Research article
Issue: № 7 (73), 2018


Научная статья

Алейникова О.С.*

ORCID:  0000-0001-6053-0829,

Московский государственный университет технологий и управления имени К.Г. Разумовского, Москва, Россия

* Корреспондирующий автор (aleynikova_olga[at]mail.ru)


Эта статья посвящена философскому пониманию проблемы одиночества. Автор считает, что данный феномен имеет отношение не только к экзистенциальной, но и к культурной и исторической динамике личности и общества. Статья отражает исторический экскурс в изучение проблемы одиночества в философии. Явление одиночества рассматривается на примере творчества конкретных философов и мыслителей. Автор прослеживает, как в процессе развития философской мысли изменялось понятие одиночества, и выделяется два основных периода интерпретации явления одиночества в ходе его анализа.

Ключевые слова: одиночество, отчуждение, уединение, индивидуальность, личность, автономность, атомарность, изоляция. 


Research article

Aleynikova O. S.*

ORCID:  0000-0001-6053-0829,

Moscow State University of Technologies and Management named after K. G. Razumovskiy, Moscow, Russia

* Corresponding author (aleynikova_olga[at]mail.ru)


This article is devoted to philosophical understanding of the phenomenon of loneliness. The author believes that this phenomenon is relevant not only to the existential, but also to the cultural and historical dynamics of the individual and society. The article reflects a historical digression into the study of the problem of loneliness in philosophy. The phenomenon of loneliness is considered on the example of creativity of specific philosophers and thinkers. The author traces how during the development of philosophical thought the concept of loneliness has changed and distinguishes two main periods of interpretation of the phenomenon of loneliness in the course of its analysis.

Keywords: loneliness, alienation, solitude, individuality, personality, autonomy, atomicity, isolation. 


Complex and contradictory conflicts of the twentieth century brought to the fore a whole range of social and existential problems, including the problem of loneliness. Loneliness is a complex social and spiritual phenomenon affecting the essence of human existence. In modern science there is no single point of view on the nature and essence of loneliness, as well as the reasons for its appearance. The urgency of the presented research is strengthened by the fact that the widespread occurrence of the phenomenon of loneliness leads to the loss of the identity of a person, the erosion of its value motivation, and thus prevents the development of strategies for personal and cultural development. In the future, it becomes impossible to create spiritual creativity, aimed at the formation of new states of society, more appropriate to people's ideas about a worthy future. In other words, the phenomenon of loneliness is related not only to the existential, but also to the cultural and historical dynamics of the individual and society.

Conceptual provisions for the study of loneliness are formed at the beginning of the twentieth century. Existentialists, M. Buber, A. Camus, J.-P. Sartre, C. E. Moustakas, believe that loneliness is an inalienable element of human existence [7], [8], [18], [23]. Phenomenologists, E. Husserl, A. Schutz, T. Luckmann, P. Berger, regard solitude as an experience, emphasizing the content side of loneliness [6], [22], [25]. Loneliness as a psychological phenomenon is studied in the works of V. Frankl, E. Fromm, F. Fromm-Reichmann [19], [20], [21, P. 344-349]. Sociologist D. Riesman has investigated the problem of loneliness as an individual's loss of social connection [24]. The problem of loneliness has been the subject of scientific research relatively recently in Russia.

The aim of this study is to show the place of the problem of loneliness in the history of social and philosophical thought.

Material and methods

The author of the article uses the unity of historical and logical approaches, a combination of analysis and synthesis, a system method, a comparative philosophical and cultural analysisas the methodological grounds for studying the problem of loneliness.


Loneliness is one of the essential facets of human being, therefore the philosophical comprehension of this phenomenon goes back to the ancient attempts of people's understanding of their existence and destiny. A peculiar interpretation of the phenomenon of loneliness is already revealed in the ancient Greek philosophical culture. Since man in antiquity is understood as living in the physical world, then, accordingly, the phenomenon of loneliness is primarily interpreted by Greek philosophers as the physical state of man, as the degree of spatial isolation of the individual from the social whole.

