## "Comfortable Pessimism"

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I'm sorry if video evidence isn't enough for you. :-}

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So I see a disoriented penguin in Herzog's film.

A few years ago I was standing next to a penguin researcher when a whole gaggle of Adeles came waddling past us in the wrong direction in McMurdo Sound. They looked happy enough even though the researcher said there goes another lost bunch headed towards certain death.

Animals are always wandering off because it makes sense to explore the world for new territories. Especially in a changing environment like sea ice where a randomly calving shelf can float in and block off your feeding ground that summer.
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So I see a disoriented penguin in Herzog's film.

It's not, though, since apparently if you picked it up and brought it back to its waddle, it would just turn right back around.

Also animals like penguins, who aren't exactly apex predators, typically wouldn't just go off exploring by themselves, miles away from everyone else in their waddle.
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Yep. It will keep on going in the wrong direction. The definition of disoriented.

And they go off in whole groups. There were 15 in the group that walked past me.

So you can believe a film-maker or you can believe a scientist. But your "video evidence" is a joke to me.
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Okay chief, whatever you say.
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Active, purpose-driven pessimism eschews aesthetic comfort and decadence for a prescription to end the problem once and for all. This entails participating in and supporting public institutions focused on maximizing welfare and making the world a better place, and actively advocating pessimistic philosophies, within the constraints of self-preservation.

To be fair a lot of those 'comfortable pessimists' espoused anti-natalistism, something which really would 'end the problem once and for all' once implemented. Neither Schopenhauer, the Buddha, nor Emil Cioran had children.
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No, I'm not excluding us in saying that. I really don't know what to do to be happy etc. I simply don't understand my own body or psychology well enough, and so I stay miserable because I seriously don't understand what to do not to be.

This made me laugh! If it's any comfort I feel the exact same way.

What about drug use? Have you tried that for your misery? What's your thoughts on it as a means to be happy?
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How would you compare/contrast pessimism with philosophical skepticism? It seems skepticism has a firmer philosophical tradition than mere pessimism, imho.

Maybe there could be a progression away from optimistic idealism. Starting with Skepticism going to atheism then to pessimism then to cynicism and finally to nihilism. The only positions beyond nihilism that i can think of are Wall Street banker or national politician. :D
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To be fair a lot of those 'comfortable pessimists' espoused anti-natalistism, something which really would 'end the problem once and for all' once implemented. Neither Schopenhauer, the Buddha, nor Emil Cioran had children.

That doesn't change the fact that they weren't really doing anything else. Not having children isn't especially that impressive.
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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. Part of Dienstag's project is how Pessimism can and has been used as a foundation for political action, and while he himself doesn't provide an appellation to either categories, he nevertheless separates the Pessimists into two groups of what may be described as "Active Pessimism" vs. "Inactive Pessimism" in a strictly political sense.

For Dienstag, Active Pessimists include Leopardi, Freud and Camus, while Inactive Pessimists include Rousseau, Schopenhauer, and Cioran. 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.

Given the descriptions you provide, I would have to argue that you don't exactly understand the thinking behind Pessimism. For any pessimist, the inaction of a 'Comfortable Pessimist" wouldn't lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy of human suffering because human suffering would be unavoidable regardless of any action taken. Likewise, for the "Active Pessimist", there can be no "prescription to end the problem once and for all", as that assumes a linear ending to history which betrays a foundational pillar of Pessimism. 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.
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Active, purpose-driven pessimism eschews aesthetic comfort and decadence for a prescription to end the problem once and for all. This entails participating in and supporting public institutions focused on maximizing welfare and making the world a better place, and actively advocating pessimistic philosophies, within the constraints of self-preservation.

This smacks a bit too much of religion- the Kingdom of God and whatnot. However, these apocalyptics were looking for redemption at the end of their actions- the more they helped, the closer the World to Come would be manifested. What is the Pessimist's incentive?

