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remarks tends, as will be seen, in support of it ; with this difference, how-
ever he does not direct the imagination to anything outside this present
life as making it worth while to live at all ; his object is to state the facts
of existence as they immediately appear, and to draw conclusions as to
what a wise man will do in the face of them.

In the practical outcome of Schopenhauer's ethics the end and aim
of those maxims of conduct which he recommends, there is nothing that
is not substantially akin to theories of life which, in different forms, the
greater part of mankind is presumed to hold in reverence. It is the
premises rather than the conclusion of his argument which interest us as
something new. The whole world, he says, with all its phenomena of
change, growth and development, is ultimately the manifestation of Will
Wille und Vorstettung a blind force conscious of itself only when it
reaches the stage of intellect. And life is a constant self-assertion of this
will ; a long desire which is never fulfilled ; disillusion inevitably follow-
ing upon attainment, because the will, the thing-in-itself in philosophical
language, the noumenon always remains as the permanent element ; and
with this persistent exercise of its claim, it can never be satisfied. So life
is essentially suffering ; and the only remedy for it is the freedom of the
intellect from the servitude imposed by its master, the will.

The happiness a man can attain, is thus, in Schopenhauer's view,
negative only ; but how is it to be acquired ? Some temporary relief,
he says, may be obtained through the medium of Art ; for in the appre-
hension of Art we are raised out of our bondage, contemplating objects
of thought as they are in themselves, apart from their relations to our
own ephemeral existence, and free from any taint of the will. This con-
templation of pure thought is destroyed when Art is degraded from its
lofty sphere, and made an instrument in the bondage of the will. How
few of those who feel that the pleasure of Art transcends all others, could
give such a striking explanation of their feeling !

But the highest ethical duty, and consequently the supreme endeavor
after happiness, is to withdraw from the struggle of life, and so obtain
release from the misery which that struggle imposes upon all, even upon
those who are for the moment successful. For as will is the inmost kernel
of everything, so it is identical under all its manifestations ; and through
the mirror of the world a man may arrive at the knowledge of himself.


The recognition of the identity of our own nature with that of others is
the beginning and foundation of all true morality. For, once a man
clearly perceives this solidarity of the will, there is aroused in him a feel-
ing of sympathy which is the main-spring of ethical conduct This feeling
of sympathy must, in any true moral system, prevent our obtaining suc-
cess at the price of others' loss. Justice, in this theory, comes to be a
noble, enlightened self-interest; it will forbid our doing wrong to our
fellow-man, because, in injuring him, we are injuring ourselves our own
nature, which is identical with his. On the other hand, the recognition
of this identity of the will must lead to commiseration a feeling of sym-
pathy with our fellow-sufferers to acts of kindness and benevolence, to
the manifestation of what Kant, in the Metaphysic of Ethics, calls the only
absolute good, the good will. In Schopenhauer's phraseology, the human
will, in other words, epoos, the love of life, is in itself the root of all evil,
and goodness lies in renouncing it Theoretically, his ethical doctrine
is the extreme of socialism, in a large sense ; a recognition of the inner
identity and equal claims, of all men with ourselves ; a recognition issu-
ing in dydnri, universal benevolence, and a stifling of particular desires.

It may come as a surprise to those who affect to hold Schopenhauer
in abhorrence, without, perhaps, really knowing the nature of his views,
that, in this theory of the essential evil of the human will po>s, the
common selfish idea of life he is reflecting, and indeed probably borrow-
ing, what he describes as the fundamental tenet of Christian theology, that
the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain, 1 standing in need of
redemption. Though Schopenhauer was no friend to Christian theology
in its ordinary tendencies, he was very much in sympathy with some of
the doctrines which have been connected with it In his opinion, the
foremost truth which Christianity proclaimed to the world lay in its rec-
ognition of pessimism, its view that the world was essentially corrupt,
and that the devil was its prince or ruler.* It would be out of place here
to inquire into the exact meaning of this statement, or to determine the
precise form of compensation provided for the ills of life under any
scheme of doctrine which passes for Christian : and, even if it were in
place, the task would be an extremely difficult one ; for probably no
system of belief has ever undergone, at various periods, more radical
changes than Christianity. But whatever prospect of happiness it may
have held out, at an early date of its history, it soon came to teach that
) Romans viii, 22. * John xiL, 31.


