Friday, October 29, 2021

Adventures in the Old Atheism, Part VI: Schopenhauer

Our series has examined how atheists of earlier generations often exhibited a higher degree of moral and/or metaphysical gravitas than the sophomoric New Atheists of more recent vintage.  As we’ve seen, this is true of Nietzsche, Sartre, Freud, Marx, and even Woody Allen.  There is arguably even more in the way of metaphysical and moral gravitas to be found in our next subject, Arthur Schopenhauer.  Plus, I think it has to be said, the best hair.  So let’s have a look, if you’re willing.

Heavy meta

Schopenhauer’s magnum opus The World as Will and Idea famously begins with the sentence: “The world is my idea.”  As opening lines go, that ain’t bad.  It’s a grabber.  What does it mean?  The thesis is the Kantian one that the world as we know it in experience is not reality as it is in itself, but only reality as represented.  (Vorstellung, translated as “idea” in this line and in the book’s title, is sometimes translated “representation” instead.)  Schopenhauer’s philosophy is essentially a continuation of Kant’s, though also, he thought, a partial correction of it.

The correction involves a greater openness than Kant exhibited toward heavy-duty speculative metaphysics.  To be sure, Schopenhauer followed Kant to some extent in the project of clipping the traditional metaphysician’s wings.  He has much of interest to say about the Principle of Sufficient Reason, having devoted his first book to the topic.  On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason identifies four aspects of reality, each of which is intelligible in its own way: the phenomenal world of physical objects; the logical relations between concepts and propositions; time and space as described in terms of arithmetic and geometry; and the self considered as the subject of acts of the will.  Schopenhauer regarded the Principle of Sufficient Reason as a unifying abstraction from the principles of intelligibility governing these four domains.  But like a good Kantian (and unlike rationalists such as Leibniz), he took the principle to apply only within the phenomenal world, so that it couldn’t ground an argument for the existence of God as cause of the phenomenal world.  Schopenhauer also had a high regard for Plato, and for the Theory of Forms in particular.  But the Forms too do not in his view reflect reality as it is in itself, so that Schopenhauer is no more a Platonic metaphysician than he is a rationalist one. 

Still, he did not agree with Kant that we could know nothing of reality as it is itself (i.e. the noumenal world, to use the Kantian jargon).  Schopenhauer thought we could know something of it, though not via speculative metaphysical arguments.  Rather, we know it from consciousness of ourselves, and what we know of it, specifically, is that it is will or volition – it is the impulse or striving we know in awareness of our own actions.

In order properly to understand this, we need immediately to note some crucial qualifications.  You might wonder whether Schopenhauer is making a claim to the effect that the nature of all reality as it is in itself is to be found in what you experience when (say) you will to reach your hand into the bag of Doritos for another chip.  That would indeed sound odd.  But he is not saying that, or not quite.  In experiencing this action, you experience it as involving several distinct objects and events – you, your hand, the bag of Doritos, the particular chip you take hold of, the moment of deciding to grab it, the later moment of actually taking hold of it, and so on.  All of that reflects merely the phenomenal world, not the noumenal world.  It is all just the world as it appears to you, not the world as it is in itself.  We catch a glimpse of the world as it is in itself only when we subtract all of that, and focus on the residue that remains – the sheer impulse toward acting that is common to this action and all others.

But it is not just human action that reflects this will or volition.  It is, for Schopenhauer, evident in instinctual animal behavior, in a plant’s growing toward the light of the sun, and in a stone’s falling toward the earth.  Will as he understands it is not – as it is for, say, Aquinas – necessarily associated with intellect.  It is a more general notion, similar to what Aquinas means by appetite, a tending toward activity.  This might seem to entail finality or teleology (as it does for Aquinas), but for Schopenhauer, will is blind.  It simply aims, but not toward any good.  It is a pointless striving or impulse.

Reality bites

This is the deep reason for Schopenhauer’s famous pessimism.  It might seem, at first glance, that Schopenhauer’s metaphysics is broadly idealistic or even pantheistic in character.  The noumenal will he posits is a single immaterial, undifferentiated, spaceless, timeless, uncaused reality.  For the notions of differentiation, materiality, space, time, and causation apply only to the phenomenal world.  That might make the noumenal world seem God-like, especially given that “will” suggests, at first hearing, a mind-like reality.  And since the noumenal world is just the same thing as the phenomenal world, but considered in its true, inner nature, it might seem that Schopenhauer is committed to the view that all being is identical to this mind-like or God-like reality.

But, again, will as Schopenhauer understands it is not associated with intellect and it does not aim at the good or indeed at anything.  Blind and pointless, it can never find satisfaction.  This, in Schopenhauer’s view, is the deep explanation of all suffering.  Suffering is the inevitable manifestation of the pointlessness of the blind will or aimless striving that underlies all reality.  The phenomenal world of our experience is malign because the noumenal world beneath it is malign.  Hence, though initially it might seem that Schopenhauer is committed to something comparable to Hindu pantheism (and he did indeed regard the Upanishads with respect), it is really an atheistic Buddhism, with its notion of tanha or craving as the source of all suffering, that is a closer Eastern analogue of his position.

There is in Schopenhauer’s atheism, then, no cheap attribution of human unhappiness to religion, or to ignorance of science, or to bad political structures, the usual scapegoats posited by modern secularists.  The source of unhappiness goes much deeper than all of that and would simply reappear in other forms however secularized we become, however much knowledge we acquire, and however we reform our institutions.  Indeed, Schopenhauer had some respect for religions like Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism insofar as they recognized suffering to be simply part of the human condition, and tried to mitigate it.

Say what you will about Schopenhauer’s metaphysics, it is not the superficial scientism of pop physics bestsellers and the New Atheism, and it does not yield the chirpy optimism of moronic slogans like the notorious “There’s probably no God.  Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” 

Schopenhauer?  I barely know her!

When I speak of Schopenhauer’s moral gravitas, I am emphatically not talking about his personal moral character.  He was not a nice guy.  True, he did talk the talk of compassion and asceticism, and he was bound to develop such an ethics given his metaphysics.  But his personal life was no model of either.  Ascetic self-denial was hardly on display in his self-promoting attempt to draw students way from Hegel at the University of Berlin, by scheduling his lectures at the same time as those given by the then far more famous philosopher.  (The result was famously disastrous for Schopenhauer.)  Much worse, and the opposite of compassionate, was the notorious episode of his throwing a woman down the stairwell outside the door to his rooms, because he judged that she was making too much noise.  (She was seriously injured and he had to pay her compensation for the rest of her life.)

Still, he did recommend an austere morality, rather than the libertinism that many people (wrongly) suppose must follow from an atheistic metaphysics.  Like a Buddhist, Schopenhauer regarded resistance to our cravings, rather than indulgence of them, as the surest way to remedy suffering.  Now, for Schopenhauer, the will that is the source of suffering is to be conceived of, first and foremost, as the will to live.  You might think, then, that he would recommend suicide, but that is the reverse of the truth.  Once again echoing Buddhism, he saw suicide as in fact just one more indulgence of desire, and thus to be avoided rather than commended.

Then there is sex, which exists for the sake of reproduction, the generation of new living things.  Everyone knows this, of course, but the deep irrationality into which the indulgence of disordered desire has plunged modern people has led them to adopt the idiotic pretense that procreation is somehow merely incidental to sex.  Schopenhauer was under no such illusions.  The power and unruliness of the sexual drive was, for him, the clearest manifestation of the will to live and the way it brings about unhappiness.  It mercilessly pushes us into romantic illusions, irrational decisions, and the compulsive scratching of an itch that only ever reappears, all for the sake of bringing about new people who will in turn only suffer the way we do. 

