Tuesday, May 18, 2010

ToB: The Meaning of Man's Original Solitude

An interesting section.

First, we have verse 2:18 of Genesis: 'It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.' The interesting, the important thing I got from this portion was that man did not begin to be referred to as 'male' ('is), *after* the creation of the first woman. Which doesn't happen until verses 2:21-22. Prior to that, 'man' is 'adam - so 'man' in the sense of humankind, not the men of the species.

So we can read that first verse (sort of) as, 'It is not good that people should be alone'. And I think we know that, for the vast majority of people, this is true. We work better, if not in a pair, then in society. It's not good for people to be *alone*.

Interestingly, a connection is drawn between this and the naming of the beasts. John Paul II asserts that, in the act of Adam naming the beasts, of him going through this process in obedience to God's command, it is highlighting and emphasising the fact that man is different from the animals of the world. While man is flesh and blood and matter, he is also something else. Something *above* all other flesh. That is why he could label and define the other creatures, and why no companion was found amongst them for him.

'Man finds himself alone before God mainly to express, through a first self-definition, his own self-knowledge, as the original and fundamental manifestation of mankind. Self-knowledge develops at the same rate as knowledge of the world, of all the visible creatures, of all the living beings to which man has given a name to affirm his own dissimilarity with regard to them. In this way, consciousness reveals man as the one who possesses a cognitive faculty as regards the visible world. With this knowledge which, in a certain way, brings him out of his own being, man at the same time reveals himself to himself in all the peculiarity of his being. He is not only essentially and subjectively alone. Solitude also signifies man's subjectivity, which is constituted through self-knowledge. Man is alone because he is "different" from the visible world, from the world of living beings.'


  1. Wow, that's cool! I never thought of it before that man naming the animals would somehow in the process realize his superiority over them. Humans are just a wee bit different than the animal kingdom. How interesting!!

  2. Susanne,

    I'd never thought of it either, but it does make some sense. After all, how can we appreciate having one thing, or being in a certain state, if we don't understand the lack of that thing, or state?


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