Intellectual Estrangement (2011-15): A Mystery

If there is one thing that all conversation partners and philosophical friends have in common, one thing that can be gleaned from the winter of 2011 to the present, it is the theme of intellectual estrangement. Each, alone, has come to me because his thoughts have seemed very much his own, very unlike the thoughts of others, and there seems to be no one who can take, or at least who has taken, such matters seriously. For the longest time too, perhaps throughout most of his life, he has come to assume that he is so strange, so utterly peculiar, such an oddity of a human being that there must be nobody else with whom he can speak, let alone make sense of his thoughts. It is a certain kind of loneliness rarely discussed and rarely disclosed.

It turns out that these thoughts are such as to cut to the marrow of life. “What is real? What can we know? Is there a self? Why do I exist? What is it all about?” These questions as well as others swallow up their lives. “If I’m not a self, then who or what am I? And how am I (who is this ‘I’ again?) to live?” Or: “Suppose I know that I exist. Granting that much, I still don’t know why I exist.” There are questions that make up their thinking, questions that no one else seems to be asking, questions that become secrets, kept to themselves for fear of further alienation.

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