In the words of French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre , “If you are lonely when you’re alone, you are in bad company”. It is presumable that the “company” to which he refers to are thoughts and emotions, as well as the purpose a person may serve to others and themselves. He makes the argument that the feeling of loneliness comes from the reliance upon other people for things that a person should be able to provide for him/herself. It is the idea that a person should be mature of heart, and have an enriched soul and mind, and thus not need other people to fulfil their desires and needs.
The entertainment of frivolous thoughts and negative feelings, such as lack of self-worth are the “bad company” that Sartre says foster a feeling of loneliness in a person, rather than the physical aspect of being alone. The simple quote packs a powerful message about bettering oneself, as well as emotional independence. He is likely of the opinion that it is no other person’s responsibility to make another happy, and that true happiness comes from within. Being physically alone is only a problem when a person chooses to foster thoughts and feelings about trivial things, and has not yet found a true purpose in life. True loneliness is not the absence of other people, rather it is the absence of what others cannot—or even should not—provide. Being lonely implies that there is an emptiness in the mind of a person, and thus that person cannot occupy themselves with his/her own life. The absence of enrichment in life makes way for negativity. If fulfilment cannot come from anything other than people, then destructive habits, toxic relationships, and overall negativity will bloom as a result. These unwholesome ways of filling voids are indeed bad company, as they only further the alienation of an individual from others and from the highest form of self.
It is a natural but dangerous fallacy to assume that others can replace internal emptiness. It is part of the human condition to crave companionship, for we are social beings. Perhaps this cooperation is the reason that we as a species have been able to advance so far, but Sartre believes this primal habit goes against the betterment of the individual. In the days before civilisation it may have been physically necessary to socialise for basic human survival, because the things that are so readily available to some modern humans required the cooperation of primitive humans to obtain. However, as time and technology progressed, we now have much more time on our hands, and to keep progressing we each must cultivate ourselves and find an individual sense of purpose, rather than one assigned to us by others. From this quote alone it can be argued that Sartre is somewhat of a humanist. He puts emphasis on the value of an individual rather than on the value of any common belief system or dogma. He does not believe that our social nature is necessary, nor always beneficial to the well-being of a person. He argues that existence itself is merely the vessel through which society was born, and it is the essence of individuals which determines how the world is to run. Humans make a choice of how to cultivate their own minds, and there is no previous template from which behaviours flow. We as logical beings are able to break free from our primal nature (and in fact should) for it is the ability to practice self control and conscious decisions which dictate the quality of a person. This quote is one that puts the mind on a pedestal, and promotes the emancipation of the soul through mental independence.