The ordinary human experience is not to experience so much debilitating guilt that they just compelled at all seconds to helping the poor, the destitute, the downtrodden, etc.. So guilt alone does not impel the majority of people, or even the brilliant Pessimist intellectual, to work at all times for the welfare of others. Is it to impress his fellow man as to what a great person he/she is; in other words pride in how selfless he/she is? Most people do not have such hubris, and if they did, it is much too easy to use it to aggrandize themselves in less draining and more interesting ways. For Schopenhauer, perhaps being a compassionate saintly person was ideal, but he also had a view of character which seemed to indicate that only the truly compassionately "gifted" could ever reach such negation of their own will. Perhaps Schopenhauer was too vain to admit his defect of character, but certainly, he did not achieve this ideal and thus was not of a character of one who had the capacity to be so will-less. Perhaps this is a cop-out- some people have the right stuff, and others do not and thus did not give enough credence to free-will to justify why some people are more compassionate than others rather than everyone, especially the Pessimist, doing his/her part.

There are two main points that I can add besides what was said above:

1.) If the point of alleviating suffering is such that those who were alleviated from some of their suffering would then enjoy their lives more, it would be a contradiction of the very logic by not "indulging" in the very enjoyment of life (the positive goods) that were hoped for in the others' alleviation of suffering. Rather, if we were to only think of others' alleviation of suffering, life would be even more absurdly tormenting than it was originally, as not even its enjoyment, that which is the goal of alleviating others' suffering, would be enjoyed by anyone.

2.) As others commented above, Pessimists inherently think that suffering cannot be eradicated. Much of the sentiments you display seem almost religious in character (Abrahamic religions, mostly). However, this religious exhortation to charitable action works in the context of religion due to the idea of an End of Times- that they are working to bring about the Kingdom of God. Without such a context, a cathartic metaphysical "something to show for it", it is essentially putting a band-aid over a mortal wound and then saying- you must be a good Pessimist, like they used to say you must be a good Christian.
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This is a joke someone told me...

A pessimist sees a dark tunnel.
An optimist sees light at the end of the tunnel.
A realist sees a train.

The train driver sees 3 idiots on the tracks.
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What is the Pessimist's incentive?

Does there need to be an incentive?

I think I've explained to you before how I hate guilting people, but all anyone has to do is imagine the suffering a wild animal feels while being devoured by its predator, or sympathize with the unknown nobody in Ethiopia who hasn't had anything to eat for two weeks.

The guilt one feels is incomparable to the suffering experienced by these sorts of situations. As Peter Unger said, it's "living high and letting die."

Is it to impress his fellow man as to what a great person he/she is; in other words pride in how selfless he/she is?

Not precisely, and I would personally feel bad about intentionally bragging about my adventures in altruism. Although I will admit that at times I feel a sense of superiority that I can only see as justified.

Perhaps this is a cop-out- some people have the right stuff, and others do not and thus did not give enough credence to free-will to justify why some people are more compassionate than others rather than everyone, especially the Pessimist, doing his/her part.

I might be willing to argue that since nobody asked to be born, nobody has an obligation to clean up to the mess and do anything for anyone else.

This of course conflicts with intuitions regarding drowning children, but it's at least coherent.

Scheffler argues that there should be nothing preventing people from doing good, but there is no obligation to do so. Perhaps he's right. I'm not too sure, cases like drowning children make me believe we do have some obligations.

And anyway if we eschew obligations then Schopenhauer and co. have absolutely no right to condemn those who have children, as they have no obligation to care about the welfare of their offspring. It's a double-bladed sword.

Rather, if we were to only think of others' alleviation of suffering, life would be even more absurdly tormenting than it was originally, as not even its enjoyment, that which is the goal of alleviating others' suffering, would be enjoyed by anyone.

I would say that there this sort of enjoyment is not as important than minimizing the suffering these people feel. This goes back to distributive inequality issues. I believe that the angst and ennui that characterized pessimistic philosophies in the past is largely irrelevant when compared to the feelings experienced by those worse-off.

Indeed it seems wrong to feel ennui because one knows someone else is being tormented, because this means one is viewing them as some kind of tarnish in a world they would rather see as good.

2.) As others commented above, Pessimists inherently think that suffering cannot be eradicated.

Without such a context, a cathartic metaphysical "something to show for it", it is essentially putting a band-aid over a mortal wound and then saying- you must be a good Pessimist, like they used to say you must be a good Christian.

