Arthur Schopenhauer's On The Sufferings Of The World

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Arthur Schopenhauer was a 19th century German philosopher whose ideology is a prime example of philosophical pessimism. Schopenhauer was strongly influenced by Plato and Immanuel Kant, as well as by Eastern religions like Buddhism, yet he rejected the prevalent at the time post-Kantian philosophies of German idealism and optimism. He believed that humans live in a world dominated by a malignant metaphysical “will to live” which causes our lives to consist only of suffering in the form of pain and boredom. In order to at least somewhat alleviate this endless strife of life, Schopenhauer proposed the adoption of an ascetic mindset. “Studies in Pessimism” is a selection of essays from Schopenhauer’s Parerga (Greek for “Appendices”), the first…show more content…
It starts with him concluding that suffering must be the purpose of human life, because there is evidently too much of it in the world for this not to be the case. According to him, happiness is just the absence of pain, which is why our expectations of it are usually too high. And when we find a brief respite from pain, we are thrown into another state of suffering – boredom. Yet, Schopenhauer views misery as necessary, since if all our desires were instantly fulfilled, we would lose our sanity due to lack of purpose. This is why the philosopher believes that non-existence is preferable. Even animals are in a better condition than us, because their suffering is not exacerbated by ambition and reflection. In the last third of this essay, Schopenhauer presents his thoughts on the origin and organization of our world as explained by Hinduism, Buddhism, the ancient Greeks, Judaism, and Christianity. This is where I found several factual flaws, and at the same time several surprisingly Biblical claims in Schopenhauer’s arguments. He begins by denouncing Judaism, saying that an all-benevolent God would not create a world full of misery. But according to the book of Genesis, the Garden of Eden, where man lived before the Fall, was essentially paradise on Earth. In addition, the philosopher falls pray to the classical misconception of blaming God for all the evil in…show more content…
It presents an appalling perception of women, especially from the perspective of the 21st century reader. Schopenhauer begins with an appreciation of women in their indispensable roles as caring mothers and supportive companions. He notes that women are fundamentally different than men, which is evident from the structure of their bodies and from the sources of their satisfaction. These reflections are strikingly similar to the teachings of the Scriptures. So far so good, but after the first few paragraphs, Schopenhauer heads in a quite different direction and starts depicting women as inferior to men in all aspects, in his own words as “a kind of intermediate stage between the child and the full-grown man, who is man in the strict sense of the word”. In the mind of the philosopher, their youthful beauty is but a necessary tool for the procurement of a man who will take care of them for the rest of their lives. Schopenhauer describes women as frivolous and weak-minded, naïve and short-sighted. And while Schopenhauer acknowledges women have the advantage in some respects, such as remaining cheerful when man succumbs to sorrow, offering short and simple solutions to problems, perceiving things without exaggerating reality, and having a greater capacity for sympathy and kindness, by the end of essay, he becomes downright obscene. He generalizes women as deceptive and envious beings, who exist solely as a means for
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