The study of ancient authors’ works (Plato, Aristotle, Cynics, Roman Stoics) shows that loneliness is endowed with negative characteristics [3], [4], [5], [16]. However, there is also a different attitude to loneliness in the late-antique culture, when it serves the narrow social circle of people - sages and philosophers. Loneliness, permissible in an ancient society, is intellectual loneliness. In this case, loneliness is the positive beginning.

The sage as an image of a lonely person and the ideal of ancient philosophy manifests itself in two forms. Firstly, he feels loneliness as a defect of himself, as a flaw that does not allow him to be inside the life of a police or have friendly ties keeping from falling into solitude or isolation. Secondly, a lonely sage, striving to achieve identity with the Truth, conversing with the divine level of "I".

A new understanding of the phenomenon of loneliness arose in the Middle Ages. According to this insight, despite everyday communication all people are in the deep and inescapable loneliness of their spiritual life. Christianity provides a unique experience of a lonely God-man - Jesus Christ. It invites every person who is in search of divine truths to follow his example from birth to death, accumulating in his life the experience of religious loneliness. Recognition of the need for religious loneliness can be traced in the medieval philosophical and theological tracts, in particular, in the works of Blessed Aurelius Augustine. The solitude of Augustine the Blessed is expressed in the idea of alienating the human essence from God. According to the philosopher, the human soul is so lonely and unhappy in this world of the world because it doesn’t know God [1, P. 8-9].

With the completion of the Middle Ages, philosophical thought is increasingly turning not to the absolute and eternal God, but to man himself, to his universal essence. The problems of the individual become the center and goal of all cognition and thinking in general. For the multifaceted personality of the New Time, which has realized its uniqueness and does not identify itself with any of the objective and social hypostases, loneliness becomes an urgent need and begins to be evaluated as a manifestation of the creative and moral principles in man and to be associated with the productive activity of man. This understanding of the problem of loneliness develops in the works of F. Petrarch, L. da Vinci, M. Montaigne [4, P. 85-89], [11], [15].

Comprehending his individuality and autonomy, the individual begins to feel his insignificance in comparison with the surrounding world, with all that is not included in his "I". As a result, he feels lonely and lost in the world, detachment from others. Man turns out to be a kind of "Robinzone" in the infinity of the universe. "Let a man think about himself again and compare his existence with all that exists, let him feel how he is lost in this deaf corner of the universe," exclaims Blaise Pascal [14, P. 8]. According to the French thinker, loneliness reflects the inner discord of the person with himself, perceived by him as the inferiority of his relations with the world, as a loss of all hope and disappointment in any possible perspective. In solitude, the emptiness of man's inner world is highlighted. Thus, loneliness, generated by subjective and objective causes, is necessary for deepening into oneself and to overcome the emptiness and abyss of the human soul.

The motive for atomicity of an individual, expressed by Pascal, continues in Leibniz’s monadology. The German philosopher emphasizes that monads - simple individual substances - do not have "windows", that is, they are deprived of the ability to interact with other monads. This statement by Leibniz, from the point of view of A. Reno, leads to an ontological promotion of the individualistic theme of independence [17, P. 182-183].  Man becomes completely free from external influences - God, nature, others, and is able to control himself through his mind. The notions of "autonomy" and "independence" of the human individual are connected in modern times with rationality. It is thanks to reason that a person can exist as an individual, comprehend himself as a person, and at the same time enter into communication and moral relations with other people.

However, the powers of the mind are in doubt. This is largely due to socio-economic and political factors: the American War of Independence, the cycle of bourgeois revolutions in Western Europe, the emergence of a market and liberal ideology, an industrial revolution. "The Kingdom of Reason" turns into the rule of the bourgeoisie, and public consciousness embraces the problem of the contradiction between the ideal and reality. This contradiction becomes the leitmotif of romanticism, a general cultural movement engendered by the reaction of the first quarter of the 19-th century.

