Schopenhauer a Pessimist?

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Reply Thu 18 Mar, 2010 10:44 pm
It is often stated and accepted that Schopenhauer was a pessimist.
imo, this is an misunderstanding and misinterpreation of Schopenhauer's stance.
Whatever ugliness Schopenhauer had re-asserted are merely facts, scientific and otherwise.
Scientists acknowledge the Earth will be destroyed someday or sooner (if a meteor suddenly appear from nowhere and heading towards Earth). This is just a fact and nothing pessimistic about it.
Schopenhauer re-asserted many facts that humans often would prefer to ignore and they deemed Schopenhauer as pessimistic for stating the truth.

On the contrary, Schopenhauer was very pessimistic about life and his philosophy.
He was confident the truth of his philosophy will be understood by many in the future after his death. I can agree with him on this.

Schopenhauer was not a pessimist in the ordinary sense as in the "Is the glass half empty or half full?" situation.
Ordinarily, "Pessimism, from the Latin pessimus (worst), is a state of mind which negatively colors the perception of life, especially with regard to future events." wiki.

Schopenhauer was in fact a philosophical pessimist and that is a positive trait. i.e.
"Philosophical pessimism is the similar but not identical idea that life has a negative value, or that this world is as bad as it could possibly be. It has also been noted by many philosophers that pessimism is not a disposition as the term commonly connotes. Instead, it is a cogent philosophy that directly challenges the notion of progress and what may be considered the faith-based claims of optimism." -wiki

Philosophical pessimism is the opposite of theological optimism where followers are optimistic that there is a heaven waiting for them after their death.

Do you think Schopenhauer was pessimist?
If so, is that based on hearsay or after reading his books?
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Thu 18 Mar, 2010 11:08 pm
@Humanity,
I am inclined to think him pessimistic, but mainly on hearsay. I have not read World as Will and Idea in total, but I have read passages and numerous glosses of it and familiar with the main ideas. I will add that I think he was a very brilliant mind and substantially correct in most of the important respects. But I think he was personally a somewhat tempestuous and overly emotional individual, which coloured his philosophical outlook. I agree with Schopenhauer in respect of the idea that existence itself is problematic, but the way in which this is to be understood is a very delicate matter. It is very easy to turn it into simple pessimism. It is interesting to note that in Buddhism, which was a great influence on Schopenhaur, the desire for the cessation of existence is as much a hindrance as the desire for its continuance.
 
Humanity
 
Reply Thu 18 Mar, 2010 11:35 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;141192 wrote:
I am inclined to think him pessimistic, but mainly on hearsay. I have not read World as Will and Idea in total, but I have read passages and numerous glosses of it and familiar with the main ideas. I will add that I think he was a very brilliant mind and substantially correct in most of the important respects. But I think he was personally a somewhat tempestuous and overly emotional individual, which coloured his philosophical outlook. I agree with Schopenhauer in respect of the idea that existence itself is problematic, but the way in which this is to be understood is a very delicate matter. It is very easy to turn it into simple pessimism. It is interesting to note that in Buddhism, which was a great influence on Schopenhaur, the desire for the cessation of existence is as much a hindrance as the desire for its continuance.
I agree that Schopenhauer was overly emotional especially with his outbursts on Hegel and that was unnecessary.

That aside, i have read both Schopenhauer's book many many times.
imo, to understand Schopenhauer, one need to read his books at least 10 times, (he insisted twice) and a 'gestalt shift' to get the 'one idea' that is aligned to reality which he propounded.
However, Schopenhauer's idea should not be read alone but should be matched with other philosophies and the various knowledge from modern science, especially neuroscience and cognitive neuroscience.

When we put all his ideas into a flowchart, it will deterministically have a begining and an end (btw not teleological).

imo, Schopenhauer was one the most complete all Western philosopher todate.
He made the attempt to take into account all (almost) available knowledge during his time and incoporate them into his philosophy.
 
claudius phil
 
Reply Sat 20 Mar, 2010 07:53 am
@Humanity,
Yes, even Schopenhauer himself admitted in numerous of his passages that his philosophy is pessimistic. But one has to put into account that that does not mean it is not true.
I especially recommend his essay On the sufferings of the world, where explicitly demonstrates why is the way of life and existence of the world pessimistic and goes even so far of admitting that non-existence would be preferable for mankind if only it could apprehend the world with the objective eye.
However, despite that sombre look he did provide two ways of escaping that suffering of the world - through practising art and compassion one can escape but just temporarily, indefinitely there is only one way and that is the annihilation of the will itself through the intellect; e.g. ascetic life of saints and buddhists.

On the other side, regarding his numerous well grounded attacks on Hegel, Fichte and Schelling, I can say that he did not tolerate fools well and especially not charlatans who practised philosophy as a means for their progress in society and not for philosphy itself. His only standard in philosophy was following the truth and nothing more. I can agree even in his remark about Hegelian philosophy where he said that when reading this sheer nonsense like his Phenomenology of spirit one can imagine himself being in a madhouse. According to all confusing concepts without grounded substance found in that work I think Schopenhauer proved right.

Anyway the whole of his philosophy is derived from the all pervasive will which can be found in all inorganic and organic nature ans is the sole cause for all sufferings in the world. People are constantly found somewehere between pain and boredom.

I agree with the above comment that he is one of the most complete philospher ever lived, because if one read his masterpiece The World as Will and Representation he will find unparalleled prose in style of beauty, elegance and intelligence.

In his explanation of the world I think he came as close as human mind can get. Imo - True genius.
 