Schopenhauer’s chapter on “The Metaphysics of the Love of the Sexes” in The World as Will and Idea is worth quoting from at length:

This longing, which attaches the idea of endless happiness to the possession of a particular woman, and unutterable pain to the thought that this possession cannot be attained – this longing and this pain cannot obtain their material from the wants of an ephemeral individual; but they are the sighs of the spirit of the species… The species alone has infinite life, and therefore is capable of infinite desires, infinite satisfaction, and infinite pain.  But these are here imprisoned in the narrow breast of a mortal.  No wonder, then, if such a breast seems like to burst, and can find no expression for the intimations of infinite rapture or infinite misery with which it is filled…

The satisfied passion also leads oftener to unhappiness than to happiness.  For its demands often conflict so much with the personal welfare of him who is concerned that they undermine it, because they are incompatible with his other circumstances, and disturb the plan of life built upon them.  Nay, not only with external circumstances is love often in contradiction, but even with the lover’s own individuality, for it flings itself upon persons who, apart from the sexual relation, would be hateful, contemptible, and even abhorrent to the lover.  But so much more powerful is the will of the species than that of the individual that the lover shuts his eyes to all those qualities which are repellent to him, overlooks all, ignores all, and binds himself for ever to the object of his passion – so entirely is he blinded by that illusion, which vanishes as soon as the will of the species is satisfied, and leaves behind a detested companion for life…

Because the passion depended upon an illusion, which represented that which has only value for the species as valuable for the individual, the deception must vanish after the attainment of the end of the species.  The spirit of the species which took possession of the individual sets it free again.  Forsaken by this spirit, the individual falls back into its original limitation and narrowness, and sees with wonder that after such a high, heroic, and infinite effort nothing has resulted for its pleasure but what every sexual gratification affords.  Contrary to expectation, it finds itself no happier than before.  It observes that it has been the dupe of the will of the species. (Haldane and Kemp translation)

Far better to be free of the whole thing, Schopenhauer thought, though he was far from free of it himself.  In his introduction to an anthology of Schopenhauer’s essays, R. J. Hollingdale writes of Schopenhauer’s many unromantic sexual encounters:

The strength of his sexual drive was certainly considerable in itself, and when he condemns it as the actual centre and intensest point of the ‘will to live’ he speaks from experience: his fundamental feeling towards it was undoubtedly that he was its victim, that he was ‘in thrall’ to it.  In his best recorded moments Schopenhauer understands more vividly than anyone the suffering involved in life and the need felt by all created things for love and sympathy: at these moments he knew and hated the coldness and egoism of his own sensuality.  (p. 34)

Naturally, Schopenhauer goes too far.  But his excessive pessimism about matters of sex counterbalances the excessive optimism of the age we live in now, which absolutely, foot-stompingly, fingers-in-the-ears refuses to listen even to the mildest criticism of any sexual preference or behavior as long as it is consensual.  That our unprecedented hedonism and depravity have given rise to the literal insanity of denying that the distinction between the sexes is objectively real would not have surprised the likes of Plato and Aquinas, and perhaps not Schopenhauer either.

Wagner variations

A philosophy can be profound even when it is ultimately mistaken, and Schopenhauer’s is both.  In his essay “On Suicide,” he notes that “Christianity carries in its innermost heart the truth that suffering (the Cross) is the true aim of life.”  But Christianity nevertheless insists that “all things [are] very good,” so that suffering serves an “ascetic” purpose in properly orienting us toward the ultimate good that will redeem it.  Schopenhauer shares Christianity’s view that suffering is central to human existence and ought to be faced ascetically, but he rejects the thesis that all things are very good.  Hence whereas Christian asceticism is motivated by hope, Schopenhauer’s is motivated by despair.  But he captures a deep truth in facing up to the reality that if there is no God, despair is the only honest response.

Powerful evidence of the profundity of Schopenhauer’s philosophy is afforded by the influence it famously had on the music of Richard Wagner.  (Try to imagine – without laughing – a New Atheist, or even a more serious thinker like Russell or Hume, inspiring such music.)

The Schopenhauerian themes that the will to live that underlies all reality is most powerfully manifest in sexual desire, that lovers’ yearning to melt into one another echoes the oneness of all things underlying the phenomenal world, that the happiness lovers hope for nevertheless cannot be realized, that suffering and death are their inevitable tragic fate – such themes are given palpable expression in Wagner’s sublime Tristan und Isolde, and The Ring bears the mark of Schopenhauer’s influence as well. 

This is fitting, since Schopenhauer held that of all forms of expression, music, which operates below the level of the conceptualizations that apply only to the phenomenal realm, best conveys our intuition of the blind will that is the true nature of the world as it is in itself.  In any event, a man whose thought could inspire the Liebestod has an undeniable claim to being a great philosopher, and for my money, probably the greatest of atheist philosophers.


  1. Ed, have you watched Tristan and Isolde? I did not know that you went to operas. Eileen and I saw Tannhauser at the Dorothy Chandler pavilion last weekend.

    1. Hi Tim, it's been a while since Rachel and I were able to go -- since before we had kids, in fact. But yes, we used to go, especially for Wagner. Don't think we ever saw Tristan live, though (Tannhauser, yes -- wonderful!)

    2. I understand, Ed. Eileen and I love going to Opera and other concerts--she was the business manager at Claremont Community School of Business when I met her. I have been fortunate to go to some of the great opera houses--the Met in New York, Sydney Opera house, the Garnier in Paris, Royal Opera house in London, Budapest Opera House, and we saw my fellow Welshman Bryn Terfel perform in the Vienna Opera house. As good as operas are, they are not as good as the best sacred music. Our favorite music experiences in mainland Europe have been a Bach mass in the Royal chapel in Vienna, and 80 minutes of Gregorian chant in Notre Dame about 2 years before the fire.
      We have done Il Trovatore and Tannhauser this season and have Cinderella and Aida to go but the highlight of this season will still probably be Bach's St. Matthew's Passion.
      Regards to Rachel and hope you can do more opera in the future.

    3. Tim
      Terfel has an incredible voice. His two favorite singers are Elvis and Sintra.

    4. The Met (NYC) did Die Meistersinger today. A former colleague sang in the chorus for the first time, and some friends from Indiana attended.

      Does anyone have any views on the relation of characters' utterances to authors' views? Is there a basis in theory for inferring from Hans Sachs' warning in the last act about harmful effects of foreign art, and his promotion of "the masters" and "our holy German art", that these views are views of Wagner as author? Can we justifiably infer from "character says" to "author means"?

  2. Existential Comics is a webcomic that focuses on philosophers: here's a link to all of the comics that feature Schopenhauer. With the context of this blog post, they're pretty funny!

  3. Ed, I must say that your posts on old atheism are like wine because it only gets better with time! Also, I liked the way you wrote this one. Nice and energetic writing!

  4. Dr Feser, you write:
    "There is in Schopenhauer’s atheism, then, no cheap attribution of human unhappiness to religion, or to ignorance of science, or to bad political structures, the usual scapegoats posited by modern secularists. The source of unhappiness goes much deeper than all of that and would simply reappear in other forms however secularized we become, however much knowledge we acquire, and however we reform our institutions. Indeed, Schopenhauer had some respect for religions like Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism insofar as they recognized suffering to be simply part of the human condition, and tried to mitigate it."

    I'm not sure what you're saying is what Schopenhauer actually subscribes to. He certainly made known his disgust of the actions of religious people:
    "Schopenhauer was fervently opposed to slavery. Speaking of the treatment of slaves in the slave-holding states of the United States, he condemned "those devils in human form, those bigoted, church-going, strict sabbath-observing scoundrels, especially the Anglican parsons among them" for how they "treat their innocent black brothers who through violence and injustice have fallen into their devil's claws". The slave-holding states of North America, Schopenhauer writes, are a "disgrace to the whole of humanity".[Parerga and Paralipomena, Vol. 2, "On Ethics," §114, trans. Payne (p. 212)]

    And we know from so much historical evidence how, despite the softly, softly oft-repeated clich├ęd recitations of the Catholic magisterium on the divorced [especially women], homosexuality, transgenderism [to mention a few], such people have been in reality pilloried, hounded, vilified, possibly excommunicated, and condemned to hell simply for being human, even to this day. Slavery is by no means the only miserable result of god-inspired religious belief to befall humanity.

    His [Schopenhauer's] apparent 'respect' for Christianity is by no means all that clear as you purport it to be. He was after all, an atheist.

    You also claimed that: "Schopenhauer shares Christianity’s view that suffering is central to human existence and ought to be faced ascetically, but he rejects the thesis that all things are very good."

