Archive for January 12th, 2016

January 12, 2016

Hedgehog’s Dilemma

porcupines by Slug Signorino

The hedgehog’s dilemma┬áis a metaphor about the challenges of human intimacy. It describes a situation in which a group of hedgehogs all seek to become close to one another in order to share heat during cold weather. They must remain apart, however, as they cannot avoid hurting one another with their sharp spines. Though they all share the intention of a close reciprocal relationship, this may not occur, for reasons they cannot avoid.

German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer and psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud have used this situation to describe what they feel is the state of the individual in relation to others in society. The hedgehog’s dilemma suggests that despite goodwill, human intimacy cannot occur without substantial mutual harm, and what results is cautious behavior and weak relationships. The hedgehog’s dilemma demands moderation in affairs with others both because of self-interest, as well as out of consideration for others, leading to introversion and isolationism.

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