Schopenhauer. 5. An Atheist Seeks Immortality

In Arthur Schopenhauer we meet the paradox of an atheist who believed in immortality.

A quick reflex would be to declare Schopenhauer hopelessly confused and dismiss him out of hand. That’s difficult for me, however, because he developed the concept of will so decisively.

I believe that the concept of will marks a path, an intellectual path at least, that makes belief in God reasonable. Let me try to explain. Continue reading “Schopenhauer. 5. An Atheist Seeks Immortality”

Schopenhauer. 4. The Worst of All Possible Worlds

Leibniz declared that we live in “the best of all possible worlds.” He acknowledged pain and suffering in the world, but regarded them as logically necessary to achieve God’s purposes of freedom, love, and grace – purposes that ultimately benefit all humankind.

A generation later, Voltaire’s short novel Candide made a mockery of “the best of all possible worlds” through the character of Professor Pangloss, who comically portrayed the bumbling optimist. The works of both Leibniz and Voltaire were well known to Arthur Schopenhauer. Continue reading “Schopenhauer. 4. The Worst of All Possible Worlds”

Schopenhauer. 3. The Will

What do you think might exist “outside of all time” and yet constitute “the inner being of man-in-himself”? Would you guess that it might have something to do with freedom? If you can come up with a persuasive answer, then you might just understand Arthur Schopenhauer. Continue reading “Schopenhauer. 3. The Will”

Schopenhauer. 2. From Starting Point to One GSOT, or Two?

In a search for GSOT, choosing a starting point is crucial. As we examine the pivotal philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer, we need to ask: What was his starting point?

But is it really necessary to get back to a starting point? Can’t we just make decisions as we have done for decades, and our parents and grandparents before? Life is hard enough to figure out. Most of us are no longer teenagers searching for identity, and we don’t have the time to examine the beginnings of traditions and convictions by which we live. Continue reading “Schopenhauer. 2. From Starting Point to One GSOT, or Two?”

Arthur Schopenhauer. Part 1. Introduction

 Arthur Schopenhauer could see the worst in any situation. Witness these snippets, published in 1851:

Politeness is a tacit agreement that we shall mutually ignore and refrain from reproaching one another’s miserable defects, both moral and intellectual. In this way, they do not so readily come to light, to the advantage of both sides. Continue reading “Arthur Schopenhauer. Part 1. Introduction”

Who Let the Wild Ass Run Free? – Book of Job

Freedom exposes us to suffering. Humans grow up in the wild, apart from the presence of God and ignorant of God’s plans. To gain freedom, that’s how it has to be, because the world gives birth to freedom only in the absence of God’s dominant will.

Therefore, God created an uncaring world, behind which God hides, so that humans can gain freedom in a world that also brings suffering. This is the message I find in the biblical Book of Job. Continue reading “Who Let the Wild Ass Run Free? – Book of Job”

Evil Is Choosing the Lesser Good – Augustine

Augustine, Roman philosopher and Catholic saint, wrote the first extensive analysis of free will. His greatest lesson for us may come from his interpretation of good and evil, the outcomes of willful choosing. Augustine made an early critical judgment that evil is not the counterpart or opposite of goodness. Evil is instead the diminishment of goodness, understood as foolishly giving priority to lesser goods over greater goods.

Born in the latter years of the Roman Empire, Augustine grew up in a small town in a farming area some 200 miles south of the Mediterranean coast of what is now Algeria in North Africa.

algeria-farming-landscape-hammam-nbails-3
Hammam N’Bails district near the birthplace of Augustine

His mother Monica was a deeply religious Christian; her name indicates descent from the Berbers, a nomadic tribe. Monica remained close to her son into his adult years and exerted a profound influence upon him.

Augustine’s father Patricius may have had Latin and Phoenician forbears and apparently had a Roman kind of civic faith, which directed attention mostly toward community, order, and public good rather than toward the gods. Patricius took pride in his intellectually promising son and made extra efforts to provide him with the best education a townsman could afford. Continue reading “Evil Is Choosing the Lesser Good – Augustine”