The recognition of a person's highly valued position is rooted in Romanticism in the idea of its uniqueness and originality. Romantics expose outstanding personalities and people who are imbued with a divine beginning to the rank of Ideal. The most complete expression of this view can be traced in the writings of Thomas Carlyle, who proclaimed the cult of a heroic personality. The life of a great man, according to the thinker, is "not an idle walk, he wanders among people, saving their souls and sowing good seeds, meanwhile, his own soul lives alone, in remote areas of the universe", in eternity, unknown to a mediocre crowd of people [9, P. 338].

A romantic understanding of loneliness is reflected in the philosophy of American transcendentalism, whose main representatives were Ralph Emerson and Henry Thoreau. According to their teaching, the world obeys some transcendental ideal forces that permeate the being of nature, manifesting itself in the beauty of a virgin landscape. Every being, and, above all, a person, is endowed with enormous powers, the main of which is his complete individual autonomy in relation to society and the world as a whole. Neither the state, nor God, nor anything else have power and superiority over a man who is self-valuable regardless of external circumstances. The inner world of a man is regarded as a monadic macrocosm occupying the most important position in the structure of the world. "Immersion in this macrocosm opens the possibility for a person to truly communicate with the super-soul and through this with other people" [12, P. 160]. Such immersion in self and self-disclosure is "spiritual loneliness", which leads to sublimity.

The work of two philosophers and outstanding representatives of European culture of the nineteenth century - Friedrich Nietzsche and Soren Kierkegaard - marks the entry of Western philosophical consciousness in the era of late romanticism and its transition to existentialism. "Oh, Loneliness! You are my Homeland, Loneliness!", - exclaims the Nietzschean hero. [13, P. 181]. Zarathustra was a stranger who visited numerous cities, who was long among people, but disappointed in them and exhausted, returned home, to his only shelter – Loneliness. The image of Zarathustra in many ways expresses the worldview of Nietzsche himself. Kierkegaard has such a world view, preferring to lead a solitary and alienated way of life [10]. Both thinkers can be called romanticists. However, the optimistic spirit of early romantics and American transcendentalists is alien to their romanticism. Their romanticism consists in an extremely sharp rejection of current life, disappointment in the principles of rationality, expediency, scientific knowledge of the world, in lack of spirituality and orientation to the material values of contemporary society. This sad and pessimistic romanticism leads to a keen sense of loneliness, inherent in Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, towards self-reflexive loneliness.

The rejection of the social world's reality implies a search for the true and a breakthrough to true being. From the point of the philosophers' view the breakthrough to true being is realized only through a state of loneliness, which reveals the true sides of subjective existence. According to Nietzsche's philosophy, this breakthrough is an ascent to eternity, which he interprets in the context of productive solitude. But productive solitude turns into a painful grievous loneliness, because in the real world it is impossible to establish spiritual relations with other people. Both thinkers find a way to overcome feelings of alienation and loneliness in turning to the higher instance of being. for Nietzsche, this is the eternity of the superman. For Kierkegaard, such an authority is God. It should be assumed that the higher instance of being of both philosophers is nothing more than the projection of their interconnection of their own inner world on the outside world. Introverted personality, existing in subjective self-isolation, is alien to all sociality, to society, which invariably breeds loneliness. This understanding of loneliness in many ways predetermines the interpretation of loneliness by the twentieth century's social philosophy as a kind of human substance.


Loneliness is a complex social and spiritual phenomenon affecting the very essence of human existence. The semantic space of the concept of "loneliness" is constantly evolving, reflecting in its content knowledge about the world and about itself at each historical stage. The higher the universal level of development and explanation of objective and subjective realities, the more meaningful is the concept of loneliness.


In conclusion, it can be stressed that the historical excursion into the study of the problem of loneliness shows that during the development of philosophical thought the phenomenon of loneliness is clearly recognized, although it varies in different ways. There are two main periods of interpretation of the concept of "loneliness".

The first period combines ancient and medieval philosophy. Loneliness is here intended and allowed only for a narrow social group - sages, philosophers, hermits, monks. Loneliness appears as a solitary dive into itself and the subsequent finding in the depths of the "I" of the higher transcendental foundations of one's own self. The second period begins with the Renaissance, when the process of formation and self-knowledge of the individual begins. Loneliness becomes not so much religious, how much secular theme for thought for a wider range of people. Philosophers begin to consider the problem of loneliness dialectically, highlighting the positive sides as solitude and the negative sides as isolation. The creative beginning of loneliness is realized. Despite a large number of interpretations, the phenomenon of loneliness is understood as one of the facets of human existence but remains a purely individual problem for an individual.