Humanity
 
Reply Sun 21 Mar, 2010 12:40 am
@claudius phil,
claudius;141514 wrote:
Yes, even Schopenhauer himself admitted in numerous of his passages that his philosophy is pessimistic. But one has to put into account that that does not mean it is not true.
I especially recommend his essay On the sufferings of the world, where explicitly demonstrates why is the way of life and existence of the world pessimistic and goes even so far of admitting that non-existence would be preferable for mankind if only it could apprehend the world with the objective eye.
However, despite that sombre look he did provide two ways of escaping that suffering of the world - through practising art and compassion one can escape but just temporarily, indefinitely there is only one way and that is the annihilation of the will itself through the intellect; e.g. ascetic life of saints and buddhists.

On the other side, regarding his numerous well grounded attacks on Hegel, Fichte and Schelling, I can say that he did not tolerate fools well and especially not charlatans who practised philosophy as a means for their progress in society and not for philosphy itself. His only standard in philosophy was following the truth and nothing more. I can agree even in his remark about Hegelian philosophy where he said that when reading this sheer nonsense like his Phenomenology of spirit one can imagine himself being in a madhouse. According to all confusing concepts without grounded substance found in that work I think Schopenhauer proved right.

Anyway the whole of his philosophy is derived from the all pervasive will which can be found in all inorganic and organic nature ans is the sole cause for all sufferings in the world. People are constantly found somewehere between pain and boredom.

I agree with the above comment that he is one of the most complete philospher ever lived, because if one read his masterpiece The World as Will and Representation he will find unparalleled prose in style of beauty, elegance and intelligence.

In his explanation of the world I think he came as close as human mind can get. Imo - True genius.
I agree that there is an air of 'pessimism' when one read Schopenhauer's ideas.

But somewhere between the lines, the main intent of Schopenhauer is to promote optimal realistic and practical optimism.

Note from;
The Essays of Arthur Schopenhauer; Studies in Pessimism
ON THE SUFFERINGS OF THE WORLD

Quote:

If you want a safe compass to guide you through life, and to banish all doubt as to the right way of looking at it, you cannot do better than accustom yourself to regard this world as a penitentiary, a sort of a penal colony, or [Greek: ergastaerion] as the earliest philosopher called it.[1]
Amongst the Christian Fathers, Origen, with praiseworthy courage, took this view,[2] which is further justified by certain objective theories of life.
I refer, not to my own philosophy alone, but to the wisdom of all ages, as expressed in Brahmanism and Buddhism, and in the sayings of Greek philosophers like Empedocles and Pythagoras; as also by Cicero, in his remark that the wise men of old used to teach that we come into this world to pay the penalty of crime committed in another state of existence-a doctrine which formed part of the initiation into the mysteries.[3]
And Vanini-whom his contemporaries burned, finding that an easier task than to confute him-puts the same thing in a very forcible way. Man, he says, is so full of every kind of misery that, were it not repugnant to the
Christian religion, I should venture to affirm that if evil spirits exist at all, they have posed into human form and are now atoning for their crimes.[4] And true Christianity-using the word in its right sense-also regards our existence as the consequence of sin and error.

If you accustom yourself to this view of life you will regulate your expectations accordingly, ..
[unquote]


Other than the core principle, I believe we should not take the above examples given too literally but filter out what is not practical and ineffective to one's circumstances.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Sun 21 Mar, 2010 04:39 am
@Humanity,
the problem being, that in the absence of the example provided by a true spiritual master, this very easily becomes an unhappy view of life. It is true in a sense, but at the same time, the Buddhists, whom Schopenhauer praises, are generally very peaceful and joyful people, and not troubled by the thought of life being a kind of penitentiary. I would say that if one has really grasped the possibility of release from sorrow, as the Buddha taught, through right action, right meditation, and so on, then one can find a way to view life properly, and understand that it is in some sense like that description, as a comparatively lesser estate. But if you don't have an inkling of that great idea, then it is easy to become very depressed by this view.
 
claudius phil
 
Reply Sun 21 Mar, 2010 08:49 am
@Humanity,
Well, I think the most important thing about existence of the world for Schopenhauer was that one should not expect much from the world or from anything external, because everything around us is just our representation (based on our cognitive faculty, whose modes are time, space and causality) and as such fleeting, without real value.
That does not mean it is depressing, it is just explanation about what the world is. He mentioned many times in his teachings that happines is negative and that suffering is positive in existence. That means that when we possess some thing desired or fulfill any wish it is just temporarily state of absence of any other desire or wish present. But after that there is always something else present for which we strive for. And even if we had grasped everything desired we would get bored soon. This is direct proof that existence in itself is without any intrinsic value.

Also that is one of the reason why he advises us to isolate from world and regulate our expectations accordingly - i.e., not expecting anything from external world as a solid ground or cause for happiness.

Only from within (from ourselves) can we derive some pleasure because it is the only thing we possess always at our disposal.

I remember his quote to Goethe, when he said: "No wealth can equal the possesion of greatness in oneself".
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Sun 21 Mar, 2010 02:35 pm
@Humanity,
Well I can't disagree with any of that, I think it is completely true. There are also strong echoes of stoicism in this outlook.
 
Humanity
 
Reply Sun 21 Mar, 2010 11:17 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;141970 wrote:
Well I can't disagree with any of that, I think it is completely true. There are also strong echoes of stoicism in this outlook.
Yes, some echo but Schopenhauer did not think too highly and have some reservations on Stoicism.

Schopenhauer WWR Vol1-16 wrote:

Stoicism as an attempt to use the great prerogative of man, reason, for an important and salutary end; to raise him above the suffering and pain to which all life is exposed, is valuable, but it relies too much on reason itself, is basically too rigid and idealistic.
The rigidity culminated in a contradiction, i.e. by reason, suicide should be recommended (like a medicine) to end any incurable suffering, but this is not recommended, why cannot, there is no proper answers to that.
 
 

 
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