    In support of that claim you cite a previous post of yours included in hypertext. Nowhere in that citation of yours is Schopenhauer mentioned. There was considerable attention to what Fr. Francis J. Remler had to say on the matter, but, no Schopenhauer at all. This as I understand it is a somewhat dishonest and deceptive in intent.

    Is this the norm for Catholic apologetics?

    1. Papalinton,

      One can be disgusted with the actions of certain "religious people" without thinking badly of all religious and what ideals they preach.

      Also, I couldn't help but notice you snuck in an anti-Catholic rant in there and accuse Feser of dishonesty just because you didn't like his interpretation of Schopenhauer. Perhaps you're the one who lacks respect for Christianity, bigot.

    2. How can "Indeed, Schopenhauer had some respect for religions like Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism insofar as they recognized suffering to be simply part of the human condition, and tried to mitigate it."

      Be understood to mean that Arthur liked christians? He sure hated us, as he did most people, except for the ascetic saints and Jesus Himself, and Dr. Feser is clearly aware of that, as the quote shows.

      But it is good that you are interested on Schopenhauer, Paps, he was sure one of best atheists, maybe the best, and also one of the better philosophers. That is a good man to read.

    3. Geez Paps can't we enjoy the high atheism of the old guard without you ruining it with yer lolcow Gnu nonsense?

      So Schopenhauer was disgusted with the hypocrisy of individual religious persons in their support for Chattel Slavery. The incongruity between the high ideals of Christianity vs their individual immoral cruelties offended him. Well good for him I sympathize 100%! Good on him! I feel the same way when I see modern leftists kvetch over a future Supreme Court justice allegedly jumping on top of a woman and scaring her yet care nothing for a young girl raped in a bathroom because her attacker claimed to be Trans and was wearing a skirt! Metoo apparently only applies to liberal women attacked by conservative cis gendered men according to them. Any other women to the slight right of Elizabeth Warren who is rapped by a soyboi in high heels is clearly asking for it according to that lot! Feminism is dead!

      This hypocrisy sickens me too. As does the hypocrisy of Gnu Atheists and their naked contempt for rational discourse. I mean don't you have better to offer than mere emotional arguments? I can make them too(in fact I just did) but other than inflaming the passions and triggering outrage how does any of this tell us wither or not Classic Theism is true or not? Or wither or not Schopenhauer's version of Atheism is rationally valid?
      How does this tell us wither or not moderate realism is better than Schopenhauer's idealism and or moderate anti-realism? It doesn't it is a distraction from a species of low Atheism that has nothing but contempt for rational discourse.

      Geez man would it kill you to learn philosophy?

      > Slavery is by no means the only miserable result of god-inspired religious belief to befall humanity.

      It was abolished in Christian countries thanks to the actions of Christian activists but ironically it still exists today in Atheist countries like Communist China.

      See Paps? I can make cheap shots too? Now offer us better you silly Kangaroo before you succeed in boring me to death.

      PS cue Freethinker swooping in to white knight ye with some boring discourse on how "mean"I am. That is all Gnu Atheists can offer emotion based discourse. I CRAVE the rational challenges of the Old Guard Atheists. They where challenging. Your lot is not.

    4. It’s pretty clear that the hyper link is describing Christianity’s view, hence why it’s under “Christianity’s view” and not “Schopenhauer shares.” Seems like you jumped the gun a bit just to score a rhetorical point, but now you can see how that worked out in order to do better next time.

    5. Papalinton,

      You start with a non sequitur and end with an obvious straw man argument.

      The quotation you gave proves only that the philosopher despised cruel religious people, it says precisely nothing about whether he ascribed the evil of slavery more generally to religion as such, which was the point at issue. Your attempt to blame slavery on religion is almost amusing, since history actually shows human motivations to use and abuse others are obviously plentiful quite apart from any religious or ideological rationalisation---though no doubt such rationalisations will be eagerly found after greed, laziness and the love of power have done their job.

      As for divorced, homosexual and transgender people being condemned to hell by the Church "for being human", this manages to be wrong even where it comes close to a truth. It is true that certain schools of thought in Western Catholicism tended to follow Augustine for too long in assuming that fallen humanity was worthy of Hell even apart from personal sin, due to inheriting a sinful nature and purported "original guilt", at least until accepting grace. But this applied to all humans, not just those you identified. Worse still for your argument, the Church's official teaching has never said that spontaneous human desires or feelings, however disordered, are "actual sins". Quite the contrary. They may be considered temptations, but not sins in the proper sense. Only chosen actions can be considered actual sins. And particular chosen actions are not, by definition, unavoidable aspects of being human.

      Finally, the hyperlink you criticise as dishonestly implying evidence of Schopenhauer's view, starts at the words "Christianty's view that ...". How, exactly, did you fail to notice that? The linked article is precisely what the link claims it is, and the link does not make the claim you pull out of thin air.

      One cannot help but ask, is this the norm for atheistic argumentation?

    6. The new atheists are so boring. Adolescents.

  5. Awesome post. It is interesting that a so-bleak vision of the world can have a lot of beauty in it. While Arthur thought is terrifying, it does have a lot of parts that ring true. That these old-atheists can produce that effect sometimes while having a so-wrong foundation speaks well of their capacity of observing how life is. Their more progressive brothers are just silly, though.

    And your post made me think, Dr. Feser: was not Schopenhauer vulnerable to a augustinian proof type of argument? I never thought of that before but the idea that the blind Will could produce the platonic forms level and them the phenomenal level(as Schopenhauer defended) just does not add up. The idea that all striving is actually non-rational also does not fit.

    1. I think Schopenhauer is vulnerable to many of the same objections to which Kant is vulnerable. A common objection which goes back to (at least) Hegel and relates to Platonic theory is that Kant has no way of accounting for so-called 'natural kinds', for these involve modal claims that cannot plausibly be grounded in the conditions of possible experience (which, per Kantian epistemological principles, is the only way to account for necessary synthetic truths).

    2. @John

      Arthur system actually could do the trick, i guess. To him, between the Will and the phenomenal world there is a world of platonic forms that could be know by the usual method* and also by art. The problem i see is really how the Will can generate these forms.

      This is truly a problem for Kant, though. Good point there. I think that you are the guy that directed me to a ver good book on the Critique of Pure Reason(and thanks for that!) but i don't remember this objection being discussed.


      I did stop to read a bit, not most since the focus is mostly Kastrup, and the diferent ways the platonic tradition and Schopenhauer see the relation between intelect and reality was a very interesting comparison. The german failure to diferentiate intellect and will is a cool insight that makes a lot of sense, never thought of that.

      *i guess that one could understand they by seeing the world, don't remember a direct reference to that

    3. @ Talmid,

      Fair points about Schopenhauer potentially avoiding the objection; I'm admittedly not very familiar with him. I believe you're correct about me recommending you a book on Kant's CPR.

      I'm curious if you think Schopenhauer can avoid a different objection sometimes raised against Kant. For Kant, we cannot directly determine the necessary and universal structure of the world of experience; rather, we have to first investigate the necessary conditions governing possible experience, which allows us to establish a metaphysics of experience.

      Now, how is our knowledge of the latter conditions to be established in a way that is consistent with Kantian epistemology? Such conditions are certainly not merely analytic truths (and if it's insisted that they are analytic, then only analytic conclusions will follow, in which case Kant will have failed to establish synthetic necessary truths about the empirical world).

      On the other hand, if such synthetic conditions governing possible experience are purportedly justified empirically, then by Kant's own principles they cannot ground necessary / universal knowledge, because Kant essentially accepts the Humean thesis that experience can only establish contingent / particular truths.

      Finally, if the conditions of possible experience are themselves synthetic a priori, then they cannot be established by direct rational insight (and if it's said they can be so established, why can't rational insight provide justification for synthetic a priori truths about the world directly, without some detour through transcendental conditions?). Yet, if they cannot be established by direct insight, don't we require a higher-order transcendental justificaiton, which seemingly entails a vicious regress (since the same dilemma will appear for higher-order conditions)?

    4. Not sure if this would help, but Ed argues for an analytic a posteriori here, at least with regard to knowledge of God.

