Schopenhauer’s Pessimism : Aphorisms on Morality and Happiness

April 5, 2012

Arthur Schopenhauer

Arthur Schopenhauer attempted to deepen the practical philosophy of Kant in his Aphorisms on wisdom of life. In this kind of modern breviary of wisdom, as Schopenhauer borrows Veterans (Seneca, Epictetus) and modern philosophers (Kant, Fichte).

Schopenhauer and the 3 criteria of happiness: being, having and appearance

Schopenhauer says that 3 conditions explain differences in happiness between people:

1 / – what we are: personality (the most important criterion)

2 / – what we have: wealth and assets (a minimum of possessions is necessary to be happy)

3 / – what we represent: fame, rank, honor.

1 / What is it:

Health is the condition sine qua non of happiness. Being is what matters most “we accompany ourselves throughout life” (unlike wealth or reputation that may change).

Schopenhauer distinguishes two types of men: the normal human and intellectual man.

- For the normal man, life is to spend the time to increase its external wealth. However, it is ephemeral, so his life is an eternal dissatisfaction. It focuses on the reproductive forces (eating, sex) and the pleasures of irritability (travel, war). In other words, the normal man flees, he lives outside himself.

- For the intellectual man, life is solitude chosen Enriches inside, it is “sufficient unto itself” and has nothing to expect from others. Its activities are those of sensitivity: to think and contemplate that are “center of gravity falls within himself”

2 / What we have:

The intellectual man must have very little because:

- He has learned to restrict its desires

- Lack of work left him time to think

The normal man bases his life on the accumulation, the work that allows it to relieve boredom

3 / What we represent:

Everyone tries to avoid the scorn and humiliation, to obtain a favorable opinion of others. Therefore the opinion of others is detrimental to our happiness. The wise man must distinguish between the value which is in itself and that other people’s judgment. Vanity is the basis of this desire for recognition. Others cannot make you happy.

In other words, the wise man must live alone, in the pride of his own worth.

The definition of happiness by Schopenhauer:

Happiness, according to Schopenhauer, is measured to the ills that have been avoided, not the pleasures that we have tasted. Do not live happily, but the less unhappy as possible, so. The definition of happiness according to Schopenhauer is therefore negative (see the Stoics):

- “The error is much lower among those who, too dark in one eye, sees the world as a kind of hell and is occupied as a home to get it flameproof

To go further on Arthur Schopenhauer :

- World as will and representation