• Buxtebuddha
    1.4k
    If it wasn't apparent, I was trying to show how intentions have little importance.darthbarracuda

    Trying and failing, yeah.

    One can always characterize any situation to suit one's needs by invoking intentions here and there.

    Truth undergirds intention. Merely because one might falsely claim good intention does not make intentions unimportant in themselves.

    That's the lesson of consequentialism - the only thing that matters at the end is what's left over.

    Consider yourself falsely accused of murdering someone, when in reality you merely acted in self-defense. Regardless of this fact, however, you have been sentenced to life in prison without parole. If you wanted to contest such a verdict, how ought you go about doing so? Ah, yes, through an appeal to good intention. Otherwise, you must accept the wrong done unto you simply on the grounds of "what's left over" - i.e., you killed someone, they're dead, and because you done did it, you're guilty, whether you intended to kill the intruder in your home, say, or not.
  • Wayfarer
    4.8k
    The first example is of Arthur Schopenhauer, one of the greatest German philosophers of all time. Truly, an undeniable genius and the number-one icon for philosophical pessimism. Here we have him asking us to compare the suffering experienced by the prey with the pleasure experienced by the predator, or pointing out the tedium and pointlessness of life in general. His prescription to those who read him? Detachment from the material world, isolation, contemplation, asceticism.darthbarracuda

    Schopenhauer described himself as atheist, and is usually taken to be one, however I think what he meant by that is his rejection of orthodox Christian dogma. In fact he had quite a religious attitude.

    Schopenhauer believes that a person who experiences the truth of human nature from a moral perspective — who appreciates how spatial and temporal forms of knowledge generate a constant passing away, continual suffering, vain striving and inner tension — will be so repulsed by the human condition, and by the pointlessly striving Will of which it is a manifestation, that he or she will lose the desire to affirm the objectified human situation in any of its manifestations. The result is an attitude of the denial towards our will-to-live, which Schopenhauer identifies with an ascetic attitude of renunciation, resignation, and willessness, but also with composure and tranquillity. In a manner reminiscent of traditional Buddhism, he recognizes that life is filled with unavoidable frustration, and acknowledges that the suffering caused by this frustration can itself be reduced by minimizing one's desires. Moral consciousness and virtue thus give way to the voluntary poverty and chastity of the ascetic. St. Francis of Assisi (WWR, Section 68) and Jesus (WWR, Section 70) emerge, accordingly, as Schopenhauer's prototypes for the most enlightened lifestyle, as do the ascetics from every religious tradition. — SEP

    I think the difficulty for Schopenhauer, is that he never encountered a 'spiritual exemplar' who could help him understand how to 'actualise' such a mode of life, so for him it remained a remote (and impossible) ideal.

    Buddhist ethics is a bit different in that it talks about the existence of bodhisattvas, or beings who achieve nirvana yet stick around anyway to help everyone else out. True altruists. Many Buddhist philosophers of the past could be seen as consequentialists. For Buddhists, it is not simply enough to point out the suffering in the world, but to actively promote the destruction of it, as suffering is something that should not exist.darthbarracuda

    Buddhist ethics is completely different, because it recognises 'the end to suffering'. So contrary to popular myth, the Buddha was not fatalistic, pessimistic, or 'resigned to suffering'.
  • darthbarracuda
    2.4k
    Trying and failing, yeah.Heister Eggcart

    Okay, then...:-}

    Consider yourself falsely accused of murdering someone, when in reality you merely acted in self-defense. Regardless of this fact, however, you have been sentenced to life in prison without parole. If you wanted to contest such a verdict, how ought you go about doing so? Ah, yes, through an appeal to good intention. Otherwise, you must accept the wrong done unto you simply on the grounds of "what's left over" - i.e., you killed someone, they're dead, and because you done did it, you're guilty, whether you intended to kill the intruder in your home, say, or not.Heister Eggcart

    Right, so there's a difference between legal code and moral code - justice and values. Some might argue that justice is a value, but for a consequentialist, justice is merely an instrumental value of a rather ritualistic and vindictive nature.
  • Buxtebuddha
    1.4k
    Right, so there's a difference between legal code and moral code - justice and values.darthbarracuda

    Morality precedes legality.