      I take it that for Ed's position to be possible, he would have to reject Kant's "Humean thesis that experience can only establish contingent / particular truths."

    5. Hi Daniel,

      I would agree there's not any compelling reason to think it's true that experience can only justify beliefs that are contingently true. But Kant explicitly accepts that position (I can't remember the exact passages, but I believe he says as much early in the CPR), so I don't think that's going to help him. More generally, I don't think there's any great difficulty here if we accept the contemporary rationalist thesis that apparent necessity is sufficient to confer pro tanto justification for synthetic propositions (e.g. something like Laurence BonJour's view in In Defense of Pure Reason); but if something like that is defensible then it's not clear why we'd have any motivation to take the Kantian route toward the justification of synthetic a priori propositions.

    6. @John

      I checked out the original thread and it was indeed you who gave me the recommendation. Thanks! Kant was, in a way, more and less impressive that what i thought at the same time.

      About the objection, i don't know if it works out, it makes me think. Kant used a diferent methodology to try to reach the conditions of experience: transcendental arguments. While rationalists like Spinoza and Leibniz tried to find their synthetic priori truths by a geometrical method(using definitions and what flowed from they), the prussian tried to see what had to be true of our minds to we to be capable of having the experiences we have. Kant did argue that what the rationalists were doing did not work because they were essencially creating definitions out of thin air and never really connecting their reasoning with the real world, so their conclusions had no real connection with reality either.

      So Kant actually did use a completely diferent method that what was being done by empiricists and rationalists, if you are stuck in that little box them he was very bright. By focusing on experience he could escape the rationalist problem of thoughts having no connection with reality and by focusing on what HAD to be the case to experience to be what it his, he could escape the humean problem of experience only getting you to contingent truths. Along with the synthetic/analitic distinction, Kant use of transcendental arguments is probably his best idea.

      This is the interesting part, though: the transcendental argument method CAN be used to know reality directly, i do see older thinkers like Aquinas using arguments that are similar to they, the five ways for instance. It is just that Kant demanded that we have a explanation of how our minds can know reality while he was a conceptualist, so the whole "our minds shape experience using these necessary categories" was the best way he had of getting necessary truths and sorta saving science. If you take away his silly demand that reason judges if reason works, them i don't see why accept transcendental idealism(which is what really prevents we of using a non-kantian route to know the world). At least that is how it looks like to me.

      About how Schopenhauer fits: probably like Kant, as far as i know, his epistemology is similar. He probably is more vulnerable because his method to know the Will his empirically looking at his internal states(which can only give us contigent knowledge) and projecting this to the Thing-Itself.

      I admit that your argument was not that easy to me to follow, so i can be wrong here.

  6. Always the enabler, eh, Mister Geocon? Pedophile Catholic priests being protected by the Vatican out of reach of the law and justice. [Mister Geocon: "Oh! These priests are terrible people. But the Vatican and the Popes know what they are doing. And it is best for the Church overall that the pedophile priests never see the inside of a prison because they are, after all, our own beloved clergy. They just erred a little. No harm done."]

    The destructively corrosive and insensitive platitudes that pervade the very essence of Western religion, such as, 'Love the homosexual but abhor the act', are tantamount to hate speech as surely as threatening people who don't follow your creed with burning in hell for all eternity because they supplicate to the wrong God.

    What is there to respect about Christianity with that horrific deeply embedded mindframe? No, Mister Geocon, you don't get to tell me about what respect entails, not by a long chalk.

    People equally, globally, are voting with their feet on the fate of Christianity into the future.

    By and large, people are simply tired and fed up with todays religious nonsense and shenanigans, particularly religious edicts that seek to control and damn those in our community who, by dint of genetic happenstance, through no fault of their own, happen to be gay, of indeterminate sex or bisexual. Yet you, as an enabler of the old farts club of the Magisterium, continue to perpetuate the utterly discriminatory bile against these people because they apparently offend the Lord with how they live and express love with each other in their lives. Who gives you the right to tell others how to live their lives?

    I say, enough is enough. Respect is earned. The Church is inexorably losing or has lost not only any sense of respect it might have had once but is clearly losing influence in the day-to-day affairs of the community. This trend is in part attributable to the utterly recalcitrant nature of the Church towards the few in our midst that were unfortunately born either gay or of indeterminate sex, along with the wholesale protection of those cardinals and others in the church who knew about and tried to hide the child sexual abuse scandals in the Church.

    I am particularly animated here because the Church is committing evil by hiding the evil of its clergy.

    Unless and until the Church purges itself of this baggage it will continue its journey into irrelevance.

    1. Again with the emotion based nonsense coupled with Ad Populum.

      Yer version of non-belief is for the simple. The Forest Gumps of Atheism. There is nothing intelligent in yer version of non-belief sir even if there are no gods. If God doesn't exist you merely made a lucky guess. Ye didn't reason yer way there son.

      For example:
      >Unless and until the Church purges itself of this baggage it will continue its journey into irrelevance.

      Beg the question much? If no God or gods exists then who cares what happens to the Church? She is at the mercy of un-directed historical, social and physical forces and since there is no God who care what happens to Her and why would we wish to preserve a lie? If the Mormon Church crashed and burned tomorrow like the former USSR or Islam collapsed I wouldn't give a rat's festering behind about it. I dina care and I dina fash.

      OTOH if God exists and the Catholic Faith is True well God will preserve Her via divine providence and NOTHING will bring about Her extinction. It is all part of the Plan and I am not talking about the Seldon plan.

      Geez here is a quarter buy a clue. Maybe you might try claiming divine simplicity leads to modal collapse? Or similar argument a Classic Theist would care about?

      Just saying....Go philosophy or go home!

    2. "The destructively corrosive and insensitive platitudes that pervade the very essence of Western religion, such as, 'Love the homosexual but abhor the act', are tantamount to hate speech as surely as threatening people who don't follow your creed with burning in hell for all eternity because they supplicate to the wrong God."

      The platitude, while simplistic, is the only correct answer here, that's why. Otherwise, you either have to hate both the sin and the sinner, or love both the sin and sinner.

      If the former, you have to hate literally anyone who does absolutely anything wrong ever. Since everyone does something wrong at some point, including yourself, you have to hate everyone, including yourself, and wish wickedness upon them. If that isn't itself sinful, I don't know what is.

      If you take the latter, then you have to love every act, no matter how evil it is. You would have to hope for even the most evil acts to be and in fact want those evil acts to be done. Clearly that can't be right.

      Therefore you are stuck in a middle ground of either loving the sin and hating the sinner, or the correct answer: hating the sin and loving the sinner.

      I'm sure you have people you love who commit acts you believe are wrong. Do you actually hate them? Of course not. Do you want them to do these wrong acts? Of course. Clearly, you love the wrong-doer, but you do not love the wrong being done.

      I'm sure you don't think you are committing hate speech if you express any opposition to the wrong acts of your loved ones. In fact, its precisely because you love them that you might express your wish for them to stop doing these acts.

      Quit this sophomoric nonsense, Paps. Schopenhauer did see a lot of truth in Christianity, even if he despised the hypocrisy of many Christians. Your point about the latter doesn't refute Feser's point about the former.

    3. Ugh...error:

      "Do you want them to do these wrong acts? Of course *not*."

    4. Poor, poor Papalinton. Did my comment hit home? Allow me to reiterate: you are a bigot whose heart is filled with hatred. It's probably why your arguments are as terrible as they are: you are so blinded by anger that you don't see their fallacious nature.

    5. Paps, do you know a guy called Schopenhauer? He defended that craving was pretty much the cause of suffering. For instance, a obsession with getting catholics bored online is actually bad to the one who clinges to it. Even if you manage to make us all bored you will feel the necessity to do it again and again, everytime you satisfact your desire you open the door to more suffering.

      This first paragraph should be enough to a normal person to understand that mantaining this desire is futile. Why don't you consider dissolving this craving by pursuing a more fulfilling activity like actually studying philosophy?

    6. What do you mean with "indeterminate sex"?

  7. Etienne Gilson had one thing right: the long history of philosophy follows an intuitive and predictable path. Schopenhauer might very well represent the old guard; the last grand attempt at codifying the great city of man until the Postmodernists lifted the veil. Phenomenal . . . noumenal . . . no wonder Derrida found it all a word game.

