Schopenhauer’s pessimism

What we call Schopenhauer‘s “pessimism” is indeed inseparable from his philosophy. The blind striving and violent state of nature are the results of human epistemology. In order to know, we must objectify and fragment the Will. Objectified and fragmented Will leads to violence and strife. This is not something we can control or change through reason or education or socialism. Hence we must learn to deal with it.

Of course, for those of us living in the 21st century, this isn’t really news. We accept it as a matter of course. It doesn’t seem so much pessimism as reality. But for generation raised on Kant‘s Aufklärung, Goethe’s Bildung and Fourier’s Phalanx this is a very dark and deeply disturbing vision of the world. And by mid-century one that largely comes to pass.

Those reading Schopenhauer today often miss the pessimism (as opposed to reading about Schopenhauer where all you hear about is pessimism). We know from psychology that we are not entirely in control of our actions and from recent history that the world can be a nasty place—so we are not shocked or surprised. What we do see is a philosopher who describes this kind of world with a sharp wit and delightful sense of humor. Today that is about as optimistic as we get.


~ by severalfourmany on March 23, 2013.

One Response to “Schopenhauer’s pessimism”

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