What is loneliness?


All this talk about entanglement and symbiotic relationships to the world expressed in Heidegger’s corpus makes us forget the phenomenon of loneliness. (1) What is loneliness? Already we make the interesting move of calling it a phenomenon. (2) It shows itself as a given toward us because we consider it as an outer given. It’s “us + lonely”. It happens to us, and by extension comes from outer consciousness, and is felt as a weight put on our shoulders – a “sinking feeling” settling in the trunk of our body. It blinds us of the transcendental relationship subject-object. Case in point: we can feel lonely in the presence of others – which is a subjugation of the objected world for a focus oriented onto ourselves. (3) But if a transcendental dependence on the “everything” that warps any conscious experience is validated, what is loneliness then? Is it a mere impression? An attunement for Heidegger? Is it a psychological state of apprehending the world? To be lonely there must be an awareness of presence. For me to be declared lonely at home it means I must recognize something showing up. However there is nothing here: there is just me sitting at my desk. What about lack? Lack means void. It is a “missingly” in my experience – an absence-ing. I live missingly the presence of what is required to feel whole – the opposite of lonely. We avoid making a reverse analysis of feeling whole – by analyzing the opposite of wholeness – since there are too many knots to untie when it comes to decorticating the entanglement with the world. Lonely, I feel missing what makes me whole – just as well loneliness makes me see a contrast. Loneliness opens up on the anxiety of existing: we die lonely! We are ultimately alone in various ways: by my uniform thinking, my physical entity, etc. But didn’t we agree – and even presuppose – with the notion of intersubjectivity in being? How can we be alone in the “realist” sense we described if we assume to be ontologically intersubjects? (4) Loneliness is intersubjective in some way as well. In missing that which makes us whole we still rely on it to be lonely – its absence mirrors its phenomena – and when we are whole we get on the other side of loneliness by experiencing the opposite that births its being. This is not a straightforward dichotomy. Loneliness manifests the intersubjective nature of experienced-consciousness by relying on an unconditioned characteristic proper to what it means to be living. Feeling whole is when you have nothing else to ask for so much that feeling whole doesn’t even show itself – it is concealed by the experience of living in the moment. That which makes us whole shares characteristics with livingness – such as time as being full of time and never filled with nothingness in it. Loneliness expresses the intersubject by showing a void emerging in the middle – between subject and object – a projecting of subject out of itself meanwhile an abstracting of object becomes given or thrown at the subject – here abstracting doesn’t necessarily mean complete physical unsubstantiation. This requires change – and change means time! Loneliness is temporal – it is never always. This is due to Husserlian intentionality or Heideggerian care, but also to a strive of grasping that which gives rise to the void that shows itself – which is the world because we are lonely in the world. What is this strive? It’s nothing ethical and yet it’s everything ontological. It must be what hides us as intersubjects. We feel disconnected. We are individualized beings. You wouldn’t believe right away that you have no mind and all the world at once. The strive is the funnel that represents Kantian objective deduction (5) – it’s the alliance of biological constitution with our temporal structure to see things the way we do. Like an ontological imperative, it is the coming back to seeing things normally after I’ve pressed my finger gently onto my eye to disturb my vision.

(1) We are referencing here his notion of being-in-the-world and Husserl’s transcendental subjectivity.

(2) Because phenomena is a thing presencing and showing itself to us, whereas experience refers to an ensemble of presencings involving our seeing of a phenomena. Phenomena is presupposed to be outside of us whereas experience involves us – involves the working of consciousness interacting with the phenomena. But experience can also be taken up as a phenomena as a whole!

(3) We put ourselves as objects when we shift our seeing toward ourselves – and thus consider ourselves as a phenomena.

(4) By allying mind and world together, what is there to be lonely about? How can we make a realist description of a self – having a single body, a stream of thought disparate from others, etc. – if we presuppose that Cartesian dualism is invalid?

(5) Specifically Kant’s objective deduction from the B edition of Critique of Pure Reason.

Stage-struck – The eyes are opened, and they fill this room with a glow that brings a weal on its own. The mouth leans forward to let the lips make a few vertical majestic moves coupled with some gracious gesticulations from the other limbs. I’m standing here, staying still as a stone, on a stage filled with cracking noises coming from the wooden planks getting older through invisible time. I inhale, and then I start to deliver a thread of words supposedly coming from my heart. My tongue is shaking through the sounds of order, the bursts of revolutions and the sumptuous compliments I give to the ladies in the first row. One motion after the other, I walk across the stage at different speeds like Don Juan. From stage left to right, I become what I’ve never been. I lose all knowledge of my identity above the curtains and under the acute surveillance of a hundred faces stricken by my presence. They know who I am. They can tell what I’m like even though I don’t have the means to do it anymore. A single step forward is enough to get rid of every notion of soul and meaning. Next, another shout mimicked with my hand goes on to lose itself in the middle of some theatrical fight, and forgets itself amidst the ruins of an existential collapse. My body stands here, as my mind becomes subjugated by that of another. I learn how to live through becoming this other. I take on the ownership of his words and his spontaneous diction, so much it becomes a metaphysical surgery. And now I’m sitting down on the edge of the stand as a man enjoying the last breath of his youth. I’m waiting. I’m waiting for the souls in the audience to capsize on their seats all the way to the back of the theater. I’m waiting for a rain of emotions to flood their faces one after the other in between the triggering silences of the play. Only when the end gets closer in time do I take hold of myself again. My physical exhaustion makes me happier about the real world. Time slows down and I suddenly perceive more easily this other stage on which I keep living all the time. It only took me a few hours of adopting a seemingly fictional life to find back some adoration for my own. To act is nothing but the action of enjoying one’s the body and the versatility of their soul.

This is a translation of the original French text Sur les planches.