Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Porcupine Huddle, Full Quote

"There was once, so Schopenhauer tells us, a colony of porcupines.  They were wont to huddle together on a cold winter's day and, thus wrapped in communal warmth, escape being frozen.  But, plagued with the pricks of each other's quills, they drew apart.  And every time the desire for warmth brought them together again, the same calamity overtook them.  Thus they remained, distracted between two misfortunes, able neither to tolerate nor to do without one another, until they discovered that when they stood at a certain distance from one another they could both delight in one another's individuality and enjoy one another's company.  They did not attribute any metaphysical  significance to this distance, nor did they imagine it to be an independent source of happiness, like finding a friend.  They recognized it to be a relationship in terms not of substantive enjoyments but of contingent considerabilities that they must determine for themselves.  Unknown to themselves, they had invented civil association."

Michael Oakeshott, Talking Politics, Hunter College Address

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