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Master of gloom...
on 29 November 2013
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!