CB's Reviews > Essays and Aphorisms

Essays and Aphorisms by Arthur Schopenhauer
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Jun 30, 12

Read from June 29 to 30, 2012

This is a bad book. A really bad book. Hell, it’s even a dangerous book. Anyone that takes Schoperhanuer seriously, is going to expect a rotten world, prolong a rotten world, and thus fortify the self fulfilling prophecy that nothing good has happened, will happen, and can happen. Fortunately this entire foundation is grounded on extremely shoddy philosophy.

Schopenhauer was known in Germany as that guy who lectured in an empty room, while Hegel filled the auditorium. This isn’t surprising, Hegel was conducting Philosophy, and Schopenhauer was conducting shrill whining before a live audience of one. If you’re going to pay a college to teach you philosophy, listening to the equivalent of a comedian without jokes, isn’t a frugal investment.

Gramsci had a famous saying: Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will. Schopenhauer would twist this into, a pessimistic will, guarantees a pessimistic intellect. For Schopenhauer this is an ontological truth of the world, literally, there is one grand will, that exist independently of the phenomenal world, and it expresses itself in living beings, as a voracious Hobbesian creature that riddles us with torment, misery, and pain. Kant’s things in themselves are really this one thing, the will, in itself, and through us (and animals). How does Schopenhauer know this? How has he taken Kant’s masterpiece and transcended the phenomenal world, into the essence of the noumenon? Simple: sparse, intuition. It’s rather ironic than that when Schopenhauer goes on to explain what the world would look like without human subjects, he maintains all the properties of mind: space, time, causal relations, in existence. Clearly he didn’t understand Kant very well. One cannot explain the world without subjects, or at the very least, that description shouldn’t literally mirror our phenomenal depiction of it.

What’s even more asinine is how petulant and hostile he was to Hegelian philosophy, when his own philosophy merely replaced Hegel’s Absolute, or Geist, with a Will. Whereas Hegel was a genius, with extreme philosophical cunning, able to piece together the necessary conclusions of his ontological foundation, and at least project some form of progress upon mankind, Schopenhauer leaves us with unconnected bits and pieces. There is no progress. There is no history. There is only misery from time immemorial.

From these ridiculous ontological certainties, Schopenhauer moves on to explain to us that women are trifling, idiotic, subspecies. The businessman is the most authentic human being. The majority of the population requires religion because they’re essentially a brain stem, without frontal lobes, and Monarchies are the NATURAL EXPRESSION of human beings (I guess he never read a history book nor inquired into an anthropological text). Freedom of the press is dangerous, and authoritative ruling is universal and ubiquitous, thus necessary, and never eradicable. Any attempts at ethical behavior is really futile, all we can do is stare at each other in recognition of our own self-torment. Every once and a while a genius may arise amongst us, but overall 99% of us most be certain that we’ll never achieve anything except the occasional brief mitigation of pure despair.

What’s really so ironic about this ontological certainty, with its barbarous conclusions, is that Schopenhauer only writes in Aphorisms and brief points. This is the guy who claims to have found the essence to all of reality, and unlike Hegel, he can’t properly systemize anything. All of his essays, on any subject, are helter skelter, scattered, internally contradictory, and fail to paint a systematic picture beyond: life sucks, then you die, ass hole.

Now I can understand why Schopenhauer held such pessimism, and he’s brave enough to point out that the world is filled with suffering, depravity, torment, and pain. The Romantic Movement was being squashed by the material and social reality of an ever growing industrializing, capitalistic, heartless, mode of production. Atomizations of the people, and fractioning of the state, were necessary results. Alienation was subsequent. The bourgeois revolutions were replacing the tyranny of 1, by the tyranny of the 1%. Fortunately Marxism, and other socialist thinkers offered the necessary optimism to Schopenhauer’s defeatist pessimism. And thus Schopenhauer sat in the dustbin of history for some time. Now with the failure of Capitalism to be surmounted, and any chance at a proper romanticism – that incorporates a diverse and flourishing natural environment – is leading Philosophers, and many readers, back to Schopenhauer. (He alleviates the readers initial guilt as being a full blown hedonist, I suspect…)This is why the man is dangerous, instead of a revival of optimism, and a good Marxist vaccination against a static view of miserable history, we get poor philosophy, terrible ontology, an incoherent ethic, and certainty in failure.
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Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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Jean Paul Gove' What a ridiculous review.

The basic bent of it is: "Since optimism is necessary for us, then optimism must be promoted regardless of whether it is true or not."

What will happen when the Marxist vaccination fails again? When man again oppresses man, instead of recognizing that as the basic truth, we will blame some current ill, capitalism or communism or whatever's around, to be optimistically surmounted. And on and on goes the grist-wheel.


message 2: by CB (last edited Aug 24, 2013 08:22AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

CB And what a ridiculous response, since your summary of the basic bent is incorrect. I don't think optimism or pessimism are true, in and of themselves, since they are attitudes towards things.

Not to mention the fact you're glossing over other more substantive criticisms I made, like his relation to Kant, his ontology, his inability to systematize, his sexism, his support for monarchy as "natural", etc.

If you don't know the difference between 19th century Marxist philosophy and 20th century Marxist-Lenninist communist states, you need to do more reading.

If you think all human relations must necessarily be predominantly oppressive I pity you.


message 3: by CB (new) - rated it 1 star

CB I see you haven't even read the book! And yet without being halfway done you're self assured I've misread it!? Hubris and pessimism are a lethal cocktail.


message 4: by Jean Paul (last edited Aug 24, 2013 08:35AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jean Paul Gove' I've listened to the audio recording of most of the essays in this book. This is a "re-reading" of sorts.

I didn't claim that you think optimism or pessimism are true, but that you value one because you see it as more necessary for the ideology you favour or for the anti-capitalist backlash you desire. Your whole argument reads like a bad argument for God: God is necessary for my continued and meaningful existence, therefore He must exist.

There's no inability to systematize as much as a REFUSAL.

I know the difference between Marxism and the communist states. But all ideologies, systems and regimes will fail eventually. They're pristine in their theoretical forms, and failures full of contradictions in their practical forms.


message 5: by CB (new) - rated it 1 star

CB 1) That's not actually what you claimed, it's what you're claiming now. Nevertheless, optimism and pessimism although not true/false in and of themselves can be false in relation to other claims, e.g., I'm pessimistic about these women trying to garner the vote, it will fail in the end. Or, I'm optimistic women will get the vote, it will succeed. In this instance the pessimist is false.

2) You can't have an overriding universal ontology and then claim to be refusing to systematize.

3) "But all ideologies, systems and regimes will fail eventually...full of contradictions in their practical forms."

Spoken like a true Marxist, and an anti-Schopenhauerian! I couldn't agree more.


Finally, since you still disregard my other substantive criticisms of Schopenhauer, you remain incorrect to suggest that my entire review was "ridiculous" because it boils down to one thing. When in fact it did not. Care to take back what you said, OR address my other criticisms in such a way as to reduce them all to optimism versus pessimism (you can't with the Kant one)?


Ankita i do not agree, I loved it!


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