    Some might argue that justice is a value, but for a consequentialist, justice is merely an instrumental value of a rather ritualistic and vindictive nature.darthbarracuda

    Okay? Tell me more.
  • Thorongil
    2.6k
    The fact that they didn't seem to really advocate anything more is the main point here.darthbarracuda

    Schopenhauer's main ethical principles are: "Harm no one; rather, help everyone as much as you can." That's not far enough or amenable to your position?

    they offered no real plan of actiondarthbarracuda

    No plan of action?! That is palpably false. They do offer plans of action, it's just that they're not the plans you like, apparently.

    Not everyone has access to the aesthetic. Not everyone has the opportunity to contemplate the universe as a leisure. Not everyone even has the intelligence to think about their condition (non-human animals for example).darthbarracuda

    But those who do have access to aesthetic enjoyment, contemplation, and the gift of intelligence aren't bad for making use of these things.

    The criterion imo would be to at least emphasize charitable and altruistic actions for the benefit of others, so long as you yourself don't drop below whatever you would see to be the line between "manageable" and "okay I'm suffering big time now".darthbarracuda

    And who's to say they did not do precisely this? You? Why should we believe you? Your only argument to this effect has involved the ludicrous complaint about the quality of their pillows, something I doubt you have much expertise in. Unless you have the bank account records of these men and have deduced from them the precise amount of money they could have given to the equivalent of whatever infallible charity you give to, then you will have confirmed the feeling of hot air emanating from your posts.

    curiously seemed to be overly-concerned about his own well-being and status in mainland Germany and Europe as a whole.darthbarracuda

    This is so vague a charge as to be meaningless. I feel that any amount of specificity would bring about its death.

    To attribute the angst and ennui Schopenhauer apparently felt as "suffering" is to bastardize suffering and insult those who actually are suffering.darthbarracuda

    But this is not an argument.

    And if he thought this way then he probably shouldn't have taught or done anything related to philosophy as a whole.darthbarracuda

    You again assume he had a free choice in the matter!

    It's just obvious that extreme starvation is worse than ennui.darthbarracuda

    No, it's not. There are ascetics who literally starve themselves to death, such as the Jains with their practice of sallekhana. They clearly prefer that to ennui and might even say that they suffer less thereby (since it's their ticket to leaving samsara, the world of suffering, behind). Less drastically, fasting in general has almost universally been seen as something positive. Lying behind your thoughts seems to be the assumption that suffering, especially physical suffering, is always bad. I disagree and have intimated my disagreement before. Suffering is sometimes the fleetest animal to perfection. Gratuitous suffering, that is, suffering perpetrated for its own sake, is clearly bad, but suffering directed toward certain ends is not necessarily bad. Now, maybe you want to say that the third world peasant is suffering gratuitously, and that may be true, but then we come back around to the issue of whether poor, bed-ridden Leopardi, for example, was really in a position to feed starving Africans or what have you, in addition to whether he is responsible for their plight. Consider also that some philosophers, like Galen Strawson, object even to our being responsible for anything at all! Thus, your position is very far from being as obvious as you claim.

    They "recognize" that other people exist but don't seem to really act like itdarthbarracuda

    Maybe because they can't help it, owing to their characters! Once again, I find myself repeating the same unanswered questions and objections. This will likely be my last post to you here.

    Also, those who are extremely disadvantaged and are brought up to a higher level of living typically have a lot more appreciation for their new living conditions.darthbarracuda

    Dubitable, but I could grant it for the sake of argument, as it doesn't affect much.

    This is why I said I'm focused more on non-human animalsdarthbarracuda

    I actually don't recall you saying this at all, anywhere in this thread at least.

    Higher-intelligence does not necessitate higher suffering.darthbarracuda

    If we assume that Jesus is God, then the highest intelligence of all suffered most horrendously. That's not an assumption I would make at present, but it's an interesting thought that might bear noting. At any rate, I'm not sure Schopenhauer said what you attribute to him here. I only offered that claim as a possibility. I think Schopenhauer would say that the third worlder and the first worlder do not generally experience suffering any differently in terms of its amount and quality, owing to the fact that they share the same essence of will, though they may suffer differently in terms of its form.

