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Lecture 7


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York University
PHIL 1100
Henry Jackman

PHIL 1100 LECTURE NOTES – FALL Topic 9: Schopenhauer On the Sufferings of the World - “unless suffering is the direct and immediate object of life, our existence must entirely fail of its aim. (1) o Suffering is only thing we as a species seem well suited to achieve  It is not true only of the unfortunate people, even the most successful people who you may think had a good life will still think life was more bad than good - “you may look upon life as an unprofitable episode, disturbing the blessed calm of non- existence…(2) - “if the world were a paradise of luxury and ease, a land flowing with milk and honey…men would either die of boredom or hang themselves; or there would be wars, massacres, and murders. (1) o It is part of our makeup that life is full of suffering – it is something about the human or earthly condition - “every feeling of satisfaction… consists in freedom from pain, which is the positive element of existence. o Pleasure is just understood as the absence of pain - [continued quote]. It follows, therefore, that the happiness of any given life is to be measured, not by its joys and pleasures, but by the extent to which it has been free from suffering… if this is the true standpoint, the lower animals appear to enjoy a happier destiny than man. (2) o Also true that someone who doesn’t exist at all, then you will have no pain o If you are trying to minimize pain, not existing at all will do that Why Animals are Happier: - 1) No worries about the future o Animals live for the present, they aren’t really aware of the future or the past o A lot of our suffering is in anticipation – something that can cause us a lot of suffering when we worry about it – even if it never happens - 2) No Vanity o To a certain extent, animals don’t care what other animals care about them  Even the dominant wolves don’t really worry if the other wolves like them o Desire for personal recognition can cause tremendous suffering because most people don’t get what they want - 3) No Boredom o Boredom is one of the main burdens that humans bear – we are very often struggling, but once we stop struggling we get bored  This feeling is an awful feeling  Part of the human condition  If there was something positive about living in itself, we wouldn’t be bored when our basic needs were met because just living would be enjoyable on its own  We don’t just enjoy our existence for its own sake - Schopenhauer has a grim picture of human life: o “we take no delight in existence except when we are struggling for something; and then distance and difficulties to be overcome make our goal look as though it would satisfy us – an illusion which vanishes when we reach it;  Our real delight comes from anticipation of getting what we want  We think once we get it we will be satisfied, but once you get it maybe it’s not as good as it may have seemed to be  It might have been a good thing, but even if it was, it may have seemed better than it really was thought to be o *continuation of quote+; or else when … we have stepped forth from life to look upon it from the outside. (7) The “Argument from Evil” - “there are two things which make it impossible to believe that this world is the successful work of an all-wise, all-good, and, at the same time, all-powerful being; firstly, the misery which abounds in it everywhere; and secondly, the obvious imperfection of its highest product, man, who is a burlesque of what he should be. These things cannot be reconciled with any such belief. (pp. 4-5)  [in response to first reason] Given how widespread suffering is in the world, he can’t believe that something that was all-powerful, all-loving, and all-knowing would have created the world this way  [in response to second reason] If you look at us and how we act, how can we be god’s greatest creation? Are we really God’s image? o Religions which view the divine as making a mistake are more favoured by Schopenhauer because it makes more sense with all the bad thing’s going on 1) if there were an all-powerful, all-knowing and all-loving God, there would be no suffering in the world 2) There is suffering in the world 3) Therefore, an all-powerful, all-knowing and all-loving God does not exist (4-5) - Response to this argument: Free will defense – idea that human free will is such a great thing that we are better off with free will even if the exercise of it causes a lot of suffering. God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving, and has created the best world for us. In spite of the suffering, a world without that suffering would be a world where we are not free, and would be worse off. God recognizes this so allows some suffering to occur to allow for this freedom o Schopenhauer rejects this defense with two objections:  1) if god really is all powerful, god creates not only what is actual but also creates the realm of possibilities. Things are impossible because God wants them to be. God could have created a different world where things impossible are possible. If free will is incompatible with a lack of suffering, that’s a choice that God made. This incompatibility tells something about God’s all-loving nature  2) the free will defense does a good job capturing the suffering caused by bad behaviour we engage in, but the world is full of suffering not with humans (think of snake and mouse – animal kingdom being full of suffering, yet without the ability of having free will) The Vanity of Existence - One nice thing about the traditional creation story is that there is a grand narrative in which our existence comes out as being important o Preferable to the idea that we are here for a little while and then we go away - “a man finds himself… suddenly existing, after thousands and thousands of years of non- existence: he lives for a little while; and then again, comes an equally long period when he must exist no more. o We don’t make up a significant part of the line of universality – even a super microscope wouldn’t see us - [continuation of quote] The heart rebels against this, and feels that it cannot be true. (6) - “Life … is like …a speck of cheese full of mites invisible to the naked eye. How we laugh as they bustle about so eagerly, and struggle with one another in so tiny a space! (8) o The mites struggle with each other to get a chunk of this cheese, and from our perspective their life is pointless, their big struggles are struggles over nothing important at all, and while some people find it hard to view their own life that way, there is a comforting feeling that our problems are not really big problems in the grand scheme of things – they don’t really matter. - There could be a comforting feeling in knowing that our life and our problems don’t really matter that much, but at the same time one might think that if life doesn’t really matter much, or in some sense doesn’t matter at all, and life is more full of suffering than not, why bother living at all? On Suicide and th
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