Sweet Nothings

Chalk Cliffs on Rugen by Caspar David Friedrich

Much like how rationalism diminished the credibility of religious authority during the Enlightenment, the Romantic period brought a deluge of irrationalism and eroded confidence in reason. While it’s questionable whether Romanticism was motivated by a genuine search for the truth or by the tedium and conservatism of rational inquiry, reason as the exclusive guideline was gradually dethroned, as was the presumption that the world was an coherent and structured system.

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Break On Through (Schopenhauer) to the Other Side!

O sweet & deadly nihilism, what cruel beauty…
Of the four flavors of psychological states,
Three intoxicants are poisonous
Naturally & culturally, individually & socially!

First venomous flavor is the cockcrow
Of arrant meaninglessness–
A failure of Grand Purpose,
Promises a bitter aftertaste of 
Discouragement & melancholia!

Second rancorous flavor is the faith
In some conjectural Everything, a great Chain of Being;
A cosmic guarantor of infinite worth!
Woe unto he who loses his faith,
for he loses his own self-worth too!

Third malignant flavor is the visceral gasp
At the infinite flux, absent a safe respite;
Nothing to do but condemn all
For the sake of some Cloud Cuckoo Land,
That has no staying power whatsoever!

And the Fourth flavor? Curiously,
Neither aim, nor unity, nor Being apply!
Nothing left but a brand new tomorrow
Freed of crumbling relics & monuments of yesteryear!
Freed at last to create new selves, new worlds, new futures!

The Sense of Absurd in Schopenhauer’s Philosophy [English translation]

schopenhauer by thanatologist

I have attached my working English translation of Clemet Rosset’s essay on Schopenhauer, The Sense of Absurd in Schopenhauer’s Philosophy. Rosset has emphasized the concept of absurdity as the chief intuition of Schopenhauer. In this fashion, Rosset has gone beyond the level of explaining odd or strange behavior, and to the root of existence itself. Therefore, to assess the strangeness of existence as a blind, ceaseless will also helps in the assessment of its particular manifestations, we ourselves as individuals.

In this essay, Rosset establishes Schopenhauer as the father of the concept of the Absurd that gained widespread circulation in mid-20th century French literature. As a French theoretician of postmodernity, Rosset pulled off a difficult job in summarizing Schopenhauer without sacrificing the 19th century German thinker’s profundity and relevance for today.

sense of absurd in schopenhauer rosset english

Philosophy Can [Not] Change You

If philosophy cannot guide our conduct, much less change behavior, then why should we bother read philosophy at all? Curiosity, perhaps? If philosophy can help guide conduct, then let’s look at conduct. At the bare minimum, our actions are the result of character, which is what we fundamentally will as motivation. Then it follows that a change in motives will result in a change in action. Then it is reasonable that philosophy can at least produce a change in the information we have about the world that is relevant to how we act.

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Master Vice: Hypocrisy

In this blog I will analyze how hypocrisy is a master vice that includes three of the new seven deadly vices – humility, self-deception and prudery.

Hypocrisy is the respect vice pays virtue. – La Rochefoucauld

Hypocrisy is essentially an action where one pretends to hold clear and recognized set of values or attitudes but actually doesn’t. Despite choosing vice, the hypocrite understands that virtue is superior and assumes its facade. Therefore, the hypocrite is not being dishonest about good or evil, but rather himself. Continue reading Master Vice: Hypocrisy

“Consciousness… the dagger in the flesh.” An essay on Cioran

Cioran, by Awet Moges

After 7 years, I was burned out by philosophy, yet I continued to haunt the philosophy section in search for anything radical and profound. Amidst the expected titles commonly found at any bookstore, sat A Short History of Decay. I pulled it off the shelf in the faint hopes of killing time until the cigar shop opened in 20 minutes. After a couple of hours disappeared savoring the salacious prose, I begrudgingly closed the book and hurried to the checkout counter, cackling in glee in the wonderful fortune of uncovering a new thinker that spoke blasphemous music to my eyes.

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Does pleasure consists of positive existence?


How can pleasure “lack” positive existence? It is indeed the case that our simple common sense seem to attribute positive experience to pleasure and negative experience to pain, that they are the opposite ends of a sliding scale of experience. Continue reading Does pleasure consists of positive existence?

