Arthur Schopenhauer as ayoung man, 1815
Ludwig Sigismund Ruhl
Source Schopenhauer-Archiv der Stadt
und Universitätsbibliorhek Frankfurt am Main
Author Ludwig Sigismund Ruhl (1794–1887)
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Arthur Schopenhauer was the most articulate and influential pessimist in the history of human thought. He was convinced that the space and time of ordinary life is an illusion, that the world consists of two aspects:
Representation (visible appearances) and will (hidden reality). Will is a unitary, blind, irrational force underlying all nature and expressing itself throughout it. Since human actions are blindly propelled by this will, not reason, prescriptive ethical rules have little force. We flourish only at each other’s expense; evil, pain, and suffering are not aberrations, but express the inner nature of the world. Our will to live is a continuing cycle of want, temporary fulfillment, and more want. New desires replace any satisfied ones, so no lasting happiness is possible. There is no overall end or purpose of life; our will to live is doomed ultimately to fail, and we die.
(Furman University at yetanotherbookreview.com)
Schopenhauer had suffered a great disappointment circa 1820 as his publication of The World as Will and Idea had fallen flat in terms of a public response – he himself considered that his philosophy explained a great deal. A second edition published, in two volumes, some twenty five years later did not fare much better. This 1844 edition was remarkable in that the first volume was effectively the work of 1819 whilst the second, and larger, volume was a book of commentary.
For Schopenhauer, who is considered to be a pessimistic philosopher, the tragedy of life arises from the nature of the will, which constantly urges the individual toward the satisfaction of successive goals, none of which can provide permanent satisfaction for the infinite activity of the life force, or will.
By the age of thirty Athur Schopenhauer’s major work, The World as Will and Idea, was published. The work, though sales were very disappointing, was, at least to Schopenhauer, a very important work. To Schopenhauer life was a painful process, relief for which, might be achieved through art or through denial. It was Schopenhauer’s view that through the contemplation of art, one “might lose contact with the turbulent stream of detailed existence around us”; and that permanent relief came through “the denial of the will to live, by the eradication of our desires, of our instincts, by the renunciation of all we consider worth while in practical life.” Presumably any little bits of happiness we might snatch would only make us that more miserable, such real and full happiness was not possible, “a Utopian Ideal which we must not entertain even in our dreams.” It is not difficult to understand that this “ascetic mysticism” of Schopenhauer’s is one that appeals to the starving artist.
(By Peter Landry at blupete.com)
According to Arthur Schopenhauer, ideas of perception are distinct from abstract ideas. The former comprehend the whole world of experience; the latter are concepts, and are possessed by man alone amongst all creatures on earth; and the capacity for these, distinguishing him from the lower animals, is called reason.
The greatest value of knowledge is that it can be communicated and retained. This makes it inestimably important for practice. Rational or abstract knowledge is that knowledge which is peculiar to the reason as distinguished from the understanding. The use of reason is that it substitutes abstract concepts for ideas of perception, and adopts them as the guide of action.
He goes on to say, man lives two lives. Besides his life in the concrete is his life in the abstract. In the former he struggles, suffers and dies as do the mere animal creatures. But in the abstract he quietly reflects on the plan of the universe as does a captain of a ship on the chart. He becomes in this abstract life of calm reasoning a deliberate observer of those elements which previously moved and agitated his emotions. Withdrawing into this serene contemplation, he is like an actor who has played a lively part on the stage and then withdraws and, as one of the audience, quietly looks on at other actors who are energetically performing.
A key focus of Schopenhauer was his investigation of individual motivation. Before Schopenhauer, Hegel had popularized the concept of Zeitgeist, the idea that society consisted of a collective consciousness which moved in a distinct direction, directing the actions of its members. Schopenhauer, a reader of both Kant and Hegel, criticized their logical optimism and the belief that individual morality could be determined by society and reason. Schopenhauer believed that humans were motivated only by their own basic desires, or Wille zum Leben (“will”: (literally, “will-to-life”)), which directed all of mankind. For Schopenhauer, human desire was futile, illogical, directionless, and, by extension, so was all human action in the world. The Will to Schopenhauer is a metaphysical existence which controls not only the actions of intelligent agents, but physical phenomena. Thus, in a reversion to ancient schools of thought, the reason why objects are seen to drop to the ground is that will compels them to do so. This is not to say that the idea of will is contrary to any modern scientific beliefs-in some ways it reflects the idea that the world is composed of solely energy. Furthermore, there is only one Will, not the individual wills of individuals, and this idea is central to Schopenhauer’s form of determinism.
