Wednesday, 26 September 2018

The Pessimism of Arthur Schopenhauer

Arthur Schopenhauer has a bleak worldview, his writings illustrate the nature of pessimism, but he is still a delight to read. He writes so nicely and wisely that you look forward to having a tour through his world in which he finds nothing except suffering and boredom.  

In his essay, “On the Vanity of Existence,” (Arthur Schopenhauer: Essays and Aphorisms; Edited by R. J. Hollingdale; Page 51–54), Schopenhauer notes that suffering is the inescapable condition and the only recourse is acceptance of annihilation. Here’s an excerpt:
That human life must be some kind of mistake is sufficiently proved by the simple observation that man is a compound of needs which are hard to satisfy; that their satisfaction achieves nothing but a painless condition in which he is only given over to boredom; and that boredom is a direct proof that existence is in itself valueless, for boredom is noting other than the sensation of the emptiness of existence. For if life, in the desire for which our essence and existence consists, possessed in itself a positive value and real content, there would be no such thing as boredom; mere existence would fitful and satisfy us. 
Here’s another excerpt:
Yet what a difference there is between our beginning and our end! We begin in the madness of carnal desire and the transport of voluptuousness, we end in the dissolution of all our parts and the musty stench of corpses. And the road from one to the other too goes, in regard to our well-being and enjoyment of life, steadily downhill: happily dreaming childhood, exultant youth, toil-filled years of manhood, infirm and often wretched old age, the torment of the last illness and finally the throes of death — does it not look as if existence were an error the consequences of which gradually grow more and more manifest?
He is of the view that everything that happens to men is calculated to produce disillusionment at some point in life.

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