  8. Unfortunately, we need not wonder how bad New Atheist-inspired music might be as Richard Dawkins has ended all doubt.

    1. LOL! Thanks for sharing. This is hilarious. "This is your brain on Atheism" (per one of the commenters).

  9. We know the noumenal world through awareness of our volition in a fictional world. Well paint me skeptical.

  10. That hair . . . didn't Schopenhauer star in Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992)?

  11. Dear Ed, thanks for an excellent summary of the greatest of atheist philosophers. I wish you would have discussed Schopenhauer's deliberate exclusion of Being from his system (as mere speculative theology) and how this move leads his universe to be godless, whereas Aquinas could have agreed with Schopenhauer's brilliant description of the world as will and idea, were it subordinate to the Being of reality. One can't answer all these difficult questions at once or in short blog posts, but Schopenhauer himself at several points in his masterpiece faces the problem of the self-sufficiency of the will and its knowability qua will, yet avoids lengthy discussion. Is there therefore any use that may be derived from a division between "the world", which Schopenhauer adequately describes in its physical and metaphysical relations, from "reality", which includes the world but gives it its meaning and telos, which Schopenhauer excludes?

  12. Thanks for this! I've long appreciated Schopenhauer's philosophy and recognized its profundity as well, even though I am a trained Thomist. When Schopenhauer is correct, he's spot on. When he errs, he errs beautifully.

  13. The speak of Schopenhauer's understanding of Will being blind and having no ultimate destination seems to have some similarities with Albert Camus' understanding of the human pursuit (striving if you will) for meaning and value finding no place to rest either.

    Maybe he'll be next in the series?

    1. Good mention, specially because Dr. Feser already discussed Sartre, he has a quite good knowledge of the existencialists.

      While Camus was the more charismatic figure, i would prefer to see a Simone post, though. She did have the balls to try to create a ethical system and took her philosophy to discussing interesting themes, she is underated.

  14. Schopenhauer's metaphysics, specifically his vantage point of looking from the individual will, seems to have some overlap with Phenomenology, a philosophy taken seriously by, among others, Karol Wojtyla (JP 11 for those who don't know.)

    1. Some overlap, no doubt. But Schopenhauer's subjection of the intellect to the will is incompatible with JPII, Thomism, and Catholic Tradition.

  15. The best of atheist philosophers? I'd rather go with Bertrand Russell--at least he had the good sense to be an advocate for the best of our moral intuitions, even though he regarded them as metaphysically groundless.

  16. It is interesting to me how this dichotomy between the phenomenal and the noumenal seems at the heart of so much that is wrong in Western society. The idea that the phenomenal world is secretively hiding some sinister and deceptive noumenal structure that we can forever know nothing about or even if we do, it ends us being something demonic and malicious. Nature is a liar and a deceiver in their eyes, and if we could just get beyond it we would find only pointless despair.

    And add to this the turn inward as the only limited access to the noumenal world - that makes us intensely egotistical and preoccupied with ourselves as we vainly fend off the irrational dictates and demands of the quasi divine god he called the species.

    "In his essay “On Suicide,” he notes that “Christianity carries in its innermost heart the truth that suffering (the Cross) is the true aim of life.” But Christianity nevertheless insists that “all things [are] very good,” so that suffering serves an “ascetic” purpose in properly orienting us toward the ultimate good that will redeem it. Schopenhauer shares Christianity’s view that suffering is central to human existence and ought to be faced ascetically, but he rejects the thesis that all things are very good. Hence whereas Christian asceticism is motivated by hope, Schopenhauer’s is motivated by despair. But he captures a deep truth in facing up to the reality that if there is no God, despair is the only honest response."

    Yes - suffering in the Christian sense, orients us to the ultimate good, which is God. And the external world points to Him as the creator and sustainer of all existence and our ultimate end. Schopenhauer mistakes the fact that because created goods, such as sex, are partial goods, and thus involve an inevitable admixture of suffering, that they are completely evil. But this does not follow. And it is not an insight that belongs to him alone. It has been very well described in Ecclesiastes. But the very limitation points to a complete fulfillment.

    1. In some way the hiddenness of the noumenal may be analogous in some sense to the hiddenness of the Divine. But, as you point out, the former points to despair--even perhaps desire for despair--where the latter points to hope.

  17. The moderns say we can’t know the noumenal, only the phenomenal. But it’s exactly opposite: we can know the object of perception, what we can’t know is the perception qua perception.

    In order the make the claim that perception can’t get at what’s real you must first presuppose knowledge of what is real in order to make such a comparison to begin with.

  18. Mister Geocon @ 5.33PM

    "It's probably why your arguments are as terrible as they are: you are so blinded by anger that you don't see their fallacious nature."

    Blinded by anger? On the contrary. And the arguments that you claim are terrible have stood the acid test of scrutiny by every societal metric, be it mainstream media, social media, law enforcement agencies, legal entities, even the average person of good character in the street. You may not be following this religion-inspired tragedy as closely as you ought and you may think all this sexual abuse stuff is all in the past. But it is not. The hard work by the good people is still going on around the world to this day seeking to get the Church to be held to account for the massive evil perpetrated on innocent, unsuspecting little children by the very people were entrusted with their physical, mental and spiritual care. For your reading, here are the very latest, covering just the last years, 2019 to Oct 2021; you may wish to appreciate what is happening inside that horrific bubble you seem bent on protecting:

    The take-away?:
    "But alleged cover-ups continue to dog the Catholic Church, and victims groups say the Vatican has not done nearly enough to right its wrongs."

    The Take-away?:
    "While positive reforms are underway in some religious institutions, there is still much progress to be made before the community can be confident that all religious institutions in Australia are as safe as possible for children."

    The take-away?:
    "For many years Australia’s Catholic Church resisted being held to account for the sexual abuse of children within its institutions. Residential institutions, in particular, where also the site of widespread cruelty and neglect."

    * HOW ABOUT THIS ARTICLE published October 11, 2021
    The Take-away?:
    "Irreparable damage has been done to its credibility as a moral institution. The callous indifference to victims’ testimony – and the craven desire to avoid scandal at all costs – has been chronicled in movies such as the Oscar-winning Spotlight, based on revelations of child sexual abuse in the early 2000s by priests in the Boston area. Other widely seen films such as Tell No One, in Poland, and By the Grace of God, in France, tell the same appalling story: an insular, arrogant culture, deeming itself outside the jurisdiction of secular morality, has routinely ignored the suffering of the abused while offering mercy, secrecy and escape routes to the abusers."

    The take-away?:
    "Key takeaways about how Americans view the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church."

    To BE CONT.

  19. CONT:
    It is the world-wide nature of the abuse by the Church that is unforgivable. The Catholic Church as an institution must purge itself of this great evil.

    Equally, abuse of gays, transgender and people of indeterminate sex by the Church is an abomination of the human spirit, morality and ethic.
    Take this report
    The Take-away?:
    "Spiritual and emotional abuse of LGBT people is a “ticking timebomb” for churches in the UK and could lead to legal action and demands for redress, campaigners have said.
    Churches urgently need to wake up to spiritual, emotional and psychological abuse. If they don’t protect young people, the consequences will be massive. This is coming, and it will be a disaster,” said Steve Chalke, a Baptist minister and founder of the Oasis charity."

    No, not angry. Just profoundly disappointed and uncomprehending at the actions of the Church and its enablers. Hide, deflect and enable as you might Mister Geocon, the truth is coming out, big time. People are now beginning to understand that organised religion definitely has no special transcendent power to guide morality, neither a 'direct link to God'. Such a claim is devoid of reality and is now more than ever being understood to be nothing other than a pious shill.

    One is reminded of Morris R Cohen, Professor of Philosophy and Law at City College of New York and the University of Chicago, after having studied at Harvard, who so astutely noted:

    "If religion cannot restrain evil, it cannot claim effective power for good."

    The transcendence of such insight is where we must be looking to face head-on humanity's existential challenges going forward. The Church has failed. And the Church has been found out.

