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Schopenhauer’s pessimism

Schopenhauer’s pessimism
Schopenhauer’s pessimism
In this thesis I offer an interpretation of Arthur Schopenhauer’s pessimism. I argue against interpreting Schopenhauer’s pessimism as if it were merely a matter of temperament, and I resist the urge to find a single standard argument for pessimism in Schopenhauer’s work. Instead, I treat Schopenhauer’s pessimism as inherently variegated, composed of several distinct but interrelated pessimistic positions, each of which is supported by its own argument. I begin by examining Schopenhauer’s famous argument that willing necessitates suffering, which I defend against the misrepresentative interpretation advocated by Ivan Soll. I also offer a metaphysical reading of Schopenhauer’s claim that no amount happiness can compensate for the mere fact of suffering, based upon his negative conception of happiness.

I proceed by analysing Schopenhauer’s criticisms of two prominent optimists, Leibniz and Rousseau. I attempt to salvage something of Schopenhauer’s counterargument against Leibniz that this is the worse of all possible worlds, and I also examine Schopenhauer’s claim that the optimistic metaphysics of a priori rationalistic philosophy cannot cope with the evidence of meaningless suffering. In the case of Rousseau, I interpret Schopenhauer’s brief objection to Rousseau’s assumption of original goodness, by means of an examination of Schopenhauer’s conception of the contrary doctrine, original sin. Next I consider the metaphysics of Schopenhauer’s account of eternal justice. After defending it against a number of objections, I argue that the nature of his version of eternal justice, which he admits constitutes a justification for suffering, does not conflict with the fact that he so strongly condemns Leibniz’s and Rousseau’s optimistic justifications for suffering.

Finally I assess whether and to what extent Schopenhauer’s ethics of salvation are either pessimistic or optimistic. I conclude that the mere fact that salvation is possible is not necessarily a cause for optimism, but that Schopenhauer’s doctrine of salvation is made partly optimistic by the higher form of cognition that he describes as part of it. I also argue that Schopenhauer’s views on the essentially mystical nature of the state of salvation ultimately commit him to being neither positively optimistic nor positively pessimistic about salvation. I conclude overall with some brief remarks about the meaning of Schopenhauer’s pessimism, and how in spite of its diverse nature, it is able to lay down a singular challenge to all future philosophers concerned with the question of suffering.
Woods, David
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Woods, David
e7aba205-876d-4e9a-adb4-33d898a4af5d
Janaway, Christopher
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Way, Jonathan
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Woollard, Fiona
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Schoenbaumsfeld, Genia
586652b5-20da-47cf-9719-4fc587dfa4e8

Woods, David (2014) Schopenhauer’s pessimism. University of Southampton, Faculty of Humanities, Doctoral Thesis, 218pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

In this thesis I offer an interpretation of Arthur Schopenhauer’s pessimism. I argue against interpreting Schopenhauer’s pessimism as if it were merely a matter of temperament, and I resist the urge to find a single standard argument for pessimism in Schopenhauer’s work. Instead, I treat Schopenhauer’s pessimism as inherently variegated, composed of several distinct but interrelated pessimistic positions, each of which is supported by its own argument. I begin by examining Schopenhauer’s famous argument that willing necessitates suffering, which I defend against the misrepresentative interpretation advocated by Ivan Soll. I also offer a metaphysical reading of Schopenhauer’s claim that no amount happiness can compensate for the mere fact of suffering, based upon his negative conception of happiness.

I proceed by analysing Schopenhauer’s criticisms of two prominent optimists, Leibniz and Rousseau. I attempt to salvage something of Schopenhauer’s counterargument against Leibniz that this is the worse of all possible worlds, and I also examine Schopenhauer’s claim that the optimistic metaphysics of a priori rationalistic philosophy cannot cope with the evidence of meaningless suffering. In the case of Rousseau, I interpret Schopenhauer’s brief objection to Rousseau’s assumption of original goodness, by means of an examination of Schopenhauer’s conception of the contrary doctrine, original sin. Next I consider the metaphysics of Schopenhauer’s account of eternal justice. After defending it against a number of objections, I argue that the nature of his version of eternal justice, which he admits constitutes a justification for suffering, does not conflict with the fact that he so strongly condemns Leibniz’s and Rousseau’s optimistic justifications for suffering.

Finally I assess whether and to what extent Schopenhauer’s ethics of salvation are either pessimistic or optimistic. I conclude that the mere fact that salvation is possible is not necessarily a cause for optimism, but that Schopenhauer’s doctrine of salvation is made partly optimistic by the higher form of cognition that he describes as part of it. I also argue that Schopenhauer’s views on the essentially mystical nature of the state of salvation ultimately commit him to being neither positively optimistic nor positively pessimistic about salvation. I conclude overall with some brief remarks about the meaning of Schopenhauer’s pessimism, and how in spite of its diverse nature, it is able to lay down a singular challenge to all future philosophers concerned with the question of suffering.

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Published date: July 2014
Organisations: University of Southampton, Philosophy

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 370015
URI: https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/370015
PURE UUID: c83414da-1b4f-47ee-a36a-16b3b8117541

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Date deposited: 27 Oct 2014 11:56
Last modified: 17 Jul 2017 21:54

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Contributors

Author: David Woods
Thesis advisor: Christopher Janaway
Thesis advisor: Jonathan Way
Thesis advisor: Fiona Woollard
Thesis advisor: Genia Schoenbaumsfeld

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