    Humans have a third: fix the problemdarthbarracuda

    No we don't. You sound for all the world like an optimist here!

    But this probably wouldn't be as effective as you might envision it to be. Nor do I think I have the guts to do something like this.darthbarracuda

    Hold the phone! Darth is appealing to his character to explain why he might not do something?!

    But this doesn't change the fact that you are not an active pessimist. Again, if you don't find anything wrong with this, fine. If passive pessimism suits you and fulfills whatever ethical criteria you see as important, fine.darthbarracuda

    Victoire si douce!

    but you did intend to ignore their plightdarthbarracuda

    What does "ignore" mean? Not doing anything? If so, then sure, I didn't do anything to help them. But I've already told that I have no means or power to help them. But if by "ignore" we mean "not caring about or indifferent toward," then you're very wrong and I think you know that to accuse me of this is wrong and highly uncharitable to say the least. I'm not a sociopath thank you very much.

    You intended to allow something to happen so long as you are knowledgeable of it and did nothing to interfere.darthbarracuda

    Uh, no. I don't think you know what the word intention means, for you have completely obliterated its meaning here. Intentions are important because my walking toward you with a knife means something completely different depending on if I intend to murder you or intend to chop up some onions for dinner.

    They might be important in the legal sense, sure. But in the moral sense, what is so important about them?darthbarracuda

    Most laws are based on moral principles, so this is a false distinction.

    Schopenhauer described himself as atheistWayfarer

    No he didn't. In fact he objected to the term.

    Buddhist ethics is completely differentWayfarer

    From what? It's not completely different from Schopenhauer's.
  • Wayfarer
    4.8k
    In practice, quite different, but as I said, I don't hold that against Schopenhauer, I don't think he ever would have had the opportunity to meet any actual Buddhists (or Vedantins for that matter. Incidentally, essay on Schopenhauer and Buddhism here (in PDF).
  • Thorongil
    2.6k
    Ah yes, the Abelsen essay. I've known about it for years. I don't mean to set myself up to defend the following claim at length here, but I think his analysis is extremely flawed.
  • Wayfarer
    4.8k
    I can't see too much wrong with it,

    'Whatever remains after Will has vanished must seem to those who are still filled by it nothing. But to the man in whom the Will has turned and negated itself, this world, so real to us with all its suns and Milky Ways, is nothing.'

    Schopenhauer quoted in Abelsen.
  • Thorongil
    2.6k
    I'm aware of the quote. Very aware. And?
  • darthbarracuda
    2.4k
    Schopenhauer's main ethical principles are: "Harm no one; rather, help everyone as much as you can." That's not far enough or amenable to your position?Thorongil

    That's a good representation of what I would say active pessimism is about. I just don't see how Schopenhauer embodied this principle, nor do I see this principle in effect in his writings. Why didn't you bring this up earlier?

    But those who do have access to aesthetic enjoyment, contemplation, and the gift of intelligence aren't bad for making use of these things.Thorongil

    The problem, unfortunately, is when those who have the opportunity to enjoy these things mistake their own existential luck as desert and pursue these things exclusively, or at least are focused on these things as a high priority.

    And who's to say they did not do precisely this? You? Why should we believe you? Your only argument to this effect has involved the ludicrous complaint about the quality of their pillows, something I doubt you have much expertise in. Unless you have the bank account records of these men and have deduced from them the precise amount of money they could have given to the equivalent of whatever infallible charity you give to, then you will have confirmed the feeling of hot air emanating from your posts.Thorongil

    Come now, I've offered more than just the plush pillow and poodle example. I've shown how Leopardi intentionally isolated himself and was a thorough-going egoist - "be true to oneself" was his motto; he missed an epithet, though: "by neglecting everyone else". And I've shown how Cioran was curiously drawn towards suffering and intentionally submerged himself in its depths, and analyzed suffering as an abstract notion pervading time and space. I've shown how Nietzsche's amor fati is flawed and insulting to those who are suffering. Please don't ignore these examples anymore.

