Volume 4, 2008
Chelsea C. Harry
Ibn Bājja and Heidegger on Retreat from Society
Aristotle claimed that man is by nature social. Later philosophers challenged this assertion, questioning whether man is necessarily social or simply socialized. Ibn Bājja, a twelfth-century philosopher from Muslim Spain, and Martin Heidegger, a twentieth-century German philosopher, approached this question in paradoxical terms, claiming in their respective works that despite having been born into social origins (a necessary framework of existential and social conditions), human beings are able—and even mandated—to escape these origins, and thus society, to some degree. Through Ibn Bājja’s book, The Governance of the Solitary, and a portion of Heidegger’s magnum opus, Being and Time, I present what each of these thinkers posit to be a person’s social origins, and the respective epistemological justifications they provide to suggest that man should work to depart from them. To conclude, I appropriate the claims of Ibn Bājja and Heidegger to address the “real world” plausibility and potential benefits—both to society and to man himself—of man’s departure from society.