Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), in his book Daybreak (1881), wrote:
“On Education. – I have gradually seen the light as to the most universal deficiency in our kind of cultivation and education: no one learns, no one strives after, no one teaches – the endurance of solitude.” (aphorism #443, translated by Hollingdale)
But why the endurance of solitude? In the last post we considered the claim that we should endure solitude if we are to become authentic individuals. Now let’s consider a closely related claim:
(2) We should endure solitude if we are to understand things and people more objectively.
In Daybreak section 485, Nietzsche writes something that helps us build on his other insight:
“Distant Perspectives: A: But what his solitude? B: I am not at odds with anyone. But when I am alone I seem to see my friends in a clearer and fairer light than when I am with them; and when I loved and appreciated music the most, I lived far from it. It seems I need a distant perspective if I am to think well of things.”
Man on Balcony (circa 1880), Gustave Caillebotte
Here we see solitude as a means to develop the objectivity that can be difficult to find when we are closely engaged with something or someone. Solitude, in offering us time to calm our emotions, reflect, and collect our thoughts, can help us return with a more objective and open frame of mind. Indeed, we may find it a means to seeing ourselves more objectively as well. And this higher degree of objectivity can contribute to a higher degree of individuality. Thus we can draw a connection between our first and second reason in defense of Nietzsche’s claim. If this is the case then any pedagogy seeking to cultivate a higher degree objectivity should incorporate solitude in some way.
For a third reason why the endurance of solitude can be integral to education go here.