Arthur Schopenhauer is a German philosopher who was born on February 22nd, 1788 and died on September 21st, 1860. He was born in the city of Danzig but later moved to the city of Hamburg where he became interested in studying metaphysics, ethics and psychology. Schopenhauer is known as the philosopher of Pessimism because he created a theory that challenged the value of existence. Schopenhauer’s main focus was on individual motivation ‘the will’ and how human desires cause pain and suffering. He wrote a book on the will called The World as Will and Representation.
This book was a collaboration of Kant’s idea of idealism with his own theory on that the will is the thing-in-itself. Schopenhauer was greatly influenced by thinkers like Kant and Plato. He as well influenced thinkers like Sigmund Freud, Ludwig Wittgenstein and Friedrich Nietzsche. Summary of Ideas: The ‘Will”: Schopenhauer believed that humans were only motivated by their basic desires. He believed that human desires only cause suffering and pain. As well he believed that human desires are illogical and directionless. He believed that the will controls all aspects of human life.
Schopenhauer’s ideas on the will are similar to the ideas of Buddhism and the four noble truths. He believed that free will exists but humans are not able to achieve it because everything is determined by how the body reacts to a situation. He stated that “Man can indeed do what he wants, but he cannot will what he wants. ”(On the Freedom of the Will) Ethics: The basics of Schopenhauer ethics is about compassion. He believes compassion can’t be taught but only learned by experience. Compassion is the knowledge of seeing someone suffer equally to a suffering they have faced in their life and being able to relate and have sympathy for them.
Schopenhauer distinguishes a good person not from the nature of their actions but the level of compassion they have for them. He believes that the difference between a good person and a normal person is distinguished by when seeing someone suffer the good person will sacrifice his own well-being for the other person. Therefore he takes on all their troubles. Schopenhauer believes this is the highest degree in ethical conduct. Pessimism: Schopenhauer believes since the will has no purpose or goal that the will can never achieve satisfaction.
He believes the main goal of existence is to gain satisfaction but trying to achieve it is unsustainable because it leads to frustration. For that reason he says existence of human beings can only be characterized by suffering. He believes this theory is for all animals and since humans have a higher intellectual capacity that they will suffer more in life than any other animal. He as well stated that even using reasoning will not change the amount of suffering the person experiences because reason only increases the suffering. Schopenhauer concludes that nonexistence is and should be more preferable then existence.
He believes people should realize that to exist is to suffer and the goal in life for people should be to try and resist one’s desires. Application: Animal Welfare: Schopenhauer believed humans and animals are essentially equal and the same. He believed that everything is basically will and that humans and animals are the same because they can recognize characteristics and emotion in each other. Schopenhauer stated “Unlike the intellect, it [the Will] does not depend on the perfection of the organism, but is essentially the same in all animals as that which is known to us so intimately.
Accordingly, the animal has all the emotions of humans, such as joy, grief, fear, anger, love, hatred, strong desire, envy, and so on. The great difference between human and animal rests solely on the intellect’s degrees of perfection. ” (On the Will in Nature, Physiology and Pathology) He believed that a good person will have compassion for animals when they are hurt because they are fellow sufferers. People who are cruel to animals are not good people because they do not have compassion.