Seriously Bored: Schopenhauer on Solitary Confinement

British Journal for the History of Philosophy 27 (5):959-978 (2019)
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Primary textual evidence confirms that Schopenhauer was aware of the widespread adoption of solitary confinement in the American penitentiary system, and some of its harmful effects. He understands its harmfulness in terms of boredom, a phenomenon which he is known to have given extensive thought and analysis. In this paper I interpret Schopenhauer’s account of boredom and its relation to solitary confinement. I defend Schopenhauer against the objection that cases of confinement only serve to illustrate the general inadequacy of his explanation of boredom in terms of a lack of things to will. This defence arrives at the conclusion that, on the contrary, someone might well suffer from a lack of things to will as a direct result of being confined; and that boredom understood as the deprivation of willing, a phenomenon I suggest may be called conative deprivation, makes an illuminating contribution to our theoretical understanding of the harmfulness of solitary confinement.



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David Bather Woods
University of Warwick

Citations of this work

Schopenhauer on boredom.Joshua Isaac Fox - 2022 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 30 (3):477-495.
Schopenhauer's Pessimism.Byron Simmons - 2023 - In David Bather Woods & Timothy Stoll (eds.), The Schopenhauerian mind. New York, NY: Routledge. pp. 282-296.

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