Yes, indeed, I have quasi-religious conceptions but they are only inspiration, not legitimate options I think. Like I told TGW, it's not about eradicating suffering, it's about minimizing it.

Perhaps an argument against mine would be that we can never distribute altruistic care equally. There will always be someone "left out" wondering why they didn't get help. If you care about equality then perhaps this is important - maybe it's more important to preserve equality than to minimize suffering. I don't think it's very strong, though, because you yourself would be left out of the equation. And in ideal theory, those worse-off would still recognize that there are those who are equally as worse off as they are.
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I think I've explained to you before how I hate guilting people, but all anyone has to do is imagine the suffering a wild animal feels while being devoured by its predator, or sympathize with the unknown nobody in Ethiopia who hasn't had anything to eat for two weeks.

One can sympathize, but most don't go out of their way to take a plane to these impoverished regions to stop it. That does not seem to happen. It's not prescriptive but descriptive of what appears to be ordinary human behavior. The Pessimist, though shining a light on such sad situations, seems to also have no more innate impulse to take that plane either. Is this hypocrisy? I'll explain that with some of your other quotes.

Not precisely, and I would personally feel bad about intentionally bragging about my adventures in altruism. Although I will admit that at times I feel a sense of superiority that I can only see as justified.

Perhaps there is a thrill in feeling a bit superior, but my guess is most people feel good when they help others. However, this diminishes over time, hence its commodification- almost as a lifestyle choice. The realization that they feel good helping others, makes it so they may volunteer, and perhaps during special times of the year (holidays for example). It's like getting a hit of oxytocin or serotonin. They may exercise, play some game, and then volunteer. However, as soon as it becomes a burden to themselves, whereby their own pursuits are being heavily diminished only to pursue others' welfare, this becomes a negative outcome for themselves and thus loses the incentive- the good feelings are no longer there associated with it.

I would say that there this sort of enjoyment is not as important than minimizing the suffering these people feel. This goes back to distributive inequality issues. I believe that the angst and ennui that characterized pessimistic philosophies in the past is largely irrelevant when compared to the feelings experienced by those worse-off.

Indeed it seems wrong to feel ennui because one knows someone else is being tormented, because this means one is viewing them as some kind of tarnish in a world they would rather see as good.

Again, people just don't work like that- even Pessimists. Let's take homelessness. It is a large structural problem. If you went to certain neighborhoods or regions, you may be approached every five minutes by those asking for food, a ride, and most likely money. You may help one guy, you may help two guys, but this goes back to the commodification that most people unintentionally place the act. It made them feel good- "Today I helped these two people by giving them $20 to eat for the day" each. As soon as it becomes a financial burden, the activity is stopped. However, the real cost to "really" help these people is actually in the tens of thousands of dollars and up to millions of dollars. There is mental health care, substance abuse rehabilitation, housing projects, etc. Even for one person, this is expensive. This actually takes political and community action to help solve, and even then the problems don't just disappear but are cyclical. Anyways, this is just one social ill that is way beyond one person's charity or volunteering or even a lifetime of a Mother Teresa lifestyle. Now, the Mother Teresa types are often religiously inspired- so they much of their actions are trying to model a religious ideal or mandate and even using it to proselytize. They are trying to get a metaphysical change from the action and save souls while they are doing it. The good deeds are bringing about the Kingdom of God or bring about a spiritual change. Some people might genuinely be doing these actions out of some sort of innate capacity for extreme altruism, but this is rare, as Schopenhauer pointed out. However, are you committed to Schopenhauer's metaphysics whereby the saintly compassionate person legitimately lessens their wills? I do not think that is your position. You are trying a more consequentialist/pragmatic approach which is based on some sort of knee-jerk empathy reaction. This just does not happen. The absurd end goal of such a philosophy would be the logic whereby we all suffer equally in the slavish notion of extreme self-denial and altruism. Thus, the goods that ARE available in life are negated for all (or at least the Pessimist). The consolations of goods (especially long-term goods), may be seen as an addiction, but this too is part and parcel of the fact that we suffer. This addiction, while being an addiction (life is just okay enough to deal with), it is still a necessary component right there with the suffering. It cannot be annihilated from the equation. Thus the best one can do is make do with long-term goods, help out as much as possible without it becoming simply a negative slavish force for oneself and strip all long-term goods from one's life (thus making one's goals to help others more meaningful as they too can pursue long-term goods), and finally, to not procreate, and thus end the harm and addiction to the next generation. • 2.1k This actually takes political and community action to help solve, and even then the problems don't just disappear but are cyclical. Anyways, this is just one social ill that is way beyond one person's charity or volunteering or even a lifetime of a Mother Teresa lifestyle. Right, this is why more "sophisticated" consequentialists typically advocate change through institutions and organizations. A mass effort. For the consequentialist, the state of affairs is what matters. What is moral is not always what makes you feel good. Of course, people are needed to actually go out and interact with those in need. But it's similar to a military campaign. For every soldier, there are ten support units behind him. The support units are necessary and important but don't get the "glory" so to speak. They are the units "behind the scenes". I have an acquaintance who decided to switch majors to social work because he wanted to "help people". True, social work will help people, but he was more concerned about human interaction and all that. The "good feelings" of helping people. But let's not forget that impersonal donations of money or labor can do just as much, if not more, good. Giving$20 to a homeless person might make you feel good. Donating this \$20 to a food charity will help far more people, though, and it will guarantee this money will go to good use. But it doesn't "feel" as good...