    This is so vague a charge as to be meaningless. I feel that any amount of specificity would bring about its death.Thorongil

    No, I'm getting this from several sources, including a biographical account of Schopenhauer in The Philosophy of Disenchantment by Edgar Saltus, who is extraordinarily praising of Schopenhauer in general.

    I actually don't recall you saying this at all, anywhere in this thread at least.Thorongil

    Come now, open your eyes man. I've said it multiple times now, even to yourself. I prioritize non-human animals.

    You again assume he had a free choice in the matter!Thorongil

    Determinism? Is this what this is all about?

    No, it's not. There are ascetics who literally starve themselves to death, such as the Jains with their practice of sallekhana. They clearly prefer that to ennui and might even say that they suffer less thereby (since it's their ticket to leaving samsara, the world of suffering, behind).Thorongil

    Clearly if someone willingly undergoes torment and turmoil, they aren't really "suffering". They're experiencing pain and discomfort but they aren't suffering because they have freely chosen to experience these things. In short, they prefer to feel these things, they are more satisfied by doing so.

    The ascetics don't starve themselves to escape ennui, they starve themselves in pursuit of a metaphysical end-goal.

    Consider also that some philosophers, like Galen Strawson, object even to our being responsible for anything at all! Thus, your position is very far from being as obvious as you claim.Thorongil

    And once again I have to tell you that active pessimism does not require moral responsibility, but merely altruism.

    Maybe because they can't help it, owing to their characters!Thorongil

    Maybe it's just my "character" to point out hypocrisy.

    Once again, I find myself repeating the same unanswered questions and objections. This will likely be my last post to you here.Thorongil

    Same, but mostly because you seem hell-bent on misunderstanding the main thesis of the OP and instead try to bring it all back to me apparently hating on Schopenhauer or something.

    No we don't. You sound for all the world like an optimist here!Thorongil

    You cut yourself on a piece of wood. You don't just give up, you find a goddamn bandage to stop the bleeding. That's the point of intelligence, of rationality: problem-solving.

    Once again, it's not about fixing the metaphysical problem. It's about making hell a little less hellish.

    Hold the phone! Darth is appealing to his character to explain why he might not do something?!Thorongil

    I'm saying it's one of those things I doubt anyone could seriously condemn me or anyone else for not doing anything about. Just how you can't seriously condemn someone for not failing to kill themselves for the benefit of everyone else. It's too extreme.

    And the argument in the OP is that these sorts of things are not the things an active pessimist would be expected to accomplish. You might as well ask them to teleport or shoot lasers out of their eyes. It's not reasonable. But the things that separate an active pessimist from a passive pessimist are reasonable. The passive pessimist just doesn't see them as important enough to pursue.

    Victoire si douce!Thorongil

    Umm, okay? It's not as if you "won" anything, as I never said there was inherently something wrong with being a passive pessimist. You just played yourself...

    Again, I have presented the descriptive qualities that separate active from passive pessimism. Whether you see this as a "threat" to your way of life is a you-problem.

    But I've already told that I have no means or power to help them.Thorongil

    But, you do...

    I'm not a sociopath thank you very much.Thorongil

    Nor do I think you a sociopath...? What the hell?

    Intentions are important because my walking toward you with a knife means something completely different depending on if I intend to murder you or intend to chop up some onions for dinner.Thorongil

    Yes, as a means of predicting what you're going to do with the knife. As you said you're not a sociopath so I doubt you'd have the intention to stab or slice me.

    Most laws are based on moral principles, so this is a false distinction.Thorongil

    Most laws are based on common-sense moral principles, sure. There's a reason legal issues are tangled up with moral issues, as common-sense morality, the one that drips with ad hoc intentionality, is inadequate in many cases.

    No he didn't. In fact he objected to the term.Thorongil

    Oh?

    From what? It's not completely different from Schopenhauer's.Thorongil

    But there are differences.
  • darthbarracuda
    2.4k
    Okay? Tell me more.Heister Eggcart

    I'm saying "justice" is no longer about finding who is responsible for whatever action but rather a means of preventing this occurrence from happening again. Is it not fair to say that as the stakes become higher, the more value we place on justice?

