Schopenhauer's Contact with Theology

William Mackintire Salter
1911 Harvard Theological Review  
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more » ... out Early Journal Content at JSTOR is a digital library of academic journals, books, and primary source objects. JSTOR helps people discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content through a powerful research and teaching platform, and preserves this content for future generations. JSTOR is part of ITHAKA, a not--for--profit organization that also includes Ithaka S+R and Portico. For more information about JSTOR, please contact 1 A special reason for attending to Schopenhauer at the present moment might be said to be that thereby one is initiated into an understanding of that strange, new phenomenon in European thought, Nietzsche. It is idle to read Nietzsche without a preliminary acquaintance (and a pretty thorough one) with Schopenhauer. 2 I have elaborated Schopenhauer's view of this subject in an article, "Schopenhauer's Type of Idealism," published in the Monist, January, 1911. SI may be allowed to refer to my article, "Schopenhauer's Contact with Pragmatism," in the Philosophical Review, March, 1910. Schopenhauer raises this question with regard to the whole world, but practically it is what will as experience means to us human beings that is in the foreground of his inquiry; here alone, indeed, can the question be answered directly, for it is; only ourselves that we know at first hand; as to animals, plants, and the elements we can only reason and infer. The question is, of course, a very personal one; it goes to the heart and marrow of us. Nor have we any assurance that the answer will be pleasant or satisfactory. Many of us would appear to be ready to do almost everything-work with our hands, travel, read books, even take up mathematical or philosophical problems-rather than think about ourselves; is it that we divine something not quite pleasing in ourselves? All the same, let us ask the question, taking for the time Schopenhauer as our guide. Will, Schopenhauer explains, comes from want or is wantand want is of itself an unpleasant sensation. It means the absence or deprivation of something, and this is painful-so that; in a sense the will, or at least willing, has its origin in painand actual willing is to get rid of pain. And when we get what we want, and perhaps after struggling long, the satisfaction or pleasure is momentary-we have it and then it is gone. Yes, it is principally negative, says Schopenhauer, and means little more than that we are no longer in pain; the painful wish or want no longer exists-that is about all. Plato, he says, recognized the negativeness of pleasure, making practically only two exceptions, namely, pleasant scents and the joys of the mind., And when one want is satisfied, another arises of the same general nature, and with, sooner or later, the same passing and negative result. Indeed we seem in this way to be committed to an endless succession of wants, much as the mind, in searching for explanations, is committed to an inevitable and interminable succession of causes-and both successions, as Schopenhauer conceives them, are wearying. Or if for the moment a new want does not arise, we come to be in a more unhappy plight still, for nothing occupies us, we have a feeling of emptiness, of boredom; we might do something, and there is nothing to do-4Plato, Republic, ix, p. 964. 9 Werke, vol. iii, p. 662. 10 Werke, vol. ii, pp. 393, 398; by this is meant seeking the harm and suffering of others, without expecting to gain thereby, that is, disinterestedly. Compare a psychological explanation, vol. ii, pp. 429-430. 11 Werke, vol. ii, p. 191. Compare the lines of Theognis (83-86) to the effect that you could not find one shipload of really trustworthy and incorruptible men upon the face of the world.