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Strangers by Choice

An Asocial Philosophy of Life.- Translated by Tul'si Bhambry and Agnieszka Waśkiewicz. Editorial work by Tul'si Bhambry.

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Andrzej Waskiewicz

Strangers by Choice explores voluntary otherness as a philosophy of life. This philosophy is asocial in the sense that its followers tend to privilege separateness over belonging, and yet it does not lead to alienation or isolation from society. Building on Simmel’s notion of the stranger, the author sheds light on the experience of spiritual idealists, both real and fictional, who maintain a distance from mainstream society in order to live by the laws of their transcendental homelands. Waśkiewicz addresses representations of strangeness from a broad spectrum of Western culture, including Stoic philosophy, Augustine of Hippo, Henry David Thoreau, the physicist Richard Feynman, and finally Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Highlighting how these writers and thinkers have negotiated individuality and community, this interdisciplinary study contributes to debates on identity in both practical philosophy and the history of ideas.
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Introduction. Alien without Alienation

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Introduction

Alien without Alienation

Yearning for the ‘true homeland’

The book before you is about a certain sense of strangeness. I adopt a sociological perspective to confront the feeling that one’s true homeland is not of this world. But even though the notion of unbelonging brings to mind the words of Jesus Christ, ‘my kingdom is not of this world’ (John 18: 36), this is not about religiosity. The strangeness I am concerned with derives from a person’s spirituality in the broadest possible sense. What’s more, rather than being located in the beyond, an individual’s true homeland often lies just outside their Lebenswelt, in a place that is within easy reach even though it somehow transcends the everyday. The key figures of this study tend to distance themselves from their communities and take on the role of strangers. But even while they share a keen sense of the vanity of earthly existence, they do not reject ‘this world’ for ‘that world’. They do not respond with Weltschmerz or frustration, even if they feel despised or misunderstood by their fellows. Thus their position of strangeness has nothing to do with eschatology, a concern with the last things, but is related to axiology – a preoccupation with values which their neighbours do not share. The strangers discussed in this book are alien, but not alienated. They are strangers by choice.

The sense that true living is really about something other than our everyday lives should...

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