    Most people, it seems, see justice as a way of "setting things straight", and "getting back" at whoever "intentionally" perpetrated the event. Vengeance masked by ritual.

    I come from a different perspective: justice is a means of "showing an example". Those who disobey civil order will be dealt with. Cause and effect. It is based on an element of fear and intimidation, just as practically any social relation is, or any legitimate learning process for that matter.
  • Agustino
    8.7k
    I think the difficulty for Schopenhauer, is that he never encountered a 'spiritual exemplar' who could help him understand how to 'actualise' such a mode of life, so for him it remained a remote (and impossible) ideal.Wayfarer
    I'm not sure Schopenhauer really wanted to be a "spiritual exemplar" himself. As he put it, the job of the philosopher is different than the job of the saint.
  • Thorongil
    2.6k
    Your post, as I predicted, merely repeats the same basic charges and still reeks of optimism. Like Ixion, we seem to be trapped on a burning wheel that keeps on spinning, and so to avoid the feeling of vertigo were I to fully reply to it, I shall merely say the following. Your basic complaint is still, "these figures didn't quite live up to their own ideals or the ones I propose to the degree that I would like." But I have shown how this is both a ridiculous and impotent complaint, in part because it is something these figures would be apt to agree with you about. So I simply leave you to contemplate the meaning of the following passages:

    1 Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 Early in the morning he came again to the temple; all the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. 3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst 4 they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. 5 Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such. What do you say about her?” 6 This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7 And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 And once more he bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 9 But when they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus looked up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again." (John 8:1-11)

    Since character, so far as we understand its nature, is above and beyond time, it cannot undergo any change under the influence of life. But although it must necessarily remain the same always, it requires time to unfold itself and show the very diverse aspects which it may possess. For character consists of two factors: one, the will-to-live itself, blind impulse, so-called impetuosity; the other, the restraint which the will acquires when it comes to understand the world; and the world, again, is itself will. A man may begin by following the craving of desire, until he comes to see how hollow and unreal a thing is life, how deceitful are its pleasures, what horrible aspects it possesses; and this it is that makes people hermits, penitents, Magdalenes. Nevertheless it is to be observed that no such change from a life of great indulgence in pleasure to one of resignation is possible, except to the man who of his own accord renounces pleasure. A really bad life cannot be changed into a virtuous one. The most beautiful soul, before it comes to know life from its horrible side, may eagerly drink the sweets of life and remain innocent. But it cannot commit a bad action; it cannot cause others suffering to do a pleasure to itself, for in that case it would see clearly what it would be doing; and whatever be its youth and inexperience it perceives the sufferings of others as clearly as its own pleasures. That is why one bad action is a guarantee that numberless others will be committed as soon as circumstances give occasion for them. Somebody once remarked to me, with entire justice, that every man had something very good and humane in his disposition, and also something very bad and malignant; and that according as he was moved one or the other of them made its appearance. The sight of others’ suffering arouses, not only in different men, but in one and the same man, at one moment an inexhaustible sympathy, at another a certain satisfaction; and this satisfaction may increase until it becomes the cruellest delight in pain. I observe in myself that at one moment I regard all mankind with heartfelt pity, at another with the greatest indifference, on occasion with hatred, nay, with a positive enjoyment of their pain. (Schopenhauer, "On Character")
  • Agustino
    8.7k
    The Schopenhauer quote is a very rich and informative passage. Let's investigate it.

    For character consists of two factors: one, the will-to-live itself, blind impulse, so-called impetuosity; the other, the restraint which the will acquires when it comes to understand the world; and the world, again, is itself will.
    Is this to say that one is both angel and devil?

    A man may begin by following the craving of desire, until he comes to see how hollow and unreal a thing is life, how deceitful are its pleasures, what horrible aspects it possesses
    Is the unreality of life equivalent with the fact that life's pleasures are deceitful, and the existence of suffering?

    A really bad life cannot be changed into a virtuous one.
    Why not?