the necessary preparation for happiness, as a positive spiritual state, A
renunciation, resignation, a looking away from external life to the inner
life of the soul a kingdom not of this world. So far, at least, as concerns
its view of the world itself, and the main lesson and duty which life
teaches, there is nothing in the theory of pessimism which does not
accord with that religion which is looked up to as the guide of life over
a great part of the civilized world.

What Schopenhauer does, is to attempt a metaphysical explanation of
the evil of life, without any reference to anything outside it Philosophy,
he urges, should be cosmology, not theology : an explanation of the world,
not a scheme of divine knowledge ; it should leave the gods alone to
use an ancient phrase and claim to be left alone in return. Schopen-
hauer was not concerned, as the apostles and fathers of the Church were
concerned, to formulate a scheme by which the ills of this life should be
remedied in another an appeal to the poor and oppressed, conveyed
often in a material form, as, for instance, in the story of Dives and Laza-
rus. In his theory of life as the self-assertion of will, he endeavors to
account for the sin, misery and iniquity of the world, and to point to the
way of escape the denial of the will to live.

Though Schopenhauer's views of life have this much in common with
certain aspects of Christian doctrine, they are in decided antagonism with
another theory which, though, comparatively speaking, the birth of yes-
terday, has already been dignified by the name of a religion, and has, no
doubt, a certain number of followers. It is the theory which looks upon
the life of mankind as a continual progress towards a state of perfection,
and humanity in its nobler tendencies as itself worthy of worship. To
those who embrace this theory, it will seem, that because Schopenhauer
does not hesitate to declare the evil in the life of mankind to be far in
excess of the good, and that, as long as the human will remains what it
is, there can be no radical change for the better, he is therefore outside
the pale of civilization, an alien from the commonwealth of ordered
knowledge and progress. But it has yet to be seen whether the religion
ot humanity will fare better, as a theory of conduct or as a guide of life,
than either Christianity or Buddhism. If any one doctrine may be named
which has distinguished Christianity wherever it has been a living force
among its adherents, it is the doctrine of renunciation ; the same doc-
trine which, in a different shape and with other surroundings, forms the
spirit of Buddhism. With those great religions of the world which man-


kind has hitherto professed to revere as the most ennobling of all influ-
ences, Schopenhauer's theories, not perhaps in their details, but in the
principle which informs them, are in close alliance.

Renunciation, according to Schopenhauer, is the truest wisdom of
life, from the higher ethical standpoint. His heroes are the Christian
ascetics of the Middle Age, and the followers of Buddha who turn away
from the Sansara to the Nirvana. But our modern habits of thought are
different. We look askance at the doctrines, and we have no great
enthusiasm for the heroes. The system which is in vogue amongst us
just now objects to the identification of nature with evil, and, in fact,
abandons ethical dualism altogether. And if nature is not evil, where, it
will be asked, is the necessity or the benefit of renunciation a question
which may even come to be generally raised, in a not very distant future,
on behalf of some new conception of Christianity.

And from another point of view, let it be frankly admitted that renun-
ciation is incompatible with ordinary practice, with the rules of life as we
are compelled to formulate them ; and that, to the vast majority, the
doctrine seems little but a mockery, a hopelessly unworkable plan, inap-
plicable to the conditions under which men have to exist