For Schopenhauer, then, its seems that he was committed to the view that there are some things you just don't do, like murder or rape, but generally being an altruist is entirely voluntary and only worthwhile so long as you experience some form of compassionate aesthetic. The "bonding" moment.

Those who are consequentialists are given an unfair amount of responsibility, since reality is non-ideal and not everyone are consequentialists. For consequentialists, one does not necessarily need to feel sympathy all the time, but merely recognize that their cognitive faculties are preventing them from seriously sympathizing with those in need.

Now, the Mother Teresa types are often religiously inspired- so they much of their actions are trying to model a religious ideal or mandate and even using it to proselytize. They are trying to get a metaphysical change from the action and save souls while they are doing it. The good deeds are bringing about the Kingdom of God or bring about a spiritual change. Some people might genuinely be doing these actions out of some sort of innate capacity for extreme altruism, but this is rare, as Schopenhauer pointed out.

True. Actually Mother Teresa once said that it's not about the people you help, but the relationship between you and God. She cared very little for the suffering of others, it seems. Rather it was merely a way of getting closer to God. Twisted if I say so myself.

Thus the best one can do is make do with long-term goods, help out as much as possible without it becoming simply a negative slavish force for oneself and strip all long-term goods from one's life (thus making one's goals to help others more meaningful as they too can pursue long-term goods), and finally, to not procreate, and thus end the harm and addiction to the next generation.

Generally I agree. We're not robots that can just do something 24/7. Those who do typically do so because they like doing it or like you said they have a metaphysical redemption in mind.

Now that I think of it the greatest threat to my view has got to be the fact that those who are better off could become very much worse off at the flip of a coin, perhaps in the process of doing altruism. I already recognize that one shouldn't be obligated to kill themselves for the benefit of others, that is too extreme of an obligation to be seriously expected. Yet every day we expose ourselves to life-threatening risks, even if we don't recognize it.
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Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Cioran

Labeling these figures generically as "pessimists" is somewhat misleading.

which there is an absent adequate prescription for its residents. In particular, an ethical prescription.

The validity of this statement hangs on the word "adequate," for Schopenhauer and Nietzsche do propose an ethic. Cioran may be different, but that's because his preference for obscurantism elides any attempt to extract coherent philosophical positions from his writings.

He went out partying and auctioning and traveling. Not exactly the life of an ascetic.

Ah, this canard again. I suppose you were about due for an ad hominem attack on poor ol' Arthur!

But wait, I see a shaft of light piercing through the clouds:

But we have to make sure we separate the actions of the man with the theoretical prescriptions he provided.

Good, let's see if you succeed.

This quotation shows his deep aversion towards the world in general

Really? I would say it shows his deep aversion to dying of cholera, a quite natural aversion for a person to have, surely.

a sense of entitlement and superiority.

