Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Romantic Will At The End of Its Tether: Schopenhauer (2)

The previous selections from Schopenhauer's The World As Will And Idea (1819) were taken from Bk. 4, as are the following:

That all happiness is only of a negative, not a positive nature, that for this very reason happiness cannot be a lasting satisfaction and gratification, but always merely releases us from some pain or want which must be followed either by a new pain, or by languor, empty longing, and boredom: this is born out by art, that true mirror of the essence of the world and life; and it born out especially in literature. Every epic or dramatic poem can represent only a struggle, a striving and a fight for happiness, but can never present lasting and consummate happiness itself. It conducts its hero through a thousand difficulties and dangers to his destination; as soon as this is reached, poetry swiftly lets the curtain fall; for now there would be nothing left for but to show that the glittering goal in which the hero imagined he would find happiness had only teased him, too, and that after attaining it, he was no better off than before. Because true lasting happiness is not possible, it cannot be the subject of art....

Certainly human life, like all inferior merchandise, is embellished on the outside with a false lustre: suffering always hides itself away; on the other hand, everyone displays whatever pomp or splendour he can afford, and the less content he is in himself, the more he desires to appear fortunate in the opinion of others: to such lengths does folly go, and to gain the good opinion of others is a priority in everyone's endeavor, although the utter futility of this is expressed in the fact that in almost all languages vanity, vanitas,
originally means 'emptiness' and 'nothingness'....

Everyone looks upon his own death as upon the end of the world, while he accepts the death of his own acquaintances as a matter of comparative indifference, if he is not in some way personally concerned in it... La Rochefoucauld understood this better than anyone, and represented it in the the abstract. [La Rochefoucauld said, "Fortunately, we all have the courage to endure the misfortunes of others." My note.] We see it both in the history of the world and in our own experience. But it appears most distinctly of all when any crowd of people is released from all law and order; then we are shown at once the war of all against all which Hobbes has so well described... We see not only how everyone tries to seize from someone else what he wants himself, but how often one will destroy the whole happiness or life of another in pursuit of an insignificant increase in his own well-being.

(To be continued)

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