    1. I think this is the difference between you and the rest of the people here. You measure the morality of things according to "societal metrics" like "mainstream media, social media, law enforcement agencies, legal entities, even the average person of good character in the street." None of these things are guaranteed to be correct in their morals or even have all the facts on hand to judge the situation. At another time and place, those things would've been on my side, and you'd have been on the outside, condemning them as corrupt and evil (or maybe you would've supported them wholeheartedly?) But that doesn't matter. You just have blind hatred in your heart and blind faith in the status quo. Nothing I say will convince a fanatical bigot like yourself. You are fanatical because your faith is without reason, and you are a bigot because your hatred knows no proportion.

      Here's a thought, Paps: try to examine the morality given to you, like I did when I started getting serious about my faith. Ask yourself whether the things you believe are good and true. Look at something from a different perspective. Try to put yourself into the shoes of someone who thinks differently from you and try to see things from their eyes. I find that reading history (as opposed to using it for polemical purposes) is good for this.

      For example: is it true that Christianity does nothing to restrain evil? Is this a reasonable standard? What if we apply it to (say) the groups you have such blind faith in? How can you measure the degree to which evil is restrained by the Church?

      These questions have an answer, Paps. I only pray that you find the right answer and that God's love finds its way into your heart.

    2. Papalinton, you maintain that you are not motivated by anger or hatred and instead are just looking at the picture rationally. But if this were true, and you wanted a serious conversation, you wouldn't be so quick to say that your opponents must be ignorant as they do not agree with you. Arguments almost always devolve into unpleasantness at points like this: if you want a serious conversation, make your points without gratuitous condescension and rudeness.
      I'm not a Catholic, so it's not really my place to defend or attack your arguments, but you're not getting responses because you aren't really seeking them. You seem to have made up your mind what you're going to believe, and no amount of reason or evidence will persuade you otherwise.
      I say this because we've seen none of either of them from you. You're argument seems to go along the lines of, "More and more people are turning on the Catholic Church; so therefore nobody should be Catholic." Of course, this is a straightforward bandwagon fallacy- what the majority of people believe is irrelevant to what is true.
      Your comments towards Geocon seem to suggest that you think that he, as a Catholic, must be evil. But this is obviously nonsense- just because many people in the Catholic Church are evil doesn't mean that those who follow the organisation must be. They could just be misguided. Or even- whisper it- bear in mind that they're neither evil or misguided but correct, and you and I are wrong. I say this because I respect Catholics- hence I follow Ed's blog- and they are many of the best people I know.
      My advice: put forward a clearly formulated argument for the falsehood of Catholicism, and pose it respectfully, courteously and in good faith. If you can't do that, I advise you just leave the conversation altogether. Ask yourself honestly: is that so unfair?

    3. Argument Ad Populum! The meat and drink of intellectually infer Gnu Atheism!

      Paps cannot rationally defend his illegitimate criticisms of religion so he mindlessly repeats himself and doubles down(that is a tactic used by Gnus).

      Secular Hollyweird has metoo (which is selectively applied according to politics) & Harvey Weinstein. Jimmy Salvi and the Muslim rape gangs of Rotherham! The Public School system is knee deep in rape culture and sex abuse and now they want to make it the formal curriculum!
      The less said about Loudoun County and the scumbag "Trans" jerk committing forced sodomy on a 15 year old girl in a bathroom and the School Board labeling her father a terrorist for speaking out about it & trying to cover up the crime the better.

      In more ways than one they haven't learn from Catholicism.

      This is the secular leftist culture you advocate for Paps. I don't see how it is better and the seething hypocrisy and double standards it has and you have only makes it worst.

      Of course none of this has anything to do with whether or not The First Way is valid. Or whether or not God is a moral agent in the univocal sense a maximally virtuous rational creature is a moral agent or not(the answer is not).

      None of this has anything to do with Schopenhauer's positive view of Christianity as a belief per say nor his clear plundering of it. That is stealing from it shamelessly over the idea pleasure should not be the focus of one's life because it leads to unhappiness. Asceticism is rooted in Christianity and Judaism(see the Desert Fathers and the Dead Sea Qumran community for details). He stole from it. Well you only steal the good stuff.

      Anyway Paps as I have shown I can match emotional argument with emotional argument. I didn't even have to bring in the mass genocide by militant Atheist States like the former USSR or present Communist China and their casualty rate which exceeds the religious one about ten fold.

      Do you have anything better to offer us? Or just more of the same?


      Well isn't this special!

    5. @Anon Nov 1 8:18

      >My advice: put forward a clearly formulated argument for the falsehood of Catholicism, and pose it respectfully, courteously and in good faith.

      I could and would forgive the absence of the "respectful" and "courteous" part as long as it contains the "clearly formulated" and "good faith" part.

      It is the absence of the later two that irk me.


      PS I am not here to convince anybody to believe in God or the Holy Church. That is not in my skill set.
      You lot are here to convince me what I believe is wrong and give me a good reasons why.

  20. his fundamental feeling towards it was undoubtedly that he was its victim, that he was ‘in thrall’ to it. In his best recorded moments Schopenhauer understands more vividly than anyone the suffering involved in life and the need felt by all created things for love and sympathy: at these moments he knew and hated the coldness and egoism of his own sensuality.

    So, yet another example of the principle that sin damages the intellect. S's own sexual habits - being deranged - led to a corruption of his philosophy. No doubt there were many other factors, not least being the many horrid philosophers of modernity that came before him and screwed his mind up as a young man. But a refusal to permit the evidence of music (and other kinds of beauty) to declare good - indeed, to establish that good as being self-evident - implies a philosopher out of touch with reality.

    But, again, will as Schopenhauer understands it is not associated with intellect and it does not aim at the good or indeed at anything. Blind and pointless, it can never find satisfaction....this longing and this pain cannot obtain their material from the wants of an ephemeral individual; but they are the sighs of the spirit of the species… The species alone has infinite life, and therefore is capable of infinite desires, infinite satisfaction, and infinite pain.

    Yet attributing to "the species" an underlying intention, and (effectively) an underlying will by which it carries into effect that intention, by definition requires a referent that stands to "the species" as (at least an apparent) GOOD. I am probably missing some of "the details" that S uses to try to escape this, but I also suspect that his attempt remains invalid, because his metaphysics is all cockeyed to begin with.

    1. I can't find the articles about it(Stanford Encyclopedia does mention it, though), but Schopenhauer treatment of mysticism did show how bad the philosopher life screwed his system.

      In seeing how the mystics seems to become will-less on their experiences, Schopenhauer had to admit that the Thing-Itself is Will on our perspective and that it could appear diferent to beings with a diferent situation, as it does to the mystics. Despite admiting that his terryifing picture of reality as aimless Will is not all there is, Schopenhauer probably never considered that reality could not be horrible. A shame, if he tried to put his philosophy into pratice he could probably see things with his own eyes.

      Not wonder that Niezsche thought that Arthur perspective was caused by his own defects, if reality is as the german says then there is not really a way of classifying it as bad. It just is and every evaluation of it is relative. A strange philosophy.

    2. From a Christian perspective, he is living a kind of hell because he denies that there is a real object for our infinite desires. There is no fulfillment of desires or infinite satisfaction as he says. No resting in God. This is the cornerstone of Christian self understanding - that our desires, our wills, our sexuality, our appetites, are all disordered because they are not directed or submitted to the one entity that can bring them to fulfillment. And this is God.

      S and the eastern religions are right in identifying the cause of suffering in desire. But they are wrong in asserting it is because desire itself is to blame.

      And another problem with the Cartesian turn into the self is that one loses sight of the external world, of the beauty and goodness, although partial, that points beyond itself to God its creator. The stripping away of teleology is also the stripping away of inherent goodness and purpose. Nature loses its character as an icon or a quasi sacrament that points to God. And so, we are not taught to properly appreciate our own nature and its various ends either. We are taught to see our nature as completely devoid of goodness in a Manichean flight into pure spirit. Or, in reaction to the flight to the spirit, is an opposing reaction which is a flight to naturalism. An excessive focus and naive belief that the limited natural ends of our human nature can bring us true happiness without reference to our ultimate good.

