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Our panel of 90 professional philosophers has responded to

Question of the day

Philosophers may not have any special wisdom to impart on this question, but a bit of analyzing might still be useful.

You haven't said what you mean by "loneliness." It might seem that the answer is so obvious that it's not worth asking, but I think it matters for some things you say. Typically when people say that they're lonely, they mean either that they lack company and find that distressing or painful, or that they don't feel an emotional connection with the people they have as "company." We'll at least start with that understanding.

You're surely right that even if it's possible that you'll find someone to salve your loneliness, that doesn't get you very far. But then you go on to say that interacting with people in the here and now isn't "efficient." On the face of it, this is puzzling, since if it's loneliness as spelled out above that you want to cure, it's hard at first to see how the cure could come without relationships with other people. You say that getting involved with people covers up the real problem, and that raises an obvious question: what do you understand the real problem to be?

Since you haven't said, I can only guess. But one thing you might mean is a lack of self-sufficiency. The idea would be that a truly self-sufficient person could be solitary and yet content. There's surely something to that thought; ideally one should be able to abide and be content in one's own company—at least for a while. Though that's true, it's not a problem that people seek the company of others. Valuing self-sufficiency and solitude doesn't entail putting no value on love and friendship.

That doesn't get us nearer to a solution to the problem you've posed, and as already noted, philosophers have no special insight into such matters. However, there's a related matter that may be relevant: what's sometimes called the paradox of happiness. The "paradox" is just this: even though one might wish to be happy, the best way to achieve happiness is unlikely to be by trying. Happiness is a by-product of pursuing more specific, particular goals that are valuable in themselves. Insofar as loneliness is a source of unhappiness, the same point is likely to apply. It may be that the best way to deal with loneliness is not to try to deal with loneliness. The best way may be to pursue goals that one is likely to find satisfying and that are within reach. Which goals isn't a question with an all-purpose answer; it depends on the person. Some might have the side effect of bringing a person into situations that make satisfying relationships with other people more likely, but if the goals are apt, they'll be worth pursuing on their own. Whether or not that solves the problem of loneliness, it could take it out of the foreground and make it less pressing. For a lot of reasons, someone who's not fixated on loneliness is more likely to be less lonely.