“The hedgehogs’ dilemma” (about human intimacy)


This is the hedgehog’s dilemma. Often called the porcupine problem, it’s a metaphor about the challenges of human intimacy.

On a cold winter’s day, a group of hedgehogs huddled together to stay warm and keep from freezing. But soon they felt one another’s quills and moved apart. When the need for warmth brought them closer together again, their quills again forced them apart. They were driven back and forth at the mercy of their discomforts until they found the distance from one another that provided both a maximum of warmth and a minimum of pain. In human beings, the emptiness and monotony of the isolated self produces a need for society. This brings people together, but their many offensive qualities and intolerable faults drive them apart again. The optimum distance that they finally find that permits them to coexist is embodied in politeness and good manners. Because of this distance between us, we can only partially satisfy our need for warmth, but at the same time, we are spared the stab of one another’s quills.” – by Arthur Schopenhauer

Both Arthur Schopenhauer and 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. With the hedgehog’s dilemma, one is recommended to use moderation in affairs with others both because of self-interest, as well as out of consideration for others.
 It was outlined by German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer in 1851, who concluded that the hedgehogs “discovered that they would be best off by remaining at a little distance from one another.”
Personally, I think that if we can remove our prickly coats, we can smooth out our relationships and live in harmony with one another.  All we need is a loving intention, understanding, respect, empathy, and forgiveness. I guess you could just summed it all with one word: “all you need is LOVE”!

3 Comments Add yours

  1. LindaP says:

    Interesting thought!


  2. All we need is love, marvellous! These hedgehogs are so adorable, cutie pie!


    1. Oh yes they are adorable!!! Thank you Christine, you are so right, all we need is love in the world! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

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