XXXIV. on Schopenhauer and pessimism

Certain it is that work, worry, labour and trouble, form the lot of almost all men their whole life long. But if all wishes were fulfilled as soon as they arose, how would men occupy their lives? What would they do with their time? If the world were a paradise of luxury and ease, a land flowing with milk and honey, where every Jack obtained his Jill at once and without any difficulty, men would either die of boredom or hang themselves; or there would be wars, massacres, and murders; so that in the end mankind would inflict more suffering on itself then it has now to accept at the hands of Nature.

I think about these lines — or this concept — often. Pessimism has, in the mainstream, & even amongst many philosophers, come to be synonymous with unhappiness, with glumness, & with nihilism; that to be a pessimist is to be a weak person, to give up your hands to Fate. I think it has in it this implication: because there are many things that should make a man unhappy, I will be unhappy.

Schopenhauer’s passage is the traditional starting point of Pessimism (capital “P” for emphasis); it is only stating truths, and drawing no conclusions other than those which are clear from Nature and experience (we know of the mouse utopia). But from there he can make all the assumptions and jumps he needs, & there is little argument for how well he makes them. Appealing to the brute’s way of life, having children only as a thoughtless act…. Pessimism is (and should be) a great way to embrace the struggles in life, and once the strife is accepted, & you understand that you have to work, worry, labour and trouble, you can find allconsuming happiness (however fleeting) in meaningful ways. Good as a positive, but also not as the absence of evil; we need not turn to God.


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