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The Philosophy of Schopenhauer by Will Durant
送交者: jingchen 2021年01月05日19:13:47 于 [教育学术] 发送悄悄话

The Philosophy of Schopenhauer by Will Durant


When I was a college student, I read a photocopied selected readings of philosophers. Most are pretty boring. Not Schopenhauer. He is such a great writer.

The chapter mostly consists of Schopenhauer’s own writings.   The following are some quotes from The Story of Philosophy.


Young Schopenhauer, therefore, grew up in the midst of business and finance ; and though he soon abandoned the mercantile career into which his father had pushed him, it left its mark upon him in a certain bluntness of manner, a realistic turn of mind, a knowledge of the world and of men; it made him the antipodes of that closet or academic type of philosopher whom he so despised. (P 329)


The universities ignored him and his books, as if to substantiate his claim that all advances in philosophy are made outside of academic walls, "Nothing," says Nietzsche, "so offended the German savants as Schopenhauer's unlikeness to them." But he had learned some patience; he was confident that, however belated, recognition would come. And at last, slowly, it came. Men of the middle classes—lawyers, physicians, merchants—found in him a philosopher who offered them no mere pretentious jargon of metaphysical unrealities, but an intelligible survey of the phenomena of actual life. (P 334)


"What is modesty but hypocritical humility, by means of which, in a world swelling with envy, a man seeks to obtain pardon for excellences and merits from those who have none?"  "No doubt, when modesty was made a virtue, it was a very advantageous thing for the fools; for everybody is expected to speak of himself as if he were one."  (P 337)


We do not want a thing because we have found reasons for it, we find reasons for it because we want it ; we even elaborate philosophies and theologies to cloak our desires. (P 339)


Hence the uselessness of logic: no one ever convinced anybody by logic; and even logicians use logic only as a source of income. To convince a man, you must appeal to his self-interest, his desires, his will. (P 339)


"In doing accounts we make mistakes much oftener in our own favor than to our disadvantage; and this without the slightest dishonest intention." (P 339)


The relation of the sexes ... is really the invisible central point of all action and conduct, and peeps out everywhere in spite of all veils thrown over it. It is the cause of war and the end of peace; the basis of what is serious, and the aim of the jest; the inexhaustible source of wit, the key of all allusions, and the meaning of all mysterious hints. . . . We see it at every moment seat itself, as the true and hereditary lord of the world, out of the fullness of its own strength, upon the ancestral throne; and looking down thence with scornful glance, laugh at the preparations made to bind it, or imprison it, or at least limit it and, wherever possible, keep it concealed, and even so to master it that it shall only appear as a subordinate, secondary concern of life. (P 346)


. . . Procreation is the highest point ; and after attaining to it, the life of the first individual quickly or slowly sinks, while a new life ensures to nature the endurance of the species, and repeats the same phenomena. . . . Thus the alternation of death and reproduction is as the pulsebeat of the species. . . . Death is for the species what sleep is for the individual. (P 348)


"Spinoza says (Epistle 62) that if a stone which has been projected through the air had consciousness, it would believe that it was moving of its own free will. (P 350)


“life swings like a pendulum backward and forward between pain and ennui. . . . After man had transformed all pains and torments into the conception of hell, there remained nothing for heaven except ennui."  The more successful we become, the more we are bored. (P 352)

He that increaseth knowledge, therefore, increaseth sorrow. Even memory and foresight add to human misery; for most of our suffering lies in retrospect or anticipation ; pain itself is brief. How much more suffering is caused by the thought of death than by death itself! (P 353)


For whence did Dante take the materials of his hell but from our actual world? And yet he made a very proper hell out of it. But when, on the other hand, he came to describe heaven and its delights, he had an insurmountable difficulty before him, for our world affords no materials at all for this. . . . Every epic and dramatic poem can only represent a struggle, an effort, a fight for happiness ; never enduring and complete happiness itself. It conducts its heroes through a thousand dangers and difficulties to the goal ; as soon as this is reached it hastens to let the curtain fall; for now there would remain nothing for it to do but to show that the glittering goal in which the hero expected to find happiness had only disappointed him, and that after its attainment he was no better off than before. P355


