Archives for posts with tag: existentialism

“This world is the battleground of tormented and agonized beings who continue to exist only by each devouring the other. Therefore, every beast of prey in it is the living grave of thousands of others, and in its self-maintenance is a chain of torturing deaths. Then in this world the capacity to feel pain increases with knowledge, and therefore reaches its highest degree in man, a degree that is the higher the more intelligent the man. To this world the attempt has been made to adapt the system of optimism, and to demonstrate to us that it is the best of all possible worlds. The absurdity is glaring. However, an optimist tells me to open my eyes and look at the world and see how beautiful it is in the sunshine, with its mountains, valleys, rivers, plants, animals, and so on. But is the world, then, a peep show? These things are certainly beautiful to behold, but to be them is something quite different.

– Arthur Schopenhauer, On the Vanity and Suffering of Life


“…happiness lies always in the future, or else in the past, and the present may be compared to a small dark cloud driven by the wind over the sunny plain; in front of and behind the cloud everything is bright, only it itself always casts a shadow. Consequently, the present is always inadequate, but the future is uncertain, and the past irrecoverable. With its misfortunes, small, greater, and great, occurring hourly, daily, weekly, and yearly; with its deluded hopes and accidents bringing all calculations to naught, life bears so clearly the stamp of something that ought to disgust us that it is difficult to conceive how anyone could fail to recognize this, and be persuaded that life is here to be thankfully enjoyed, and that man exists in order to be happy. On the contrary, that continual deception and disillusionment, as well as the general nature of life, present themselves as intended and calculated to awaken the conviction that nothing whatever is worth our exertions, our efforts, and our struggles, that all good things are empty and fleeting, that the world on all sides is bankrupt, and that life is a business that does not cover the costs…”

– Arthur Schopenhauer in On the Vanity and Suffering of Life.


“What is the explanation of all plurality, of all numerical diversity of existence? Time and Space. Indeed it is only through the latter that the former is possible: because the concept “many” inevitably connotes the idea either of succession (time) or of relative position (space).

– Arthur Schopenhauer, On the Basis of Ethics

Time and Space itself imposes plurality upon existence or experience. Schopenhauer uses this premise along with Kant’s Transcendental Aesthetics to argue for the metaphysical unity of life, which in turn acts as foundation for Schopenhauer’s ethics.


“The correct standard for judging any man is to remember that he is really a being that should not exist at all, but who is atoning for his existence through many different forms of suffering and through death. What can we expect from such a being? We atone for our birth first by living and secondly by dying…In fact from this point of view, it might occur to us that the really proper address between one man and another should be, instead of Sir, Monsieur and so on, Leidensgefahrte, socci molorum, compagnon de misères, my fellow sufferer. However strange this may sound, it accords with the facts, puts the other man in the most correct light, and reminds us of the most necessary thing, tolerance, patience, forbearance, and love of one’s neighbor, which everyone needs and each of us, therefore, owes to another.”

– Arthur Schopenhauer in On the Suffering of the World.


“An indirect but certain proof of the fact that people feel unhappy, and consequently are so, is also abundantly afforded by the terrible envy that dwells in all. In the circumstances of life, on the occasion of every superiority or advantage, of whatever kind it be, this envy is roused and cannot contain its poison. Because people are unhappy they cannot bear the sight of one who is supposed to be happy.”

– Arthur Schopenhauer, On the Vanity and Suffering of Life


“The truth is that we ought to be wretched and are so. The chief source of the most serious evils affecting man is man himself, homo homini lupus: Man is wolf for man. He who keeps this last fact clearly in view beholds the world as a hell, surpassing that of Dante by the fact that one man must be the devil of another.”

– Arthur Schopenhauer, On the Vanity and Suffering of Life


“One cold winter’s day, a number of porcupines huddled together quite closely in order through their mutual warmth to prevent themselves from being frozen. But they soon felt the effect of their quills on one another, which made them again move apart. Now when the need for warmth once more brought them together, the drawback of the quills was repeated so that they were tossed between two evils, until they had discovered the proper distance from which they could best tolerate one another.”

– Arthur Schopenhauer.

This quote was used to open a chapter on Kant and the Concept of Respect for Persons. I think the author could not have picked a more appropriate extract.


“The hours pass the more quickly the more pleasantly they are spent, and the more slowly the more painfully they are spent, since pain not pleasure, is the positive thing, whose presence makes itself felt. In just the same way we become conscious of time when we are bored, not when we are amused. Both cases prove that our existence is happiest when we perceive it least; from this it follows that it would be better not to have it.”

– Arthur Schopenhauer, On the Vanity and Suffering of Life


“Everything acts according to its nature, and its acts as they respond to causes make this nature known. Everyman acts according to what he is, and the action, which is accordingly necessary in each case, is determined solely by the motives in the individual case.”

-Arthur Schopenhauer, in Freedom of the Will.


“…it is the worst of all possible worlds. For possible means not what we may picture in our imagination, but what can actually exist and last. Now this world is arranged as it had to be if it were to be capable of continuing with great difficulty to exist; if it were a little worse, it would be no longer capable of continuing to exist. Consequently, since a worse world could no longer continue to exist, it is absolutely impossible; and so this world itself is the worst of all possible worlds.”

– Arthur Schopenhauer in On the vanity and suffering of life.

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