  21. We are enjoined to defend the Church against direct attacks on it. But what could be more direct than attack moved by the error that is hatred?

    Determined hatred is very difficult to speak to, especially when lying and mischaracterization are involved. So how could such an attempt, in its probable failure, be anything other than harmful "feeding of the troll", and how could such failure fail to discourage?

    Is there a greater good that would be lost through banishment of such a troll based on good judgement? What would be the loss where the right to banish, and its act, have already been defended and exemplified?

    Tom Cohoe

  22. This is a summery of Paps' view of himself in a nutshell.

  23. Thank you Papilinton for being such a steadfast counterweight to the reactionary and bigoted nonesense that is a staple on this site, especially from the above clique who laughingly accuse you of bigotry and hatred and would dearly love to have you expunged from here. These people are indeed lost to their delusions and in-group conformity, but believe me, many will read what you write and agree wholheartedly with it, as well as being grateful that a decent and measured person is at hand to prevent this place from becoming an echo chamber for the extremists.

    Long may your comments, observations and analysis continue.

  24. Enough already. The sub-thread initiated by Papalinton has been a gigantic time waster and barely on topic. In the interests of allowing a free exchange, I've tolerated the back and forth, apart from a few nasty and substance-free drive by comments from both sides which I did not let through moderation. But the exchange has nevertheless degenerated and is at this point pretty much irrelevant to Schopenhauer or anything else discussed in the original post. Hence I will not let through any further comments related to that particular sub-thread.

    In future, in this comment thread and others: Stay on topic. Don't indulge the temptation to bring your pet obsessions and talking points into every discussion. Ignore trolls and other people incapable of logical reasoning. Don't indulge the temptation to post bitchy drive by comments devoid of substance. Use common sense and show common courtesy.

    1. Well said. Say, Dr. Feser, do you intend to someday do a post on Schopenhauer version of the PSR or his criticism of cosmological arguments? Along with Kant, i think that he had very good, even if not sucessful, criticismsq of how metaphysicians thread these themes.

      Your analysis of his philosophy was sublime, but besides having a very interesting worldview Arthur Schopenhauer also had offered interesting reflections on these themes, so i suppose thar commenting on what he had to say on these would result in another cool post.

  25. Well said, Dr. Feser. Sometimes this blog has superb philosophical discussion. Sometimes not. More souls are won to Christ by kindness and personal example than anything else. Prof. A. J Ayer, an atheist and a libertine, remained a lifelong friend of the Jesuit priest/philosopher Frederick Copleston.

  26. I think we heard Prof.Feser's Dad voice.

  27. I am all for the Dad voice. Argue Philosophy or go home. Answers in Genesis is over there boiz if ye want to argue against an easy Theistic foe.

    Here you need to bring the philosophy. So bring it.

  28. One can understand why it is Christians think of Schopenhauer as a 'friendly atheist'. Through his work he formed the view that to add value to one's life the fundamental nature of human existence was predisposed towards shunning the sensual, the emotional, and the comfortable, through the renunciation of pleasure and the practice of self-mortification. After all, at base he [Schopenhauer] saw life as a deep and enduring struggle with the self. And this is where Schopenhauer and Christianity shared the same abiding penchant for asceticism, that is, the practice of the denial of physical, emotional and psychological desires in order to attain a higher level of 'spiritual' attainment.

    His defence of Christianity was not that it was itself founded in a paradigm of truth. Far from it. Rather it was because of the shared common understanding of the central role of asceticism in his and Christianity's belief structure. When said and done, Schopenhauer did acknowledge there was a small kernel of truth in all religions, not just Christianity.

    But then asceticism is not a unique, nor an exclusive domain or prerogative, of Christianity. The Greeks wrote and understood the concept of asceticism many hundreds of years before Christianity came along. Indeed asceticism was a philosophical stance understood many centuries before Christianity was even a twinkle in Paul's eye. The origins of asceticism is bound into the fabric of our very primitive ancestors, many thousands of years before the advent of Christianity. As the Encyclopaedia Brittanica explains:

    "Abstinence and fasting are by far the most common of all ascetic practices. Among the primitive peoples, it originated, in part, because of a belief that taking food is dangerous, for demonic forces may enter the body while one is eating. Further, some foods regarded as especially dangerous were to be avoided>"

    One can clearly see the parallels here flowing into the Christian fable.

    Asceticism was appropriated by Christianity and made a central tenet of its belief structure. Asceticism is not a unique Christian feature. It was borrowed.

    But that is where the shared belief largely terminates. Many if not most Christian philosophers, all of them apologists, have tried to pump up the idea that Schopenhauer 'defended' Christianity. The truth here is that apart from the commonly shared idea of asceticism as a worldview, any other implied or imagined defence of Christianity by Schopenhauer is simply putting icing on a rock. Much of the massaging of Schopenhauer by apologist philosophers, like Dr Feser, that try to legitimate the claim that the Christian narrative is historically, ontologically and epistemologically true [or factual] demonstrates a somewhat desperate effort to convince the unwitting believer, exampled by Son of Ya'kov, that Christianity is the 'only true and genuine religion', even Schopenhauer says so, is stretching it a bit.

    As made very clear by the man himself in his own words:

    "But the bad things about all religions is that, instead of being able to confess their allegorical nature, they have to conceal it; accordingly, they parade their doctrine in all seriousness as true "sensu propio" (literally), and as absurdities form an essential part of these doctrines, you have the great mischief of a continued fraud." [Schopenhauer, On Religion]

    To Be CONT.

    1. Saying what he likes about Christianity is hardly a "defense" for its truth or falsehood. I can say nice things about Dave Ruben because of his criticism of leftist politics and shift to the Right. Same with Sargon of Akkad but that does mean I am defending or endorsing their Atheism.

      >Much of the massaging of Schopenhauer by apologist philosophers, like Dr Feser,

      To a hammer the whole world looks like a nail. This is not the Dangerous Minds blog Paps. Philosophy is primary. If you want apologetics my boi Dave Armstrong can oblige you.

      Geez give it a rest Paps.

    2. edit:does NOT mean etc....

      My kingdom for an edit function.

  29. CONT:
    Schopenhauer also had a few words to say about both the Old and New Testaments. Although his asceticism was driven in large part through pessimism he had the intellectual insight to note the Old Testament had a happy or optimistic tone about the physical world and life lived in it. He saw a deep sense of optimism drawn from Genesis in the Old Testament:

    “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.” King James Version

    And from the New Testament on, for Schopenhauer it was all downhill from there. There was to be no salvation in this world; only the false and indefensible promise that what people miss out in this life they will reap in the next. As if. Any and every two-bit soothsayer can promise that sort of nonsense. How does one recoup on the warranty if the damn thing doesn't work? There are many quotes Schopenhauer offers to demonstrate the deep pessimism about this world and life by asserted by Christianity, such as John 12:31.

    And he clearly notes:

    "We see, then, that the doctrines of the Old Testament are rectified and their meaning changed by those of the New, so that, in the most important and essential matters, an agreement is brought between them ..." [Schopenhauer, On Religion]

    Syncretisation and harmonisation is the 'bread and butter' of Christian apologetics. Simply because apologists engage in these intellectually and philosophically dubious practices does not make their Christian narrative any less false or less mythologised.

    Schopenhauer is correct. The Christian narrative is all allegorical. This was Schopenhauer's main argument and criticism against Christianity. For Schopenhauer, Christianity was, to the core, "sensu allegorico".

    While much of Christian dogma, which most might be regarded as true in an allegorical sense, Schopenhauer was quick to observe that it was all a pretence to claim it as fact in a literal sense.

    And therein lies the rub. In today's world religion has been found out and, through its centuries of shape-shifting apologetics, finds itself right now between a rock and a hard place. Even as a fall-back, it can no longer even pretend its main tenets are merely allegorical [as Schopenhauer correctly inferred], and as many apologists are now want to do [apart from the shrinking hard-core die-hards], because to do so would be to undermine their very own credibility.

    I would not recommend to a reader to glean what Schopenhauer says about Christianity through Christian philosophers. Read the damn man yourself. Christian apologetical philosophers are not a bona fide source to appreciate the works of Schopenhauer.