The cheerfulness and vivacity of youth are partly due to the fact that when we are ascending the hill of life, death is not visible ; it lies down at the bottom of the other side. . • . Towards the close of life, every day we live gives us the same kind of sensation as the criminal experiences at every step on his way to the gallows. ... To see how short life is, one must have lived long. . . . Up to our thirty-sixth year we may be compared, in respect to the way in which we use our vital energy, to people who live on the interest of their money; what they spend today they have again tomorrow. But from the age of thirty-six onward, our position is like that of the investor who begins to entrench on his capital. • . • It is the dread of this calamity that makes love of possession increase with age. . . .So far from youth being the happiest period of life, there is much more truth in the re- mark made by Plato, at the beginning of the Republic, that the prize should rather be given to old age, because then at last a man is freed from the animal passion which has hitherto never ceased to disquiet him. . . . Yet it should not be forgotten that, when this passion is extinguished, the true kernel of life is gone, and nothing remains but the hollow shell ; or, from another point of view, life then becomes like a comedy which, begun by real actors, is continued and brought to an end by automata dressed in their clothes. P 356


The constant streaming in of the thoughts of others must confine and suppress our own; and indeed in the long run paralyze the power of thought. ... The inclination of most scholars is a kind of  vacuum suction from the poverty of their own minds, which forcibly draws in the thoughts of others. ... It is dangerous to read about a subject before we have thought about it ourselves. ... When we read, another person thinks for us; we merely repeat his mental process. ... So it comes about that if anyone spends al- most the whole day in reading, ... he gradually loses the capacity for thinking. . . . Experience of the world may be looked upon as a kind of text, to which reflection and knowledge form the commentary. Where there is a great deal of reflection and intellectual knowledge, and very little experience, the result is like those books which have on each page two lines of text to forty lines of commentary. (P361)


 "To be happy means to be self-sufficient." (Aristotle) (P 362)


genius is simply the completest objectivity,—i. e., the objective tendency of the mind. . • . Genius is the power of leaving one's own interests, wishes and aims entirely out of sight, of entirely renouncing one's own personality for a time, so as to remain pure knowing subject, clear vision of the world. (P 363)


The secret of genius, then, lies in the clear and impartial perception of the objective, the essential, and the universal.

It is this removal of the personal equation which leaves the genius so maladapted in the world of will-fill, practical, personal activity. By seeing so far he does not see what is near; he is imprudent and "queer" ; and while his vision is hitched to a star he falls into a well. Hence, partly, the unsociability of the genius ; he is thinking of the fundamental, the universal, the eternal; others are thinking of the temporary, the specific, the immediate; his mind and theirs have no common ground, and never meet. (P 364)


"The pleasure which he receives from all beauty, the consolation which art affords, the enthusiasm of the artist, . . . enable him to forget the cares of life," and "repay him for the suffering that increases in proportion to the clearness of consciousness, and for his desert loneliness among a different race of men."  (P 364)


One must have leisure to be a pessimist; an active life almost always brings good spirits in body and in mind. Schopenhauer admires the serenity that comes of modest aims and a steady life, but he could hardly speak of these from personal experience. … truly; he had money enough for continuous leisure, and he found continuous leisure to be more intolerable than continuous work. (P 374)


Perhaps our supercilious disgust with existence is a cover for a secret disgust with ourselves: we have botched and bungled our lives, and we cast the blame upon the "environment," or the "world," which have no tongues to utter a defense. (P 374)


The Healthy man asks not so much for happiness as for an opportunity to exercise his capacities ; and if he must pay the penalty of pain for this freedom and this power he makes the forfeit cheerfully ; it is not too great a price. We need resistance to raise us, as it raises the airplane or the bird ; we need obstacles against which to sharpen our strength and stimulate our growth. Life without tragedy would be unworthy of a man. (P 376)


To have no regular work, no set sphere of activity,—what a miserable thing it is! . . . Effort, struggles with difficulties 1 that is as natural to a man as grubbing in the ground is to a mole. To have all his wants satisfied is something intolerable—the feeling of stagnation which comes from pleasures that last too long. To overcome difficulties is to experience the full delight of existence. (P 376)







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