And entirely justified.

he simultaneously seemed to care very little for it

You're confusing "caring" with "acting." Schopenhauer undoubtedly cared about suffering a great deal. But did he perform heroic acts of altruism sufficient to meet the heavenly standards of a certain darthbarracuda? Perhaps not.

He contemplated getting a wife later in his years. After he died, he left all his money to charity - a noble gesture, yet neither did Schopenhauer have any close friends or family in which this would go to.

So, he's damned if he tries to marry and damned for not having a family to give charity to. He cannot win on your terms.

one in which he no doubt thought himself as residing in the upper echelons

And justifiably so. "What is modesty but hypocritical humility?"

Schopenhauer was able to enjoy himself in a surrounding world of suffering.

I would hesitate to say that Schopenhauer "enjoyed" living. What do you know of the man's inner life? You're just armchair psychologizing here, creating an image of Schopenhauer suitable to reject, for reasons you have yet to make fully clear.

Considering Schopenhauer saw married couples as the ultimate conspirators to the continuation of human suffering, I believe I am justified in criticizing Schopenhauer himself as an inactive bystander (passive accomplice) to a world he otherwise saw as horrible.

But he didn't marry and never desired to have children, so he is not an "accomplice" to human suffering at all, given that, as you admit, its origin is found in procreation.

Schopenhauers’ ethics would seem to largely consist in “not my fucking problem”.

No, his ethic consists in treating other living beings with compassion. You're still desperately trying to paint him as "uncaring," but that impression simply does not stand up to the facts. Another aspect of his philosophy you have neglected to consider, but which is relevant to this discussion, is his determinism. Even if I granted to you that he were an uncaring individual, he could no more change this aspect of his character than the saint could cease to be holy. As Voltaire says, which Schopenhauer quotes somewhere, "we shall leave this world as foolish and as wicked as we found it on our arrival." The truth of what Schopenhauer describes of the world is not made false by the life he lead, decadent or not.

romanticization of something that really is not romantic at all, but dirty, painful, narrowing, and bad.

There may be some romanticization going on, but these men also realize that "suffering is the fleetest animal that bears you to perfection."

True altruists.

Only if you buy what they're selling! In any event, the "help" consists in being reborn as a monk or a lama ad infinitum, which, given the drift of your comments addressed above, you would likely be dissatisfied with as not being "altruistic" enough.

Excessive individuality and self-centeredness, manifesting as isolation and a sense of entitlement/superiority

Excessive in comparison to what?

Acknowledgement of others’ suffering, but a general indifference to it

False.

Schopenhauer’s plush pillows and poodle

Yes, for we all know that whoever advocates asceticism but does not sleep on a cement block next to a charnel ground in the howling wind is the vilest of hypocrites. And, obviously, to hell with animal companionship.

Thus I believe that the “comfortable pessimist” betrays their own descriptive foundations by failing to follow-through and pursue their pessimism to a prescriptive end.

In other words, as per usual, you're disappointed that Schopenhauer et al haven't lived up to their own ideals to the degree that you would like. But this is of no surprise to the pessimist, if we must use that term. Would that the world were a nice and pleasant place! Would that all men behaved like saints and lived up to the highest ethical ideals! But they do not, and it is precisely this realization that makes one a pessimist, generally speaking. Your criticism is therefore entirely impotent because it fails to understand all of what pessimism logically entails.
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You're still desperately trying to paint him as "uncaring," but that impression simply does not stand up to the facts.

Please don't psychoanalyze me, I'm not "desperate" to prove these people as devils.

But he didn't marry and never desired to have children, so he is not an "accomplice" to human suffering at all, given that, as you admit, its origin is found in procreation.

Not having children isn't too impressive. He was an accomplice to suffering in the same way standing by while a child drowns in water is criminal neglect. Once you know what life entails, sitting on your plush pillows is neglect. With the stakes as high as they are, allowing becomes rather similar to simply doing.

Excessive in comparison to what?

In comparison to what he could have done.

False.

True. X-)

Yes, for we all know that whoever advocates asceticism but does not sleep on a cement block next to a charnel ground in the howling wind is the vilest of hypocrites. And, obviously, to hell with animal companionship.

It's pretty obvious visiting a whorehouse is not the ideal of an ascetic.

