Arthur Schopenhauer Essay, Research Paper
Arthur Schopenhaur was a German philosopher born in Danzig, Poland. The two philosophers he admired most were Kant and Plato, but he was also influenced by Goethe and Eckhart. Schopenhaur extracted three important points from Kant’s distinction between the phenomenal and the noumenal: firstly, reality is a phenomenal world that is an illusion created by our own sense and understanding; secondly, spatiality, temporality, and causality are imparted onto the world by the mind, and cannot be asserted of reality itself; and finally, the noumenal world ‘can’ be known, but only immediately, by one’s identification with it. He disagreed with Kant that the thing-in-itself cannot be known. Schopenhaur claimed that we can know reality, as it is in itself, because each of us, in our own nature, is that reality. What we find in our own nature, is not just a physical body, or rational mind, but will itself. All the other aspects of ourselves are just an expression of this will. This will is the thing-in-itself.
I feel this was Schopenhaur’s basic metaphysical principle, which he proposed in The World as Will. For Schopenhaur, there is only one will, and it does not exist in space or time, and does it stand in ordinary causal relations. The inner nature of will, cannot be grasped by reason or sense, but only through intuition and the subject’s identification with it. The intellect is an instrument for the will. Thought and reason follow from the will, which emerge later in an individual’s life. An example of this could be, an infant cries for food long before it has any concept of nutrition. It has a will to live long before it has any idea of what life has to offer. Schopenhaur sees ‘will’ as operating in nature in much the same way, with all animals being guided entirely by instinct. But humans are no different, we show a great will to live and continue, even in the instance of their being no proof that it is good. He sees the will as the secret of existence.
Arthur Schopenhaur feels that the will is blind. It has no further end other than the perpetuation of life itself. Schopenhaur stresses that no individual thing, considered by itself, has any significance , apart from its own will to life. He cites numerous examples from nature, such as insects emerging from eggs in the earth, only for a short flight in the sun, to lay their eggs and die once this task is completed. This provides the basis of Schopenhaur’s pessimism, of which he is well known. But his pessimism is not an attitude or a temperament, an incessant complaining about life. It is a philosophical conclusion based on reason. The individual is nothing but an expression of an infinite will, and counts for nothing in nature. A man is often felled at the height of his powers by a bacterium, a genius can be rendered an idiot by the slightest physiological imbalance, millions are slaughtered by the hands of a tyrant, and their bodies are burned in a pile like insects. And yet it is shortly as though nothing of importance has happened, the will to live continues as usual.
Arthur Schopenhaur also referred to as ‘the vanity of life’. He felt that nearly all of man’s religions, as well as popular metaphysics, have denied it. Even when religions, such as Christianity and Buddhism, do recognize the suffering and evil in the world, their teachings usually cover it up in optimism. The thought of inevitable annihilation makes every man filled with terror, and the distortions of religion are the neurotic attempts to free us from our fate. However, Schopenhaur claimed that death was really an illusion; death is nothing but the dissolution of the individual organism, and that individual is only a phenomenal thing, not an ultimate reality. Individuality and identity are illusions, they are not real, so how can they die? But the will, which is beyond spatiality and temporality, is eternal an indestructible. Death is not a single final event, but a process beginning from birth, that is inherent in every living thing. But death is not ‘bad’, because in order for anything to suffer, the first condition is that it should exist. Death itself is non-being, and obviously nothing can suffer evil through its non-being. Schopenhaur points out that death is no different than the state before birth, which we view with total indifference. It is only once we are alive and filled with the will to live that we cling to life with the most torment. Arthur Schopenhaur states the world is therefore something we should mourn over, rather than rejoice. Happiness is unobtainable for the vast majority of mankind, and always lies in the future or the past. “The present may be compared to a small black cloud which the wind drives over the sunny plain”. All good things must die, and all our hopes and achievements are destroyed at death. Pleasure and happiness are illusions and negative. Pain and suffering is what is felt, what is real, and what I feel is positive. Schopenhaur did recognize the role of compassion in ethics. He felt compassion could alleviate at least some suffering, but total deliverance, he thought, could only come with death.
Schopenhauer saw the worst in life and as a result he was dour and glum. Believing that he had no individual will, man was therefore at the complete mercy of all that which is about him. Now, whether his pessimism turned him into an ugly person, or whether its just a case of an ugly person adopting the philosophy of pessimism; — I have no idea. But what I do know is that Schopenhauer had nobody he could call family. “His pessimism so affected his mother’s social guests, who would disperse after his lengthy discourse on the uselessness of everything, that she finally forbade him her home. He parted from her, never to see her again.” He never married, mainly because, I suppose, because any self-respecting woman would withdraw in horror, upon finding out Schopenhauer’s view of women: they “are directly fitted for acting as the nurses and teachers of our early childhood by the fact that they are themselves childish, frivolous and short-sighted; in a word, they are big children all their life long.” They are an “undersized, narrow-shouldered, broad-hipped and short legged race … they have no proper knowledge of any; and they have no genius.” As great a problem as Schopenhauer was to himself, he was a brilliant conversationalist; “his audience, consisting of a small circle of friends, would often listen to him until midnight. He never seemed to tire of talking, even during his last days .
To conclude, Schopenhaur’s thought was important for three reasons. He was the first European philosopher to call attention to the thought of the Upanishads and Buddhism, describing in more detail than any other philosopher the universality of suffering. He was also the first philosopher to make a point of atheism, a position that other philosophers (even Hume and Hobbes) avoided. In my opinion, Author Schpenhaur was one of the greatest philosophers of the 19th century. He seemed to have had more impact on literature and on people in general than on academic philosophy.