for ideology or logicality, the preparation of its executioners and victims, is closely connected with uprootedness and superfluousness which have been the curse of modern masses since the beginning of the industrial revolution and have become acute with the rise of imperialism at the end of the last century and the break-down of political institutions and social traditions in our own time.” The essence of the alienation associated with the “crisis of modernity” involves the outsider’s swing between being a lone wolf and dissolving into the masses generated by the totalitarian wannabes of all stripes. Arendt sees the philosophical roots of this dilemma in works of classical antiquity, from Cicero to Seneca, in the writings of Augustine, but most of all in a handful of poems by Friedrich Nietzsche. She cites his short work Sils Maria and the more complex poem Aus hohen Bergen which has quite striking references to Friedrich Hölderlin. But still more important for this point is the poem Der Einsame which puts loneliness or solitude on one hand and the feeling of “belonging” in a still more starkly political context. [Read More]

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