Published Humantias, Volume XVII, Nos. 1 and 2, 2004


This article is about boredom. It does not concern boredom as a problem of analytical philosophy, nor does it concern boredom as a specific political problem. While boredom can, and often does, give rise to issues philosophical and political, here it is analyzed as a problem of human existence. Simply put, this article is concerned not only with how human existence becomes boring, but more importantly with how humans respond and cope with profound boredom. It is for precisely this reason that two so-called existential thinkers are invoked: Eric Voegelin (1901-1985) and Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-1881).1 Of course, a more typical invocation of Voegelin would be to shed theoretical light on the deformation of consciousness that begot the totalitarian horrors of the twentieth century. With Dostoevsky, it would be to illuminate the abiding problem of evil. Here, however, Voegelin is invoked because his theory of consciousness also sheds light on what I consider to be a central twenty-first century problem—boredom. This is not to say that boredom is a new problem, but merely that it did not hold center stage amidst the excitement of the twentieth century. To be sure, Dostoevsky is not a twenty-first century man, but in his thought we find a striking portrayal not only of a problem mirroring the ideological fanaticism Voegelin calls Gnosticism, but also recognition that boredom itself is prior to such a pneumopathology…

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