Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann and the Mysteries of Solitude
For centuries, social scientists have puzzled over why we need each other so much. The Greeks adopted the word “idiot” to describe someone who lived by himself, outside the community. The Romans considered banishment from the city-Inter hominem esse desinere, or ceasing to be among men, next to being thrown off to death from the Tarpean Rocks by the Capitol Hill, the worst punishment the state could enforce. Aristotle defi ned humans as zoon politikon, which could be translated as “animals who live in cities.” They lived in cities because they needed each other’s company, and, in order to live in cities, they had to develop ethics (a word that derives from the Greek “the way things are done in our town”), various technologies, and a political system that allowed them to work together towards shared goals.