An objection to eremitism is the saying attributed to Aristotle: “Man is a social animal.” This can mean that human beings are by nature intended to function with other human beings. It can also be taken to mean that all human beings are products of socialization.
Of course, all human beings are socialized. And there is no question that people are most impressionably socialized in their formative years. Psychologists will say that the first five years of life establish a lifelong pattern of behavior for most people. These points are not in dispute, with the corollary proposed by Jungian psychologists that bad patterns from formative years can be ameliorated in more mature years. The wild child is quite rare, though the phenomenon does suggest that socialization makes for the human being and not the other way around.
Most opponents of eremitism see eremitism as unnatural, based on the saying of Aristotle, and probably extrapolating from the beliefs of their own social group. Some opponents go further in arguing that because the solitary is not completely self-sufficient, eremitism is impossible to universalize and is, therefore, built on a false premise.
But hermits and solitaries will never claim (or should not) that their lifestyle can be the norm for everyone. In fact, it cannot be because eremitism or a solitary life is the fruit of a long and complex process, not an ideology or vocation or calling, not even a lifestyle in the way that a career or avocation is. Eremitism may be based on obvious personal predispositions but it is not based on a set of beliefs of the sort that can be universalized. In fact, motives for eremitism are as varied as cultures and belief systems — hence a universal phenomenon as far as human phenomena go.
The most important input into the socialization process and ongoing formation of the mind, actions, behaviors, and beliefs, is society and culture. Psychologists tend to overlook these factors in defining what is normal> Normal, they will say, is first and foremost conformity to social patterns relative to one’s society and culture — a tautology!
Social and cultural factors are deliberately ignored or suppressed by advertising, media, institutions, and authorities when they seek to shape public opinion, making their target audience want to feel that they are making individual and autonomous choices while being encouraged sublliminally to feel part of the crowd.
The solitary is just as vulnerable to the inputs of organizations and authorities because the solitary is the product of socialization like everyone else. This socialization continues whenever we read a newspaper or magazine, listen to radio or watch television, attend a social function, or buy in a chain store. Even if we feel we are now mature and self-sufficient re socialization — doubtful if we must function in the world — we carry within ourselves the input of society and culture. Not just language, food, clothing, music, etc. are taken in and reside in the mind as “preferences” regardless of whether we count ourselves hermits, citizens, or social butterflies. Our very beliefs, habits, values, and attitudes are a product of the society and culture in which we have grown up and matured.
To be a solitary does not automatically remove this social data in our heads or in our souls. To be a solitary and not examine this chatter of sound and thought is to still live in the crowd, to still cheer at their triumphs and vicariously partake of their pleasures. These are the hoots and shouts of the mob, the crowd, the spectators. We have a long way to go in self-examination if society and culture still drag at our heels as we set off into what we think is a solitary and silent place.