For Schopenhauer, human desiring, “willing,” nd craving cause suffering or pain. A temporary way to escape this pain is through aesthetic contemplation (a method compareable to Zapffe’s “Sublimation”). This is the next best way, short of not willing at all, which is the best way. Music was also given a special status in Schopenhauer’s aesthetics as it did not rely upon the medium of phenomenal representation. Music presents the will itself, not the way that the will appears to an individual observer. According to Daniel Albright, “Schopenhauer thought that music was the only art that did not merely copy ideas, but actually embodied the will itself.”
He gave a name to a force within man which he felt had invariably precedence over reason: the Will to Live (Wille zum Leben), defined as an inherent drive within human beings, and indeed all creatures, to stay alive and to reproduce.
(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
According to Schopenhauer, existence is the expression of an insatiable, pervasive will generating a terrible world of conflict and suffering, senselessness, and futility – very shortly, the world is a bad joke. The “will to live” perpetuates this cosmic spectacle. The goal of someone who sees through the illusions of life is the denial of this powerful will to live. Love serves the reproductive interests of the species and sexual impulse, the most powerful motive in human existence.
(Petri Liukkonen (author) & Ari Pesonen. Kuusankosken kaupunginkirjasto 2008 at kirjasto.sci.fi)
For Schopenhauer the tragedy of life arises from the nature of the will, which constantly urges the individual toward the satisfaction of successive goals, none of which can provide permanent satisfaction for the infinite activity of the life force, or will. Thus, the will inevitably leads a person to pain, suffering, and death and into an endless cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, and the activity of the will can only be brought to an end through an attitude of resignation, in which the reason governs the will to the extent that striving ceases.
Renowned for his hostile attitude toward women, Schopenhauer subsequently applied his insights to a consideration of the principles underlying human sexual activity, arguing that individuals are driven together not by feelings of sentimental love but by the irrational impulses of the will. The influence of Schopenhauer’s philosophy may be seen in the early works of the German philosopher and poet Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, in the music dramas of the German composer Richard Wagner, and in much of the philosophical and artistic work of the 20th century. Schopenhauer died September 21, 1860.
(“Arthur Schopenhauer,” Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2008
http://encarta.msn.com © 1997-2008 Microsoft Corporation. All Rights Reserved)
Here are three short quotes taken from three excellent books:
Interest in Schopenhauer’s philosophy is now returning after a long period of neglect. He has always been acknowledged as one of the greatest writers of German prose, but only recently has he begun to recover recognition as the only major Western philosopher to build bridges between Western and Eastern thought; as a philosopher whose impact on creative writers has never been surpassed; as possibly the greatest individual influence on Wittgenstein; and above all as a great philosopher in his own right. Many ideas which are thought of today as characteristically ‘modern’ received their first unequivocal expression in his pages. Not surprisingly, a new generation is feeling a need to study his work.
-From the dust-jacket of Bryan Magee’s ‘The Philosophy of Schopenhauer’ (Clarendon Press, 1983)
[Schopenhauer] shared with the romantics the rejection of science, and the celebration of the aesthetic and the creative. His metaphysical position was that the world is a transcendental illusion; reality is first to be found within ourselves, and then not as reason but as irrational, impersonal Will. It is the Will that throws us this way and that through desire and emotion, but it is never under our personal control. The Will is in no sense a personal Will (any more than Hegel’s Spirit is personal); it is ultimately the reality of all things, most obviously in the case of other living creatures whose lives are no more – and no less – meaningful than our own. On the rational foundation built by Kant, Schopenhauer demonstrates that life is intrinsically absurd. At best we might see our way through the absurdity, and achieve some sort of quasi-Nirvanic peace by denying the Will and the futile desires that are its most immediate manifestations.
– Robert C. Solomon, ‘Continental Philosophy Since 1750’ (Oxford University Press, 1988), pp. 75-76
The idea which allowed his monumental book [‘The World as Will and Representation’] to take shape was his conception of the will. In the finished work, as its title indicates, Schopenhauer presents the world as having two sides, that of Vorstellung (representation), or the way things present themselves to us in experience, and that of Wille (will), which is, he argues, what the world is in itself, beyond the mere appearances to which human knowledge is limited. … His notion of will is probably best captured by the notion of striving towards something, provided one remembers that the will is fundamentally ‘blind’, and found in forces of nature which are without consciousness at all. … Schopenhauer thinks ordinary existence must involve the dual miseries of pain and boredom, insisting that it is the very essence of humanity, indeed of the world as a whole, that it should be so.
– Christopher Janaway, ‘Schopenhauer’ (Oxford University Press, 1994), p. 6.
(© copyright Ken Mogg muffin at labyrinth.net.au