“Pride does not wish to owe, and vanity does not wish to pay”

La Rochefoucauld

Regarding my previous entry, most people fail to address the force of the argument, which depends on the assessment of pain and pleasure. The insinuation, little more than a cheap handwave, that people who get bored are not creative is easily contradicted by the facts of life. The most creative people i know are also the ones most prone to boredom, (the sharper the intellect, the worse the boredom) more than likely because their intelligence is not so easily satisfied. Creativity provides no immunity to boredom whatever.

Historically speaking, boredom is a 19th century invention that updated the Latin “tedium” and the French “ennui.” Madame Bovary and Awakening both contain protagonists whose boredom killed their will to live.

If a person achieves sustained satisfactions of his/her desires, and because the essence of his/her nature is a restless driving, he/she will find her/himself confronted with an inner emptiness that is brought about by the absence of the only mode in which she/he can exist. This malady is known by many names: anomie, accidie, noia, ennui, existential boredom, is a 20th century characteristic. Schopenhauer says the formula for people to avoid the Scylla of the will and the Charybdis of boredom is “bread and circuses,” i.e., in our modern vernacular, McDonalds and television.

Optimists in general have neither lived long enough nor looked deeply into the sufferings everywhere. The so-called bright future or the great individuals are merely momentary respite from an overall pattern of one objectification of the insatiably hungry will devouring another. If the essence of the universe is to cannibalize itself by proxy through its objectifications in the world as representation, then there must be a continual give and take. Some are eating, some are eaten, and all things eventually suffer the same fate. The cycle ends only when the world as representation ends (the death or inability to represent for any representing subject). The optimist, totally lacking in a metaphysical foundation in understanding the world as representation, has a narrow attitude that is solely concerned with the fate of those who are (for a time) privileged to be eating rather than eaten, and mistake those limited one-sided happenstances as typical of life. Optimists fail to appreciate that for every objectification of the will that temporarily thrives, there are billions of others that must pay the price. If your life during this particular period of life is going gang-busters, the pleasure that takes place requires the desolation of many other objectifications of the will being sacrificed in the process. (depletion of the natural resources, pollution of the environment, disadvantages for future generations). Show me a successful individual, and I’ll show you thousands of others being used or consumed. The suffering and the exploited always outnumber those who benefit. Moreover, the satisfaction of desires in turn produces its own intense dissatisfaction. Malise is followed by death, and for those who temporarily succeed in gratifying their will, poverty, humiliation and debility await. A sober and realistic view of life is truly pessimistic – perhaps extreme, but to think that we are not meant to suffer, that we somehow deserve happiness, or that the world owes us the fulfilment of our purposes, is a mistake. Schopenhauer’s essay on vanity helps us escape these optimistic delusions to a harder view, but also at the same time a more humane one – more realistic, at least. Life has no purpose, suffering is always part of it and its end may be welcomed.

Some may be tempted to argue that Schopenhauer is not a true pessimist because he does not truly believe that there is absolutely no value possible in life. He grants aesthetic contemplation, artistic genius, life of philanthropy, justice, asceticism, renunciation of the will are the supreme value for some of us. Whosoever escapes the will achieves salvation, a state which value is unassailable. Indeed, this does not quite chime with pessimism, if it must mean that nothing is of any value. However, this does not conflict with Schopenhauerian pessimism where nonexistence would be better and this world is the worst possible one. The value of will-lessness is genuine, but only as some amelioration of the worst possible situation. Hypothetically, there could be an even worse world – one utterly lacking in salvation of will-less resignation. Yet, this existence would appear to be so intolerable that nobody who understood it could endure it at all. Not really a possible existence.

Moreover, I think even Schopenhauer’s salvation is deeply pessimistic, if the only possible true value depends on self-renunciation. Resignation or aesthetic quality is the attitude of detachment from the individual that strives for life. If this individual remains what I am in the world of representation and the will to life, what i am in myself, no immaterial soul, no rational essence, no part of divine plan, then what i am is not only worthless but the very obstacle that must be broken down before true value is even glimpsed. Schopenhauer’s solution to the problem of existence is basically a self-loathing that contains the blackest pessimism possible…