    1. Not one philosophical argument or analysis in either post. Just repeating yerself....

      That is just boring. Paps this is a philosophy blog not a Christian Apologetics blog. Dr. Feser is first and foremost a philosopher. Granted the philosophical arguments for the existence of God (which it is clear to everyone you cannot address in any fashion) are useful to Catholic Christian apologetics but philosophy is the final causality around here.

      Not yer leftist politics or Gnu Atheist contra Fundamentalist nonsense.

      Can you do any philosophy?

      As yer boi says "Come on Man!".

  30. "Read the damn man yourself. Christian apologetical philosophers are not a bona fide source to appreciate the works of Schopenhauer"

    But you are? I'll go with Feser, who doesn't despise what I am. As for reading Schopenhauer, no thanks. Your recommendations are unappealing.

    Tom Cohoe

  31. Yes, I read Feser. I read Christian apologists. I do it as a matter of interest and duty. I read Feser and make comment where there has been a mischaracterisation perpetrated or a mischievous massaging of interpretation to fit his narrative. This has been one such occasion. He is free to do so, but his narrative will not go unchallenged.

    And when I say "appreciate" the works of Schopenhauer, it is to intellectually understand where he is actually coming from; not through the synthetic perspective of Dr Feser's.

    "I'll go with Feser, who doesn't despise what I am." Playing the victim is not a good look, Tom, although it does give a little glimpse into the somewhat fragile nature and shaky confidence you have in the power of your own intellect that you are unable to read the raw Schopenhauer without a 'Feser filter'.

    Whether you read Schopenhauer or not is of no interest to anyone. However, not to do so is to render any comment you make about Schopenhauer an irrelevance.

    1. Two words for ya Paps. "Joe Schmid".

      He is a young up and coming religious skeptic (more of an Agnostic than Atheist in the Russell mode). He is also a philosopher and critic of Classic Theism. Granted he is a bit overly verbose but that is just "young". I am sure he will grow out of it. The ladd has done remarkable work as a student.

      Why don't you read some of his work and come back here with actual philosophical arguments against Natural Theology? I think that will serve you better than boring the poop out of us with yer warmed over contra Fundie arguments. Or yer bitching over Orange man 11 months into Uncle Bad Touch's reign.

      Really philosophy will make you an Alpha dingo here. That all of this.....

      >Yes, I read Feser.

      You conceal it well. Now take my obvious correct advise.


    2. "Whether you read Schopenhauer or not is of no interest to anyone. However, not to do so is to render any comment you make about Schopenhauer an irrelevance."

      No it isn't. There are always good reasons to decide whether or not to read any particular writer at all. One reason to decide not to read one is that no one has made a compelling case that he is important enough to spend the time on. Such is the case, for me, with Schopenhauer. You certainly haven't made a case with your pretended expertise and your expressed contempt for Christianity, especially Catholicism.

      If only 5 books had ever been written, there perhaps would be no excuse for an intellectually superior person not to have read them all, no matter how incoherent, but you speak as if to claim to have read all of dear Schopie and so be an actual authority on what he thought, and how his thinking changed through his life, and you have similarly claimed to have read Aquinas well enough to not be able to understand him (sorry, a little sarcasm slipped in there). I suppose then, that you have read every philosopher and writer in depth? Because if you haven't, you should take your own advice and stop pretending that what you post is sufficiently well informed to be worth reading (note, I don't read your stuff but couldn't help noticing your claim that we who haven't worshipped at Schopie's podium by reading his every word, as you insinuate that you have, have no right to speak of him at all).

      Anyway, since there are far too many writers to have read them all, rather than just 5 books, I must be selective. Perhaps you just go into a library and read every book faster than a computer could download them, I don't know. I can't do that. I am far too slow, especially when trying to read incoherent stuff. So, once again, I haven't read dear Schopie because nothing has compelled me to feel that it would be worth the time. I already have a long list of books to read and need time to understand them. I am especially interested in Aristotle and Aquinas and other writings in their tradition, and in why some people who claim to have read in this area are not able to understand it.

      My comment is relevant because it warns others who are also too slow to have read everything, that if nothing else has heretofore compelled them to want to comprehensively understand Schopenhauer, that your bogus blatherings should not influence them.

      Tom Cohoe

  32. It seems that every single time that Dr. Feser posts an article, you have a small number of regular but very persistent commenters seeking completely derail the subject of that article into a hyperpartisan attack on his personal set of beliefs. If he were to express a preference of a particular brand of chips, they will invariably find a way to tie that brand with an invocation of injustice and intolerance. In the hands of Dr. Feser, those Doritos turn into an instrument of oppression. I won't name names, because we know that these individuals are incapable of independent thought anyway.

    I was just wondering, why do this? None of your arguments are particularly well thought out or insightful, even from your perspective. I could make far better arguments in defense of your position. From the content of your posts, it is obvious that you have no familiarity with the works of Schopenhauer. You're just quote mining him for statements in which he expressed a negative sentiment towards Christians. You could have just as easily quote mined him for statements outrageous to modern sensibilities, such as for example his notorious misogyny. To your ilk, all that is required to either whitewash or erase someone's name from the scope of acceptable public opinion is a single quote taken out of context.

    My gripe with these regular set of bozos is that a) they don't understand leftism yet they insist that their interpretation of it is the only valid one and b) they don't understand atheism either. What they end up expressing is neither leftist nor rationalist, but rather a combination of pig headed authoritarianism and primitive superstition.

    If the extent of your critique of established religion amounts to the dullest form of superstition (as evidenced by a penchant towards ideas such as panpsychism) then I'm sorry you are not forward thinking but rather going back to what was superseded by the "Abrahamic faiths" in the first place. Your dire problem is that you are not as smart as you take yourself to be. You presume to have "science" behind you but you fail to tell apart scientific consensus from institutional consensus. And as far as institutional consensus goes, then it is the leftist who should be its first and foremost critic. If you're incapable of understanding why that is, then you have no right to deem yourself to be a part of the intellectual "left".

    Morality was a question of utmost importance to both the revolutionary and the atheist. It was the primary cause of their grievance with the existing social order. Men and women, deeply disgusted with the immorality and hypocrisy of the surrounding society, sought to redress its causes in the established social, religious and moral norms. The moral question was the first and foremost battleground in which they sought to emerge triumphant. Emancipated from organized religion, the new type of man was to exceed the previous generations in both sanctity of form and purity of mind. When understanding of this fails, what you have is an abomination we're witnessing today with contemporary called "liberal" commercialized collapse of culture and thinking, and its looming replacement with posthuman, eugenicist, technogenic and quite illiberal trends of thought.

    My dear "leftist" friends commenting on this blog. The future is not in your hands. Your kind is consigned to die out and very soon. If you don't want your future to end up in a museum exhibit, instead of pissing in Dr. Feser's cup you should learn a little from what he has to say.

  33. Wonderful column as usual. I'm not that familiar with Schopenhauer, but despite his high regard for the Upanishads, he always struck me as a confused thinker. I had been confused as to why Bernardo Kastrup adopted his views to support Kastrup's "analytic idealism."

    Now that you've elaborated on Schopenhauer's views, it's much clearer to me how Kastrup's own confused ideas about "Mind-At_Large' (intriguingly, he frequently uses the acronym "MAL" to refer to it; how Schopenhauer-ish!)

    Just one small point. I'm not aware that any of the major writings in the Indian tradition could be called pantheistic - panentheistic perhaps, but that phrase has been used and misused so much by the process theologians (who somehow think God is mostly "process?!??") that it may not be helpful. "non-duality" seems to mean to most people unfamiliar with the Indian tradition the same as "monism" (which it's not) so that doesn't help either.

    Regarding both the idea of Hindu pantheism and Buddhist atheism, it also might be helpful to keep in mind the extraordinary flexibility with which Buddhist (and I believe Vedantic and Tantric) monks are taught.

    Buddhists, for example, sometimes begin with a frankly dualist metaphysic, move on to Yogachara idealism (very different from most German idealism - which generally misunderstood the Upanishads; see Schopenhauer) and then to something beyond all of our modern categories of physicalism, dualism, idealism, pantheism, panentheism, etc.