- Hardcover: 226 pages
- Publisher: Berghahn Books; 2nd Rev ed. edition (March 1, 1995)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1571810528
- ISBN-13: 978-1571810526
- Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 9 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,984,257 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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On the Basis of Morality 2nd Rev ed. Edition
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My favorite philosophers are Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, and now Schopenhauer, each producing at least some work that is eminently readable for the layman. Perhaps, though, I put Schopenhauer at the top of this list, because his ideas would, I think, have both predicted and alleviated the deep anxiety of Kierkegaard and muted the excesses of Nietzsche (who attempted, unsuccessfully I believe, to correct Schopenhauer concerning the basis of morality). To me Schopenhauer's clear exposition of morality based on everyday experiences that are familiar and obvious to all of us remains superior to Nietzsche's insufficient data supporting his genealogy of morals.
This superb essay was initially submitted as the sole entry in an essay contest sponsored by the Royal Danish Society. Their dismissal of his submission (and irritation at his attack on certain philosophers of his day) shows not only their arrogance, but how insightful Schopenhauer was (and remains) concerning the need for philosophy to be of practical importance in life.
Schopenhauer's philosophy is considered pessimistic, but I was filled with elation that bordered on joy reading him directly. How can that be? It doesn't matter if you lean towards atheism or religious belief. Read him and see.
This essay was submitted by Schopenhauer in 1840 to the Danish Royal Society of Sciences, which had announced a prize for an essay on the basis of morals. (Interestingly, Schopenhauer did not win the prize, even though his was the only essay ultimately submitted! The judges felt that he had not shown the connection between metaphysics and morals.)
He wrote in the Preface, "Although these two essays [including Essay on the Freedom of the Will originated independently of each other, they mutually contribute to the completion of a system of the fundamental truths of ethics... There are really special statements of the two doctrines whose main features are found in the fourth book of the World as Will and Representation, but there they were inferred from my metaphysics and hence synthetically and a priori; here... such statements appear on an analytical and a posteriori basis." (Pg. 3)
He asserts, "I have placed [Fichte] as a `man of talent' far above Hegel. On Hegel... I have ... passed my most unqualified condemnation in the most emphatic terms. For I am convinced that he not only lacks all philosophical merit, but has had on philosophy... an extremely pernicious... one might say pestilential, influence." (Pg. 14) He continues, "the so-called philosophy of this fellow Hegel is a colossal piece of mystification which will yet provide posterity with an inexhaustible theme for laughter at our times, that it is a pseudo-philosophy paralyzing all mental powers, stifling all real thinking, and... putting in its place the hollowest, most senseless, thoughtless, and... most stupefying verbiage..." (Pg. 15)
He states, "Our result, therefore, is that the Kantian ethics, like all previous systems, is devoid of any sure foundations... it is at bottom only an inversion and a disguise of theological morals... Kant certainly even deceived himself with it, and actually imagined he could establish, independently of all theology, and could base on pure knowledge a priori, the concepts of the CALL OF DUTY and the LAW that obviously have a meaning only in theological morals." (Pg. 103) Later, he adds, "If in Kant's ethics a certain moral pedantry can be traced, then in Fichte the ridiculous moral pedantry affords abundant material for satire." (Pg. 117)
He observes, "We have to read criminal narratives and descriptions of the conditions of anarchy if we want to know what man really is from a moral point of view. The thousands who throng before our eyes in peaceful intercourse are to be regarded as just so many tigers and wolves whose teeth are secured by a strong muzzle. Therefore, if one imagines the power of the State as abolished... the muzzle as cast off, every thinking may will recoil at the expected scene, and in this way, he will show us what little confidence he really has in the efficacy of religion, conscience, or the natural foundations of morals, whatever this may be." (Pg. 129)
He suggests, "since I do not exist inside the other man's skin, then only by means of the knowledge that I have of him... can I identify with him to such an extent that my deed declares that difference abolished... It is the everyday phenomenon of compassion, of the immediate participation... primarily in the suffering of another, and thus in the prevention or elimination of it; for all satisfaction and all well-being and happiness consist in this. It is simply and solely this compassion that is the real basis of all VOLUNTARY justice and GENUINE loving-kindness." (Pg. 144)
Later, he adds, "All the virtues flow from justice and loving-kindness; they are therefore the cardinal virtues, and with their derivation, the cornerstone of ethics is laid. Justice is the entire ethical content of the Old Testament, and loving-kindness that of the New. This is the ]love] (John 13:34) in which according to Paul (Romans 13:8-10), all the Christian values are contained." (Pg. 167)
He concludes, "I have demonstrated the moral incentive as a fact. I have shown that disinterested justice and genuine philanthropy can come solely from it, and that on these two cardinal virtues all the others depend. This suffices to establish ethics insofar as it must necessarily be supported on something that demonstrably exists as a fact, whether given in the external world or in consciousness." (Pg. 199)
This book will be of keen interest to those studying Schopenhauer's philosophy in detail.
Schopenhauer held the view that the moral value of a person's character comes from the unitary metaphysical will. Since characters are good and bad then unitary metaphysical Will must be good and bad too, but this is contradictory of being one or unitary. Schopenhauer was alive to the problem and regarded it as "The most difficult of all problems" and hoped that "perhaps someone after me will shed some light in this abyss", see Aurther Schopenhauer, Manuscript remains, VOL IV, 221,222.
After 200 years finally this problem has been solved from the present time philosopher Fadel Sabry in his book The Will's Harmonic Motion: The Completion of Schopenhauer's Philosophy.
Schopenhauer solved the problem of morality but the final touch and polish has been provided by Sabry.