In spite of the fact that he is theoretically in sympathy with truths
which lie at the foundation of certain widely revered systems, the world
has not yet accepted Schopenhauer for what he proclaimed himself to be, a
great teacher : and probably for the reason that hope is not an element in
his wisdom of life, and that he attenuates love into something that is not
a real, living force a shadowy recognition of the identity of the will
For men are disinclined to welcome a theory which neither flatters their
present position nor holds out any prospect of better things to come.
Optimism the belief that in the end everything will be for the best is
the natural creed of mankind ; and a writer who of set purpose seeks to
undermine it by an appeal to facts is regarded as one who tries to rob
humanity of its rights. How seldom an appeal to the facts within our
reach is really made ! Whether the evil of life actually outweighs the
good, or, if we should look for better things, what is the possibility or
the nature of a Future Life, either for ourselves as individuals, or as part
of some great whole, or, again, as contributing to a coming state of per-
fection ? such inquiries claim an amount of attention which the mass of
men everywhere is unwilling to give. But, in any case, whether it is a
vague assent to current beliefs, or a blind reliance on a baseless certainty,


or an impartial attempt to put away what is false, hope remains as the

deepest foundation of every faith in a happy future.

But it should be observed that this looking to the future as a comple-
ment for the present is dictated mainly by the desire to remedy existing
ills ; and that the great hold which religion has on mankind, as an incen-
tive to present happiness, is the promise it makes of coming perfection.
Hope for the future is a tacit admission of evil in the present ; for if a
man is completely happy in this life, and looks upon happiness as the
prevailing order, he will not think so much of another. So a discussion
of the nature of happiness is not thought complete if it takes account
only of our present life, and unless it connects what we are now and what
we do here with what we may be hereafter. Schopenhauer's theory does
not profess to do this ; it promises no positive good to the individual ;
at most, only relief ; he breaks the idol of the world, and sets up nothing
in its place ; and like many another iconoclast, he has long been con-
demned by those whose temples he has desecrated. If there are optimis-
tic theories of life, it is not life itself, he would argue, which gives color
to them ; it is rather the reflection of some great final cause which
humanity has created as the last hope of its redemption:

Heaven but the vision of fulfilled desire,
And hell the shadow from a soul on fire,

Cast on the darkness into which ourselves^
So late emerged from, shall so soon expire. 1

Still, hope, it may be said, is not knowledge, nor a real answer to any
question ; at most, a makeshift, a moral support for intellectual weak-
ness. The truth is, that as theories, both optimism and pessimism are
failures ; because they are extreme views where only a very partial judg-
ment is possible. And in view of the great uncertainty of all answers,
most of those who do not accept a stereotyped system leave the question
alone, as being either of little interest, or of no bearing on the welfare of
their lives, which are commonly satisfied with low aims ; tacitly ridiculing
those who demand an answer as the most pressing affair of existence.
But the fact that the final problems of the world are still open, makes in
favor of an honest attempt to think them out, in spite of all previous fail-
ure or still existing difficulty ; and however old these problems may be,
the endeavor to solve them is one which it is always worth while to
encourage afresh. For the individual advantages which attend an effort

i Omar Khayyam ; translated by E. Fitzgerald.


to find the true path accrue quite apart from any success in reaching the
goal ; and even though the height we strive to climb be inaccessible, we
can still see and understand more than those who never leave the plain.
The sphere, it is true, is enormous the study of human life and destiny
as a whole ; and our mental vision is so ill-adapted to a range of this
extent that to aim at forming a complete scheme is to attempt the impos-
sible. It must be recognized that the data are insufficient for large views,
and that we ought not to go beyond the facts we have, the facts of ordi-
nary life, interpreted by the common experience of every day. These
form our only material. The views we take must of necessity be frag-
mentary a mere collection of aperfus, rough guesses at the undiscov-
ered ; of the same nature, indeed, as all our possessions in the way of
knowledge little tracts of solid land reclaimed from the mysterious
ocean of the unknown.