    The most beautiful soul, before it comes to know life from its horrible side, may eagerly drink the sweets of life and remain innocent. But it cannot commit a bad action; it cannot cause others suffering to do a pleasure to itself, for in that case it would see clearly what it would be doing; and whatever be its youth and inexperience it perceives the sufferings of others as clearly as its own pleasures. That is why one bad action is a guarantee that numberless others will be committed as soon as circumstances give occasion for them.
    This is the most important bit of the passage I think. Does one bad action guarantee numberless others will be committed when circumstances permit? For example, as we grow up as children, it takes time for us to realise which actions cause suffering to ourselves and others. So I may commit a bad action, and from the suffering that entails from it, realise my sin, and thus abstain in the future. Indeed this has happened numerous times to me.

    The sight of others’ suffering arouses, not only in different men, but in one and the same man, at one moment an inexhaustible sympathy, at another a certain satisfaction; and this satisfaction may increase until it becomes the cruellest delight in pain.
    What makes the difference between the two modes of perception?
  • Agustino
    8.7k
    Come now, I've offered more than just the plush pillow and poodle example. I've shown how Leopardi intentionally isolated himself and was a thorough-going egoist - "be true to oneself" was his motto; he missed an epithet, though: "by neglecting everyone else". And I've shown how Cioran was curiously drawn towards suffering and intentionally submerged himself in its depths, and analyzed suffering as an abstract notion pervading time and space. I've shown how Nietzsche's amor fati is flawed and insulting to those who are suffering. Please don't ignore these examples anymore.darthbarracuda
    Yes no doubt that some of these characters had all sorts of troubles. You would too if you had devoted your life to struggling against the same problems they have devoted their lives to struggling against. Schopenhauer abandoned a career in business and trade to become a philosopher. Just imagine if he had stuck to business - he would have probably become one of the richest men in the world, considering his intellect. He would have towered materially above everyone else, he could have surrounded himself with all the luxury he would have desired - he could have enjoyed his life while everyone else suffered. That's the amazing thing about him - as it is amazing about Wittgenstein - they gave up what they had or could have had. When you give up riches, you're not doing shit. You're giving up like the fox who cannot reach to the grapes and calls them sour. Even your renunciation sounds hollow and void. But if suddenly your situation changes - you stumble upon a great source of riches - then all your previous renunciation will go to waste, and be long forgotten.

    The only real renunciation is the renunciation of one who either HAS everything, or CAN have everything. Imagine that you're in a position where you can order the Prime Minister of a country or the President of the United States to do this or that, and they do it. If from that position, you abandon it - then you have renounced something, willingly. Then your renunciation makes sense - then it proceeds from real understanding. If on the other hand, you're not in that position - there is no renunciation to make, for you simply lack even what to renounce.

    "Be true to oneself" by "neglecting everyone else" can have a deeper meaning than the selfish superficial top that everyone sees. In some situations, by not neglecting everyone else, you will all fall into the pit. And it is better that you save yourself and let those who you cannot save fall into the pit, than that you yourself fall into the pit along with them. Some people are naturally stupid - there is no stopping them from heading towards their own destruction. Character is destiny.

    For example, how could Nietzsche renounce anything? He didn't have anything to begin with! He was always low on money, he failed to win Salome's heart, etc. etc. Such a man doesn't want to renounce - renunciation is foolish to him! Why should he renounce?! And more importantly, what to renounce? There isn't anything to renounce...
  • darthbarracuda
    2.4k
    Your basic complaint is still, "these figures didn't quite live up to their own ideals or the ones I propose to the degree that I would like."Thorongil

    No, again, you're misconstruing the argument. They don't live up to my ideals, true. But I have specifically stated that the actual argument here is that they don't live up the ideals of an active pessimist. They did not advocate what I have articulated to be active pessimism.

    The fact you seem to be getting all pissed off about this says more about yourself than anything I've said.

    “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”

    >:O Are you for real right now?

    Since character, so far as we understand its nature, is above and beyond time, it cannot undergo any change under the influence of life

    I disagree. Why can't it change? After all it was Schopenhauer who said it takes time to get used to isolation and asceticism. Character can change, for the better.