Конфликт интересов Не указан. Conflict of Interest None declared.

Список литературы / References

  1. Августин А. Исповедь. / Пер. с лат. М.Е. Сергеенко. – СПб: Азбука, 1999. – 391 с.
  2. Алейникова О.С. Одиночество: философско-культурологический анализ: дис. … канд. филос. наук: 24.00.01: защищена 08.09.05: утв. 16.12.05/ Алейникова Ольга Сергеевна. – Санкт-Петербург: СПБГУ, 2005.– 155 с.
  3. Антология кинизма: фрагменты сочинений кинических мыслителей / Под ред. А.Л. Тахо-Годи. – М.: Наука, 1996. – 335 с.
  4. Антология мировой философии в 4 т. / Ред.-сост. В.В. Соколов. – М.: Мысль, 1969-1972
  5. Аристотель. Сочинения: в 4-х т. Т.4. – М.: Мысль, 1983. – 830 с.
  6. Бергер П. Социальное конструирование реальности. Трактат по социологии знания / Бергер П., Лукман Т. / Пер. Е. Д. Руткевич. — М.: Медиум, 1995. — 323 с.
  7. Бубер М. Два образа веры. – М.: Республика, 1995. – 464 с.
  8. Камю А. Посторонний. Рассказы. – СПб.: Издательство «Азбука», 200. – 190 с.
  9. Карлейль Т. Теперь и прежде. / Сост. Р.К. Медведева – М.: Республика, 1994. – 415 с.
  10. Кьеркегор С. Или-или. – М.: Историко-религиозное общество «Арктогея», 1991. – 420 с.
  11. Монтень М. Опыты. – М.: Изд-во «Наука», 1981.
  12. Новые пророки. / Под ред. В.С. Дмитриева. – СПб.: Алтея, 1996. – 348 с.
  13. Ницше Ф. так говорил Заратустра. / Пер. с нем. Ю.М. Антоновского. – СПб.: Азбука, 2002. – 336 с.
  14. Паскаль Б. Мысли. – М.: ЭКСМО-Пресс, 2000. – 365 с.
  15. Петрарка Ф. Сочинения философские и полемические. – М.: РОССПЭН, 1998. – 477 с.
  16. Платон. Собрание сочинений в 4-т. Т.2. – М.: Мысль, 1993. – 528 с.
  17. Рено А. Эра индивида. К истории субъективности. – СПб.: Изд-во «Владимир Даль», 2000. – 474 с.
  18. Сартр Ж.-П. Бытие и ничто. – М.: Республика, 2002. – 638 с.
  19. Франкл В. Человек в поисках смысла. – М.: Прогресс, 1990. – 366с.
  20. Фромм Э. Бегство от свободы. – М.: Прогресс, 1990. – 269 с.
  21. The anatomy of loneliness// Ed. By J. Hartog, J. R. Audy, Y. A. Cohen. – N. J., 1981.
  22. Husserl E. Cartesian meditations. – The Hague, 1973.
  23. Moustakas C.E. Loneliness [A study of existential loneliness based on intimate personal documents]. – Englewood Cliffes N.J., 1961.
  24. Riesman D. The lonely crowd. [A study of changing American character]. – New Haven, London, 1965.
  25. Schutz A. The problem of social reality <Collected Pepers>// Ed. by M. Natanson. – The Hague, 1971.