But if we do not admit Schopenhauer to be a great teacher, because
he is out of sympathy with the highest aspirations of mankind, and too
ready to dogmatize from partial views, he is a very suggestive writer,
and eminently readable. His style is brilliant, animated, forcible, pun-
gent ; although it is also discursive, irresponsible, and with a tendency
to superficial generalization. He brings in the most unexpected topics
without any very sure sense of their relative place ; everything, in fact,
seems to be fair game, once he has taken up his pen. His irony is note-
worthy ; for it extends beyond mere isolated sentences, and sometimes
applies to whole passages, which must be read cum grano salts. And if
he has grave faults as well as excellences of literary treatment, he is at
least always witty and amusing, and that, too, in dealing with subjects
as here, for instance, with the Conduct of Life on which many others
have been at once severe and dull. It is easy to complain that though he
is witty and amusing, he is often at the same time bitter and ill-natured.
This is in some measure the unpleasant side of his uncompromising devo-
tion to truth, his resolute eagerness to dispel illusion at any cost those
defects of his qualities which were intensified by a solitary and, until his
last years, unappreciated life. He was naturally more disposed to coerce
than to flatter the world into accepting his views ; he was above all
things un esprit fort, and at times brutal in the use of his strength. If
it should be urged that, however great his literary qualities, he is not
worth reading because he takes a narrow view of life and is blind to some

of its greatest blessings, it will be well to remember the profound truth of



that line which a friend inscribed on his earliest biography : Si non
errassel fecerai tile minus, 1 a truth which is seldom without application,
whatever be the form of human effort. Schopenhauer cannot be neglect-
ed because he takes an unpleasant view of existence, for it is a view
which must present itself, at some time, to every thoughtful person. To be
outraged by Schopenhauer means to be ignorant of many of the facts of life.

In this one of his smaller works, Aphorismen zur Lebensweisheit, Scho-
penhauer abandons his high metaphysical standpoint, and discusses, with
the same zest and appreciation as in fact marked his enjoyment of them,
some of the pleasures which a wise man will seek to obtain, health,
moderate possessions, intellectual riches. And when, as in this little
work, he comes to speak of the wisdom of life as the practical art of liv-
ing, the pessimist view of human destiny is obtruded as little as possible.
His remarks profess to be the result of a compromise an attempt to treat
life from the common standpoint He is content to call these witty and
instructive pages a series of aphorisms ; thereby indicating that he makes
no claim to expound a complete theory of conduct. It will doubtless
occur to any intelligent reader that his observations are but fragmentary
thoughts on various phases of life ; and, in reality, mere aphorisms in
the old, Greek sense of the word pithy distinctions, definitions of facts,
a marking-off, as it were, of the true from the false in some of our ordi-
nary notions of life and prosperity. Here there is little that is not in
complete harmony with precepts to which the world has long been accus-
tomed ; and in this respect, also, Schopenhauer offers a suggestive com-
parison rather than a contrast with most writers on happiness.

The philosopher in his study is conscious that the world is never
likely to embrace his higher metaphysical or ethical standpoint, and
annihilate the will to live ; nor did Schopenhauer himself do so except
so far as he, in common with most serious students of life, avoided the
ordinary aims of mankind. The theory which recommended universal
benevolence as the highest ethical duty, came, as a matter of practice, to
mean a formal standing-aloof the ne plus ultra of individualism. The
Wisdom of Life, as the practical art of living, is a compromise. We are
here not by any choice of our own ; and while we strive to make the
best of it, we must not let ourselves be deceived. If you want to be happy,
he says, it will not do to cherish illusions. Schopenhauer would have
found nothing admirable in the conclusion at which the late M. Edmond

1 Slightly altered from Martial. Epigram : I. xxii.


Scherer, for instance, arrived. L'arf de vwre, he wrote in his preface to
Amiel's Journal, c'est de se faire une raison, de souscrire au compromis, de
se prefer aux fictions. Schopenhauer conceives his mission to be, rather,
to dispel illusion, to tear the mask from life ; a violent operation, not
always productive of good. Some illusion, he urges, may profitably be
dispelled by recognizing that no amount of external aid will make up for
inward deficiency; and that if a man has not got the elements of happi-
ness in himself, all the pride, pleasure, beauty and interest of the world
will not give it to him. Success in life, as gauged by the ordinary mate-
rial standard, means to place faith wholly in externals as the source of
happiness, to assert and emphasize the common will to live, in a word,
to be vulgar. He protests against this search for happiness something
subjective in the world of our surroundings, or anywhere but in a man's
own self ; a protest the sincerity of which might well be imitated by some
professed advocates of spiritual claims.