    I observe in myself that at one moment I regard all mankind with heartfelt pity, at another with the greatest indifference, on occasion with hatred, nay, with a positive enjoyment of their pain. (Schopenhauer, "On Character")

    It's a shame pity and good intentions won't help anyone unless it motivates action. Simply recognizing suffering, as I've already said, is the hallmark of passive pessimism. The active pessimist goes further and fights back.
  • Agustino
    8.7k
    (Y) Excellent post hidden in this thread! Too bad you're speaking to walls though :P
  • darthbarracuda
    2.4k
    Thanks for the response Maw. I missed your post before.

    Though I don't agree with much of your characterization or the usage of non-neutral terms such as "comfortable" or "convenient", what you are discussing reminds me of Joshua Foa Dienstag's thesis in his excellent work, Pessimism: Philosophy, Ethic, Spirit which delineates the common themes and minor divergences between prominent Pessimists from Rousseau to Unamuno.Maw

    Is that book any good? I heard you're re-reading it. I was thinking of picking it up.

    I'm actually surprised that you would group Leopardi with the latter considering that Leopardi writes positively about taking action despite the unhappiness often generated by it. He uses the figure of Christopher Columbus as an exemplar of one who took action despite the risks it involved.Maw

    I mentioned Leopardi because I'm currently reading The Philosophy of Disenchantment by Edgar Saltus, and Saltus spends almost an entire chapter talking about Leopardi's life and how he, at least for a while, intentionally isolated himself from everyone else, and thought the only duty one had was to oneself: "be true to oneself".

    An Active Pessimist may attempt to mitigate or eradicate gratuitous forms of human suffering, but would need to acknowledge that such attempts can fail, or that such problems can always return during or after the lifetime of the Pessimist.Maw

    Right, exactly. Some people seem to be missing this point. It's not about making the world a utopia, but making it comparatively better than it is right now. We have made progress. It's not perfect and it never will be, but progress has still happened. It's ridiculous, I think, to say we haven't progressed at all. Of course we have.

    No amount of passive lamenting is going to stop the machine of blind ambition from spreading to places where it ought not go. The active pessimist, then, is one who does not approve of this continuation, but nevertheless follows along to offer advice and clean up the mess made by these fools.

    Also I will point out that it's not just about anthropocentric suffering, but sentio-centric suffering.
  • Maw
    64
    Is that book any good? I heard you're re-reading it. I was thinking of picking it up.darthbarracuda

    Dienstag's book is excellent. Highly recommend it.

    I mentioned Leopardi because I'm currently reading The Philosophy of Disenchantment by Edgar Saltus, and Saltus spends almost an entire chapter talking about Leopardi's life and how he, at least for a while, intentionally isolated himself from everyone else, and thought the only duty one had was to oneself: "be true to oneself".darthbarracuda

    I am not familiar with Status' book, but he is correct that Leopardi was a withdrawn figure. He was also a sickly man, and physically frail, which also heavily contributed to his isolated nature. However, I think there is a noticeable contrast between his views on leading an active life, versus, say Rousseau or Cioran.
  • Agustino
    8.7k
    Right, exactly. Some people seem to be missing this point. It's not about making the world a utopia, but making it comparatively better than it is right now. We have made progress. It's not perfect and it never will be, but progress has still happened. It's ridiculous, I think, to say we haven't progressed at all. Of course we have.darthbarracuda
    Have you read John Gray's Straw Dogs? The belief that we have progressed is merely infantilism. We just have better sticks and stones today (technological advances), but otherwise no progress, maybe even a regress if you consider what is largely happening with our climate, what is happening with some people around the world who live worse than they have ever lived in history (consider for a moment people living in Syria), what is happening with certain aspects of virtue and morality, what is happening with certain animal species (disappearing), etc.

    Honestly, if I am a pessimist, I'd be a Daoist Pessimist :P - the Ancient Chinese understood this probably better than anyone else. The fact that we haven't progressed isn't to say that one should resort to non-engagement with the world though - that's far from what I would hold. However, over the long-run we'll stay around the same level - we'll have periods of regress compared to this level, and periods of progress, but ultimately in the long-run we're all back to where we started from.
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