Список литературы на английском языке / References in English

  1. Avgustin A. Ispoved' [Confession] / Transl. from lat. by M.E. Sergeenko – SPb: Azbuka, 1999. – 391 [in Russian]
  2. Aleynikova O.S Odinochestvo: filosofsko-kul'turologicheskiy analiz: [Loneliness: philosophical and cultural analysis]: diss. ...of PhD in Philosophy: 24.00.01 / defense of the thesis 08.09.05: approved: 16.12.05 / Aleynikova Olga Sergeevna. - St. Petersburg: SPBSU, 2005. - 155 p. [in Russian]
  3. Antologiya kinizma: fragmenty sochineniy kinicheskikh mysliteley [Anthology of Cynicism: fragments of works by Cynical thinkers], Ed. A.L. Tahoe-Godi. – M.: Nauka, 1996. - 335 p. [in Russian]
  4. Antologiya mirovoy filosofii v 4 tomah. [Anthology of world philosophy in 4 volumes] / Ed.-Comp. V.V. Sokolov. – M.: Mysl’, 1969-1972 [in Russian]
  5. Sochineniya: v 4 t. [Works: in 4 volumes. Vol. 4. ] - M.: Mysl', 1983. - 830 p. [in Russian]
  6. Berger P. Sotsial'noye konstruirovaniye real'nosti. Traktat po sotsiologii znaniya [Social construction of reality. A treatise on the sociology of knowledge] / Berger P., Lukman T. / Transl. by E. D. Rutkevich. – M.: Medium, 1995. - 323 p. [in Russian]
  7. Buber M. Dva obraza very [Two images of faith]. - M: Respublika, - 464 p. [in Russian]
  8. Kamyu A. Postoronniy. Rasskazy [Outsider. Stories]. – SPb.: Izdatel'stvo «Azbuka», - 190 p. [in Russian]
  9. Karleyl' T. Teper' i prezhde. [Carlyle T. Now and before]. / Comp. R.K. Medvedeva - M: Respublika, 1994. - 415 p. [in Russian]
  10. K'yerkegor S. Ili-ili [Kierkegaard S. Either/Or.] – M.: Istoriko-religioznoye obshchestvo «Arktogeya», 1991. - 420 p. [in Russian]
  11. Monten' M. Opyty [Montaigne M. Experiments] – M.: Izd-vo «Nauka», 1981. [in Russian]
  12. Novyye proroki [The New Prophets]. Ed. V.S. Dmitrieva. – SPb.: Alteya, 1996. – 348. - 348 p. [in Russian]
  13. Nietzsche Tak govoril Zaratustra [Thus Spoke Zarathustra] / Transl. by Y.M. Antonovsky. – SPb.: Azbuka, 2002. - 336 p. [in Russian]
  14. Pascal B. Mysli [Thoughts]. - : EKSMO-Press, 2000. - 365 p. [in Russian]
  15. Petrarka F. Sochineniya filosofskiye i polemicheskiye [Works philosophical and polemical]. – M.: ROSSPEN, 1998. - 477 p. [in Russian]
  16. Sobraniye sochineniy v 4-t. T.2. [Collected works in 4-v. Vol.2.] - M.: Mysl', 1993. - 528 p. [in Russian]
  17. Reno A. Era individa. K istorii sub"yektivnosti. [The era of the individual. To the history of subjectivity]. – SPb.: Izd-vo «Vladimir Dal'», - 474 p. [in Russian]
  18. Sartr J.-P. Bytiye i nichto [Being and Nothingness]. – M.: Respublika, 2002. - 638 p. [in Russian]
  19. Frankl V. Chelovek v poiskax smysla [Man in search of meaning]. – M.: Progress, 1990. – 366 p. [in Russian]
  20. Fromm E. Begstvo ot svobody [Escape from Freedom]. – M.: Progress, 1990. - 269 p. [in Russian]
  21. The anatomy of loneliness// Ed. By J. Hartog, J. R. Audy, Y. A. Cohen. – N. J., 1981.
  22. Husserl E. Cartesian meditations. – The Hague, 1973.
  23. Moustakas C.E. Loneliness [A study of existential loneliness based on intimate personal documents]. – Englewood Cliffes N.J., 1961.
  24. Riesman D. The lonely crowd. [A study of changing American character]. – New Haven, London, 1965.
  25. Schutz A. The problem of social reality <Collected Pepers>// Ed. by M. Natanson. – The Hague, 1971.