Nineteenth-century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer wrote extensively on motivation, desire, and the relationship between the individual and society. Sometimes called “the philosopher of pessimism,” he regarded human desire as the root of suffering and human action as aimless and futile. But he highly valued the arts, believing that they offer a temporary reprieve from the pain of the human condition. Though he struggled to win recognition during his lifetime, Schopenhauer had a posthumous influence on numerous major thinkers and artists, including Sigmund Freud, who cited “The Porcupine’s Dilemma” in his discussion of group psychology and the ego. In Schopenhauer’s short parable, a group of porcupines finds that their desire for warmth is in conflict with their desire to avoid giving and suffering pain. The story raises questions about the value and the cost of human intimacy and community.
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Reading - Short Enough to Read Aloud.
How does fear bring us together and how does it divide us?What makes it possible for us to connect to others? What gets in the way?Why is connection important? What does it enable? What does it impede?What does a sense of belonging make possible?What does it mean to be alone?How do we define who we are?Is your sense of individual identity ever in conflict with your community? How?What do people gain or lose from joining a group or a community?What makes a community strong? What makes it weak?