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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Master of gloom..., 29 Nov. 2013
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This review is from: Essays and Aphorisms (Classics) (Paperback)
I bought this again fairly recently, partly from nostalgia, as it was the first philosophy book I ever read. I'd like to offer my opinions, partly on the book, but more generally on the author and his ideas.

If you look at various details in his life, I think you're likely to conclude that, essentially, Schopenhauer was a pretty horrible guy. While a number of factors would no doubt have contributed to his particular outlook on life, one key event must have been the trauma he suffered, while still a teenager, when his father committed suicide. This unfortunate event was made worse, in his mind at least, by his mother remarrying, something that filled him with intense revulsion and jealousy. Assuming his gloominess and sense of rancour must, on some level, have always been there, these events it seems really brought them to the forefront of his mind.

After studying, and over many years, Schopenhauer developed a sophisticated system of thought that was designed, primarily, to make one think about the world in a way that was so morbidly pessimistic and warped it was almost insane. The logic used, like most philosophy from his time to very recent times is now completely defunct. His vast, metaphysical gobbledygook - bits borrowed from Kant, Buddhism etc., then rehashed - from which his famous utterances derive, was clearly, once you reflect on it for a moment, an entirely made up construct, a giant philosophical house of cards.

Looking at some of his actual views, he is famous for despising women and, of course, for endorsing suicide. To paraphrase one writer, he praised suicide while sitting at a well-set table! In other words, since he enjoyed all the privileges of a higher social class throughout his life, this viewpoint was nothing but unashamed hypocrisy. He was involved in countless sexual affairs, yet in his writings extolled the ascetic lifestyle, even going as far as to denounce the sexual instinct as the most wicked force in nature. And finally, his views on scientific matters; not surprisingly, they've all been proven to be invalid.

So, why is he held in high esteem today, by so many? For one, and only one reason: his views on art, about which he wrote clearly, and yes, often eloquently. But that's it! Nothing else in his writings matter! It makes complete sense in fact to see most of his writings as an enormous sham or ploy, a cruel device to induce others to share his nasty, bleak and hostile view on life...

Read it, and make up your own minds of course, but really, don't fall for the claptrap that this thoroughly unpleasant, intellectual conman, was also some kind of genius!
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 26 Jan 2014 10:55:13 GMT
Last edited by the author on 26 Jan 2014 13:12:12 GMT
Dear F Drew,

It is always good to read a review that challenges one's own views and as you will see from reviews of Schopenhauer's work that I have posted on I am an enthusiast for the old curmudgeon's philosophy.

There are a couple of points that do need to be made and they are:

1) Schopenhauer's mother, Joanna, did not remarry although she did have at least one very close relationship with a diplomat at Weimar that might have ended in marriage. I think what really rankled with Schopenhauer was that she was obviously so much happier after Schopenhauer's father's death than whilst she was married. Furthermore she went on to have a very successful career as a novelist and travel writer and was quite a social success in Weimar. Goethe was just the most celebrated of her friends but there were many others in literary and intellectual circles in Weimar who found their way to her home for intellectual evenings of food, wine and conversation.

2) You suggest that Schopenhauer was an unsound reasoner using discredited lines of thought. This is a gross misrepresentation. Schopenhauer is the most rigorous of thinkers and only ever argues from empirical data using classic reasoning. He is to be completely distinguished from the Hegelian/Marxist dialectical line of thought which I agree is totally discredited. Schopenhauer's main influences in terms of the nuts and bolts of his philosophical method are Kant and Hume. Indeed he was keen to translate Hume into German but his publishers, fearing a minimal sale, chose not to take him up on his offer. No one reading Schopenhauer now should find any problem with his use of the classic laws of logic such as the law of non contradiction or the law of excluded middle etc. Indeed I would go so far as to argue that Schopenhauer is one the greatest exponents of sustained coherent rational thought. The volume under review is not really the best example of this in the Schopenhauer oeuvre. If you look at The World as Will and Representation or perhaps even more The Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason then I think you will get an appreciation of why I take the view that I do.

3) Schopenhauer actually argues very strongly against suicide and the essay on the subject contained in this volume sets out his reasoning. I have to admit that it is not entriely convincing.

In terms of your rejection of Schopenhauer's gloomy response to life I happily concede that your's is as valid a response as any. I for one find his philosophy a richly rewarding antidote to the empty optimistic sloganising of those who try to sell us human life as being anything other than the ghastly misery filled sham that has been my experience for the 54 years of it that I have had to endure.

I am truly pleased to know that someone has ahad a better time than me.

Best wishes

In reply to an earlier post on 28 Jan 2014 15:05:43 GMT
[Deleted by the author on 28 Mar 2016 20:57:06 BDT]

In reply to an earlier post on 17 Dec 2014 03:03:33 GMT
M. Reid says:
I'm a fan of horror movies but I've no inclination to stab anyone. I'm a big fan of Schopenhauer's pessimism (and his perfectly rational defense of the right to kill oneself), but I lead a quite happy life and I'm not likely to kill myself soon - you can indulge in and enjoy these things as little mental excursions without giving up your natural optimism.

P.S. for anyone who likes to indulge, Thomas Ligotti's pessimistic philosophy is the best (darkest) I've personally read outside of Schopenhauer The Conspiracy against the Human Race: A Contrivance of Horror
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