Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Relationship Problems, Otherwise Known As The Porcupine Dilemma

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on August 20, 2012

In Parerga und Paralipomena, published in 1851, Arthur Schopenhauer created a parable about the dilemma faced by porcupines in cold weather. He described a “company of porcupines” who “crowded themselves very close together one cold winter’s day so as to profit by one another’s warmth and so save themselves from being frozen to death. But soon they felt one another’s quills, which induced them to separate again.” And so on. The porcupines were “driven backwards and forwards from one trouble to the other,” until they found “a mean distance at which they could most tolerably exist.”



2 Responses to “Relationship Problems, Otherwise Known As The Porcupine Dilemma”

  1. Jon said

    While Schopenhauer had the will (as indeed will is central to his philosophy) to say this discuss Parerga und Paralipomena in seriousness and insight into human nature, all that comes to my mind is the following joke. Q: What is the difference between a BMW and a Porcupine? A: With a porcupine, the pricks are on the outside.

    • Hi Jon. I like the fact that my post makes you free associate. I am glad that you feel the freedom to do that. As for the underlying meaning to your joke, I will leave that to my silent thoughts. Thanks. Thanks also for enhancing Schopenhauer’s idea of ‘will’. I am interested in integrating philosophy with psychoanalysis, as is my colleague, Robert Stolorow who recently pursued and obtained a PhD in Philosophy well into his distinguished psychoanalytic career.

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