Saturday, March 15, 2008

Schopenhauer the Hedgehog

Schopenhauer the Hedgehog: In 1851, German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer expounded his conception of "The Hedgehog's Dilemma" in his work Parerga und Paralipomena. For the most part, this dilemma is concerned with the idea that hedgehog's can only get so close to one another before they inevitably hurt each other with their spiny backs. (In fact, just for clarification, hedgehogs do not possess "large" spines on their backsides. There might have been an error in translation from the German to the English with regard to porcupines and hedgehogs.) Regardless, Schopenhauer takes this apparent paradox in the animal rationale and applies it to the human condition. That is, when two people become close with each other, most likely married couples or good friends, the potential for hurting one another is a lot greater than if the two people were unacquainted. At the same time, if two people who know each other well remain apart for a long period of time, then the mental anguish of loneliness may start to consume them. In coping with this dilemma, man is often inclined to turn inward and become anti-social, as this act appears to be the best way of safeguarding his dignity. Needless to say, the hedgehog's dilemma has become a popular concept in psychology, as couples seeking marriage counseling are made aware of this contradiction. The ultimate solution to this problem of human interaction seems to involve the locating of an optimal distance between subjects. In other words, finding a so-called "comfort zone" is the key to coexistence.

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