Would that all men behaved like saints and lived up to the highest ethical ideals! But they do not, and it is precisely this realization that makes one a pessimist, generally speaking. Your criticism is therefore entirely impotent because it fails to understand all of what pessimism logically entails.

And so what does it "fully entail"? Please enlighten me.

I'm not surprised that these people didn't live up to ethical standards. But I'm disappointed that they didn't even seem to try given what they obviously understood about life.

Funny how you seem to focus only on Schopenhauer when I mentioned other pessimists, like Leopardi, who intentionally isolated themselves from everyone else.
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I'm not "desperate" to prove these people as devils.

So what are you trying to prove, hmm? That you're "disappointed that they didn't even seem to try given what they obviously understood about life?" That's it? That's a waste of breath to point out. If in your estimation they didn't "try" hard enough, then so what? They might agree with you on that point! We all fall short, every last one of us. To be disappointed in what one cannot change is foolish.

Not having children isn't too impressive.

The claim isn't about its impressiveness.

in the same way standing by while a child drowns in water is criminal neglect

I don't recall any incidents in his life that are in any way comparable to this.

Once you know what life entails, sitting on your plush pillows is neglect.

The pillow one sleeps on makes not one iota of difference, positive or negative, to the sufferings going on in the world. If a rock were his pillow, is he suddenly absolved? If he went down to the Main river, found a nice stone, and replaced his "plush" pillow with it, is the world suddenly a better place? What pillow do you sleep on? Judge not lest ye be judged.

In comparison to what he could have done.

Which would have been what? The kind of free will you seem to be attributing to Schopenhauer he would reject: "Let us imagine a man who, while standing on the street, would say to himself: It is six o'clock in the evening, the working day is over. Now I can go for a walk, or I can go to the club; I can also climb up the tower to see the sunset; I can go to the theater; I can visit this friend or that one; indeed, I also can run out of the gate, into the wide world, and never return. All of this is strictly up to me, in this I have complete freedom. But still I shall do none of these things now, but with just as free a will I shall go home to my wife."

True.

The figures you mentioned were not "indifferent" to suffering. One would be hard pressed to find a more false claim one could make about them.

Funny how you seem to focus only on Schopenhauer when I mentioned other pessimists, like Leopardi, who intentionally isolated themselves from everyone else.

It's not funny, since the vast majority of your post was about Schopenhauer.

And so what does it "fully entail"? Please enlighten me.

I don't have any interest in trying to define pessimism here. I'm content simply to point out that one of the things it entails is that humans do not behave as they ought or would like.

But I'm disappointed that they didn't even seem to try given what they obviously understood about life.

So why dwell on what cannot be changed? Focus on living morally in your own life, which is the only one you have any control over.
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The claim isn't about its impressiveness.

Rather it's about effectiveness and direction.

I don't recall any incidents in his life that are in any way comparable to this.

I'm not saying there were any incidents like this. I'm saying location and distance have no bearing on our knowledge of suffering. What difference does it make if the person is next door or down the street? What about a few miles away?

The pillow one sleeps on makes not one iota of difference, positive or negative, to the sufferings going on in the world. If a rock were his pillow, is he suddenly absolved? If he went down to the Main river, found a nice stone, and replaced his "plush" pillow with it, is the world suddenly a better place? What pillow do you sleep on? Judge not lest ye be judged.

Well actually technically it would make a difference, as he could have used that money for better use. But that's not really the point. The point is that Schopenhauer and co. all seemed to focus on their own comfort more than anyone else's. And I argued for this by pointing out his plush pillows and poodle, his want for aesthetic and his love of nature.

Which would have been what? The kind of free will you seem to be attributing to Schopenhauer he would reject

So not only was Schopenhauer a determinist, you're saying he was a fatalist as well?

The figures you mentioned were not, in any sense, "indifferent" to suffering. One would be hard pressed to find a more false claim one could make about them.

Well, remember the point of the OP, man. You're the one who is taking this personally and claiming I'm attacking these people in an ad hominem fashion.

I'm not, at least not directly. I'm pointing out how it can't really be denied that they were, in some sense, limited in what they accomplished to actually do something about the suffering in the world. They were not bodhisattvas. The claim is that their pessimism was comfortable/convenient because, as I see it, they did not follow through with their pessimism. One wonders how much they actually accomplished to reduce suffering in comparison to all those comparatively-optimistic social workers who didn't know two things about metaphysics but were more effective in reducing suffering as a whole than any one of these great thinkers.

