The Importance of Seclusion


The Enlightenment philosopher David Hume proposed that if you want to become an established philosopher or thinker – a person should spend ten years in seclusion, dedicating their time to reading and thinking.

Hume believed that, given the seemingly endless amount of opinions, ideas, and theories out there – a philosopher should spend at least ten years studying and reading as much as he can before he attempts to write or publish any works of his own.
The goal of this seclusion was to give the aspiring thinker enough time to become somewhat familiar with as much information as possible without disturbance or interruption from outside forces. Ideally, a person could utilize and understand their own thoughts before then going out into the world and proclaiming them. The seclusion was necessary to ensure that the aspiring philosopher does not become distracted with other activities. The solitude would help keep the young thinker focused and dedicated on his quest for answers and understanding.
It’s an interesting suggestion, though obliviously one that very few people (especially young people) could afford to accomplish. Hume himself tried it and within a few years he was on the verge of a mental breakdown. His doctor even described his illness as a “Disease of the Learned”, meaning Hume’s mix of isolation and studying was causing him to slowly go insane.
While I think 10 years of seclusion and reading are a little extreme, I do think that the idea of becoming a recluse in order to dedicate substantial amounts of time to reading and studying could be good for the aspiring thinker. Of course, I don’t advocate for a complete cut-off from the modern world like Hume proposed, after all a little social interaction is important for ones health – though it should be limited if one is to truly to embark on a philosophical journey.
I say this because I understand Hume’s reasoning behind the necessity of seclusion on thought. It can be hard to ponder or embark on a philosophical journey when other social problems are on your mind. When you have friends, or relationships, or a job perhaps – then your mind will focus on trivial matters and not on the so-called ‘philosophical introspection’. While I don’t advocate for an extreme reclusive state, I can sympathize with the reasoning behind Hume’s proposition, and to some extent I agree that one should (at least once in their life) detach from society and spend time in seclusion.