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Gheaus, Anca. The Role of Solitude in the Politics of Sociability
2022, In Kimberley Brownlee, David Jenkins & Adam Neal (eds.), Being Social: The Philosophy of Social Human Rights. Oxford University Press. pp. 234–251
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Added by: Deryn Mair Thomas

This chapter explores a so-far neglected way of avoiding the bads of loneliness: by learning to value solitude, where that is understood as a state of ‘keeping oneself company’, as J. David Velleman puts it. Unlike loneliness, solitude need not involve any deprivation, whether subjective or objective. This chapter considers the various goods to which solitude is constitutive or instrumental, with a focus on the promise that proper valuing of solitude holds for combating loneliness. The overall argument is this: If loneliness significantly detracts from individual wellbeing, and if the ability to value solitude protects against loneliness, then such an ability is obviously valuable to human flourishing. If, further, loneliness raises concerns of justice, then supporting people’s ability to value solitude is a way to implement a desideratum of justice. Individuals can cultivate their ability to value solitude, an ability that others can promote or hinder.

Comment: This chapter explores philosophical questions concerning the nature and value of solitude, and the various goods related to 'keeping oneself company'. As a somewhat neglected topic in contemporary analytic philosophy, it provides an unique and novel discussion of the relationships between solitude, loneliness, and isolation and their relation to justice and well-being. Might be useful as a replacement for a foundational text in basic social and political philosophy, especially if studied in concert with other texts exploring our basic social requirements and the demands that these place on social and political institutions. See work on social rights and ethics of sociability by Kimberley Brownlee.

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