Monday, April 13, 2015

Currently Reading: Schopenhauer

You guys, I think I'm in love. My new beau? 19th Century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer. Guys, my baby says things like this to me, "The pleasure in this world, it has been said, outweighs the pain; or, at any rate, there is an even balance between the two. If the reader wishes to see shortly whether this statement is true, let him compare the respective feelings of two animals, one of which is engaged in eating the other."

I'm telling you, guys, we have a real connection.

This past semester, I have been taking a philosophy class on the subject of metaphysics. Now, not everyone is versed in philosophy as I am, so if you are unsure of what metaphysics is exactly, keep in mind that the title itself is a Latin term that roughly translates to, "You will never understand this, Justin Gray, no matter how hard you try."

I became interested in Schopenhauer after reading a selection from his work The World as Will and Representation, which expounds on his theory that everything exists because it has a will to being (or something. Please refer to the translation above). There was something in his writing, though, that intrigued me enough to seek out more of his work, which is how I came upon his Studies in Pessimism. These are basically short essays that posit the theory that life is cruel, but, ultimately meaningless.

This is the sentence that begins the book, "Unless suffering is the direct and immediate object of life, our existence must entirely fail of its aim."

I mean, how can a boy's heart not go pitter-patter after reading that? After all, many of the ideas, as bleak as they may be, are ideas I have shared with friends and loved ones.  I felt like Schopenhauer had been reading my mail, so to speak. No, I do not get invited to many parties, why do you ask?

However, the underlining message through all of this dour pessimism is one that I find myself returning to in much of the literature and art that captures my attention:

"In fact, the conviction that the world and man is something that had better not have been, is of a kind to fill us with indulgence towards one another. Nay, from this point of view, we might well consider the proper form of address to be, not _Monsieur, Sir, mein Herr_, but _my fellow-sufferer, Socî malorum, compagnon de miseres_! This may perhaps sound strange, but it is in keeping with the facts; it puts others in a right light; and it reminds us of that which is after all the most necessary thing in life--the tolerance, patience, regard, and love of neighbor, of which everyone stands in need, and which, therefore, every man owes to his fellow."

I am new to Schopenhauer, so I only hope he does not have something horrible in his body of work, such as a chauvinistic screed railing against women or something.

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