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.

Continue reading Philosophy Can [Not] Change You

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.

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

Does pleasure consists of positive existence?

Delush!

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?

All is vanity…

Schopenhauer’s great intuition: human existence is a constant vacillating between pain and boredom. The existence of boredom is more than just evidence of a disagreeable state; it is proof that man is fundamentally unhappy.

“If life possessed in itself a positive value and true content, there would be no such thing as boredom: mere existence would fulfill and satisfy us. As things are we take no pleasure in existence except when we are striving after something..”(Essays and Aphorisms 53 – 54)

The default reaction to bare conscious continuity, being awake but not doing anything, is boredom. This awareness disappears once we institute and pursue a goal, thereby distracting ourselves from the empty or illusory nature of our lives. During those fleeting moments of satisfaction, we return to raw existence itself.

The final irony of pessimism: even if our desires are satisfied, although imperfectly, the outcome is naught but boredom.

Pure consciousness, framed by space and time, consists of nothing, nothing at all. That nothingness allows us to become most intimately aware of the der Nichtigkeit des Daseins, the Schopenhauerian nothingness of existence, i.e., better known as vanity.

While boredom is not as wounding as sheer pain, it is a form of suffering unique to conscious beings. It is the byproduct of an intuitive understanding of the metaphysical situation of man – the existence in time.

Vanity is not to be confused with the Christian view, where all things are empty as opposed to the heavenly. The phenomenal, temporal and conscious world is illusory because it conceals the real yet transcendental world of the will, and Schopenhauer says “the way in which this Nichtigkeit (vanity) of all objects of the will makes itself known and comprehensible to the intellect that is rooted in the individual, is primarily time. It is the form by whose means that vanity of things appears as their transitoriness, since by virtue of this all our pleasures n enjoyments come to nought in our hands” (WWR II 574)

Because the fundamental element of all individual wishes, for Schopenhauer, is the will, then this Nichtigkeit is “the only objective element of time, i.e., that which corresponds to it in the inner nature of things” (ibid)

Consequently, boredom is the correlate of this essential emptiness of conscious experience, something we become aware of once we quit the striving for individual goals and return to the bare model of existence. While boredom is not a byproduct of reason, it is a cognizance of the evanescent quality of all physical goods.

There is an explanation for why the achievements of our individual goals fail to satisfy: our normal/default condition is active suffering, and since pleasure lacks positive existence, the temporary relief of pain results in boredom, which is but merely a lesser form of suffering. In order to escape boredom we institute fresh new goals. Hence, the constant vacillation between pain and boredom where each extreme sends us in a rush toward the other.

Although our constant yearning, striving, struggling is on the face of it futile, it actually achieves a completely different result other than what we hoped for. Even if we do arrive at our goals, they fail to bring us satisfaction, if at all. But during the process, there is a subtle, yet true achievement: the understanding of the futility of our actions. We can perceive and understand the vanity of existence, once the ongoing effort to keep and maintain physical objects turn out to be utterly pointless. Consequently our illusions about the purpose of life is replaced with the shattering truth.

The predominance of boredom only confirms that it is understood. Look at the countenance of virtually every elderly person, Schopenhauer says. It is an expression of disappointment. If the “fundamental characteristic of old age is disillusionment; the illusions which hitherto gave life its charm n spurred us to activity have vanished. We have recognized the vanity and emptiness of all the splendors of the world… We have learnt that there is very little behind most of the things desired and most of the pleasures hoped for; and we have gradually gained an insight into the great poverty n hollowness of our existence. Only when we are seventy do we thoroughly understand the [second] verse of Ecclesiastes.” (Parerga and Paralipomena, p. 494)

Conclusion: for Schopenhauer, boredom is the outcome of the illusions of conscious life.

Optimism/Pessimism: Schopenhauer vs Nietzsche

by Werner Horvath

This essay seeks to compare and contrast Schopenhauer and Nietzsche by putting their philosophies of pessimism and optimism in high relief. In relying on Georg Simmel’s analysis, I suspect I may have caricatured Nietzsche in order to write a balanced essay, so feel free to disregard this as an adequate representation of Nietzsche’s multifaceted philosophy. It was originally written for a friend who argued that I had no reason of siding with Schopenhauer over Nietzsche, and it became a lengthy analysis of optimism and pessimism. Continue reading Optimism/Pessimism: Schopenhauer vs Nietzsche

Why things fall apart, or all that’s solid melts in air…

The insights in this entry are based on my readings of two 18th century thinkers of cultural pessimism: Jean Jacques Rousseau and Giacomo Leopardi.

Why things fall apart

Beyond the structures of knowledge, past the artifices of ideas, and beneath our concepts is a chaotic mass of change, where all is flux, nothing remains constant, including our affections or attachments to these inconstant things – for they also vanish and change as well. Our desires or dreams or wishes are elsewhere; tomorrow, yesterday, but not today. Dour pessimists credit the source of suffering with existence in time, for man is a time-bound species. Although it is possible to experience brief, fleeting glimpses into transcendence – timelessness – only animals experience constant timelessness, and perhaps the preconscious ancestors of the human race as well. While animals do experience age and death, they are blissfully ignorant of this. They do not change – and with much simpler lives, they are also much happier. Their ignorance of time wards off thoughts about the future or the past. The ability to compare ourselves to our memories or visualized future allows us to reflect and invent plans to improve ourselves. Being conscious of time, however, turns us into slaves in our dissatisfaction with ourselves, constantly comparing us with others, competing consciously or unconsciously. Continue reading Why things fall apart, or all that’s solid melts in air…