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Philosophy/Leaving home and returning



I loosely recall a philosopher's position about how one can leave home and never truly return because once you've left you've absorbed so much of your new setting that you feel too separate from your roots. I seem to think it was a big-name philosopher, but I could be very wrong about this. It may even be a psychologist or a novelist I'm thinking of, but I thought I'd try philosophy first in my search. If it does connect some dots in your brain, I would love some pointers about whose philosophy this is and where it fits in the wider picture of things.

I appreciate your time.

In its modern form, you may be thinking about Thomas Wolfe's "You Can't Go Home Again"; see:

But this is hard to tell, since the general idea is probably the second oldest thought anyone every had (the first probably being something like, "OMG, I'm gonna die!")

The first formal version may be that of the Greek philosopher Zeno of Elea (see: and:

He argued that you can't step into the same river twice, because on the second step, the river has flowed on and is not identical in every respect --- in effect saying, "a different nanosecond, a different river." This ignores the simple fact that we do refer to objects as being the same one even if we know that it has changed (my plate of spaghetti is still a plate of spaghetti after I've taken one bite). Zeno is slipping in a hidden rule, or premise, that we can only refer to things that do not change over time as the same thing. Once it's stated baldly like that, no one would accept it. If my car's wheels turn a billionth of a millimeter, that does not mean that it's no longer my car.

There are some many variations on this throughout the history of philosophy and literature that nailing down a specific quote as the source of your thought is probably impossible, but my bet is on Wolfe.

Hope this helps.




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Charles K. MacKay


I can answer a number of questions in philosophy; my academic concentrations (graduate school at Cornell) are ethics, political philosophy, and 19th-century German philosophy (Marx, Hegel, and hangers-on.)



BA, New College, 1971, Philosophy and Religion
Awarded four graduate fellowships upon graduation

MA, Cornell University, 1974
Social and Political Philosophy, Danforth Fellowship

All course work and dissertation drafts completed for Ph.D. Cornell University, 1971-1975, Social and Political Philosophy, Danforth Fellowship

Courses in statistics and microeconomics, George Washington University and The American University, 1976-1978

EXPERIENCE: Health Insurance Specialist 2005 - Present
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service
US Department of Health and Human Services

Allentown Business School Instructor (Computer Science) 2003 - 2005

Northampton Community College
Adjunct Professor of Philosophy 2003 -2005

Lehigh County Community College
Adjunct Professor of Philosophy and Computer Science


Medicare Made Easy (with Charles B. Inlander) Addison-Wesley, 1989

Good Operations, Bad Operations (with Charles B. Inlander) Viking Press, 1993

Health Rebooted: Information Changes Everything (in press), 2008

Bachelor of Arts, Philosphy and Religion, New College, 1971 Master of Arts, Social and Political Philosophy, Cornell University, 1975

Awards and Honors
Danforth Fellowship, Woodrow Wilson Fellowship

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