It would be interesting to place his utterances on this point side by
side with those of a distinguished interpreter of nature in this country,
who has recently attracted thousands of readers by describing The
Pleasures of Life; in other words, the blessings which the world holds
out to all who can enjoy them health, books, friends, travel, education,
art. On the common ground of their regard for these pleasures there is
no disagreement between the optimist and the pessimist But a charac-
teristic difference of view may be found in the application of a rule of
life which Schopenhauer seems never to tire of repeating ; namely, that
happiness consists for the most part in what a man is in himself, and that
the pleasure he derives from these blessings will depend entirely upon
the extent to which his personality really allows him to appreciate them.
This is a rule which runs some risk of being overlooked when a writer
tries to dazzle the mind's eye by describing all the possible sources of
pleasure in the world of our surroundings ; but Sir John Lubbock, in
common with everyone who attempts a fundamental answer to the ques-
tion of happiness, cannot afford to overlook it The truth of the rule is
perhaps taken for granted in his account of life's pleasures ; but it is
significant that it is only when he comes to speak of life's troubles that
he freely admits the force of it Happiness, he says, in this latter connec-
tion, depends much more on what is within than without us. Yet a rigid
application of this truth might perhaps discount the effect of those

pleasures with which the world is said to abound. That happiness as



well as unhappiness depends mainly upon what is within, is more clearly
recognized in the case of trouble ; for when troubles come upon a man,
they influence him, as a rule, much more deeply than pleasures. How
few, even amongst the millions to whom these blessings are open health,
books, travel, art really find any true or permanent happiness in them 1

While Schopenhauer's view of the pleasures of life may be elucidated
by comparing it with that of a popular writer like Sir John Lubbock, and
by contrasting the appeals they severally make to the outer and the inner
world as a source of happiness ; Schopenhauer's view of life itself will
stand out more clearly if we remember the opinion so boldly expressed bv
the same English writer. If we resolutely look, observes bir John Lubbock,
I do not say at the bright side of things, but at things as they really are; if we
avail ourselves of the manifold blessings which surround us; we cannot but
feel that life is indeed a glorious inheritance. 1 There is a splendid excess
of optimism about this statement which well fits it to show up the darker
picture drawn by the German philosopher.

Finally, it should be remembered that, though Schopenhauer's picture
of the world is gloomy and sombre, there is nothing weak or unmanly in
his attitude. If a happy existence, he says, not merely an existence
free from pain is denied us, we can at least be heroes and face life with
courage: das hochste was der Mensch erlangen kann ist ein heroischer
Lebenslauf. A noble character will never complain at misfortune ; for if
a man looks round him at other manifestations of that which is his own
inner nature, the will, he finds sorrows happening to his fellow-men harder
to bear than any that have come upon himself. And the ideal of nobility
is to deserve the praise which Hamlet in Shakespeare's Tragedy of
Pessimism gave to his friend :

Thou hast been
As one, in suffering all, that suffers nothing.

But perhaps Schopenhauer's theory carries with it its own correction.
He describes existence as a more or less violent oscillation between pain
and boredom. If this were really the sum of life, and we had to reason
from such a partial view, it is obvious that happiness would lie in action;
and that life would be so constituted as to supply two natural and inevi-
table incentives to action, and thus to contain in itself the very conditions
of happiness. Life itself reveals our destiny. It is not the struggle

The Pleasures of Life. Part I., p. 5.


which produces misery, it is the mistaken aims and the low ideals toot
uns atte bdndigt, das Gemeine I

That Schopenhauer conceives life as an evil is a deduction, and possi-
bly a mistaken deduction, from his metaphysical theory. Whether his
scheme of things is correct or not and it shares the common fate of all
metaphysical systems in being unverifiable, and to that extent unprofita-
ble he will in the last resort have made good his claim to be read by his
insight into the varied needs of human life. It may be that a future age

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