To summarize, then, I'll quote Adorno: "To write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric." The natural world as a whole is like an Auschwitz. Pursuing things like philosophy or art that have no real contribution to the rest of the world as a whole, exclusively, means to prioritize oneself over another.

Again, like I mentioned earlier, Leopardi was a loner and an egoist, who thought being true to himself was all that mattered. Cioran obviously was not a public figure, just more of a shadowy outsider. Schopenhauer didn't just run away from cholera like any rational person would, he went further and called himself a choleraphobe, as if nobody else was, and focused on his own career and fame (especially later in life). Nietzsche was all sorts of crazy, maybe he can be given a break in this case. Camus didn't put two and two together to realize it is birth, and not just suicide, that are true philosophical questions. Even Zapffe decided to stick to climbing mountains all day and for some strange reason found ecology to be very important.

There is nothing wrong with my statement that these men could have done more. Whether they were obligated to do so is a totally different argument, although personally I think they were.

So why dwell on what cannot be changed? Focus on living morally in your own life, which is the only one you have any control over.

...Because I find this to be important and know that my own influence extends beyond my own body in the sense of persuasion.

-

Off topic question: if I remember correctly, you are at university, no? Do you have any thoughts on why pessimistic thinkers typically don't get taught as much as other thinkers? Or generally, why do you think pessimism is not as widely accepted as presumably you might wish it to be?
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What difference does it make if the person is next door or down the street? What about a few miles away?

The difference is that I may not be able to do anything to help the person miles away. This ought to be obvious. If one sees a child drowning, then one if obliged to save it, as the figures you mention would no doubt try to do. But children likely drown by the thousands each year, all over the planet. One cannot hope to save all of them. The magnitude of suffering is so great that there is extremely little one can concretely do to alleviate it in any meaningful sense. And why should the alleviation of one's own suffering somehow count for less than the alleviation of someone else's? Suffering is suffering, so if you are some kind of consequentialist, as I am wont to assume about you based on this discussion, then it shouldn't matter the person from whom suffering is taken away.

as he could have used that money for better use

So you're a utilitarian. Great, but he wasn't. Nor am I.

The point is that Schopenhauer and co. all seemed to focus on their own comfort more than anyone else's.

Even if this were true, again, so what? That shouldn't matter for a utilitarian. Also, what pillow do you sleep on?

So not only was Schopenhauer a determinist, you're saying he was a fatalist as well?

You dodged my question here.

One wonders how much they actually accomplished to reduce suffering in comparison to all those comparatively-optimistic social workers who didn't know two things about metaphysics but were more effective in reducing suffering as a whole than any one of these great thinkers.

Again, you're judging them on utilitarian grounds, which they would reject.

I'll quote Adorno: "To write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric."

Adorno is an idiot. To not write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric. The existence of poetry is a sign and consequence of civilizational and cultural health. Barbarism is the antithesis of civilization and so the antithesis of the arts and poetry. Auschwitz was therefore an enemy of poetry, such that a legitimate repudiation of the former would be to write the latter.

Pursuing things like philosophy or art that have no real contribution to the rest of the world as a whole, exclusively, means to prioritize oneself over another.

Poppycock. If you really believed this, you would cease posting on a forum like this. Or perhaps you will admit to your own hypocrisy, in which case your criticisms of Schopenhauer et al lose all their force.

There is nothing wrong with my statement that these men could have done more.

Yes, you're a utilitarian.

Because I find this to be important

Why?

if I remember correctly, you are at university, no?

Unfortunately, I am.

Do you have any thoughts on why pessimistic thinkers typically don't get taught as much as other thinkers?

Because most college professors are optimistic, left leaning progressives. I will say that there is a certain kind of pessimism which some of them exude, owing to the influence of certain postmodernist hacks, which I absolutely abhor. It's not "classical pessimism," as you put it, but a pessimism about the merits and achievements of science, Western civilization, truth, reason, the enlightenment, democracy, and so on.
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