Schopenhauer on Fortitude

Every happiness that a man enjoys, and almost every friendship that he cherishes, rest upon illusion; for, as a rule, with increase of knowledge they are bound to vanish. Nevertheless, here as elsewhere, a man should courageously pursue truth, and never weary of striving to settle accounts with himself and the world. No matter what happens to the right or to the left of him, — be it a chimaera or fancy that makes him happy, let him take heart and go on, with no fear of the desert which widens to his view. Of one thing only must he be quite certain: that under no circumstances will he discover a lack of worth in himself when the veil is raised; the sight of it would be the Gorgon that would kill him. Therefore, if he wants to remain undeceived, let him in his inmost being feel his own worth. For to feel the lack of it is not merely the greatest, but also the only true affliction; all other sufferings of the mind many not only be healed, but may be immediately relieved, by the secure consciousness of worth. The man who is assured of it can sit down quietly under sufferings that would otherwise bring him to despair; and though he has no pleasures, no joys and no friends, he can rest in an on himself; so powerful is the comfort to be derived from a vivid consciousness of this advantage; a comfort preferred to every other earthly blessing. Contrarily, nothing in the world can relieve a man who knows his own worthlessness; all that he can do is to conceal it by deceiving people or deafening them with his noise; but neither expedient will serve him very long.

Arthur Schopenhauer

{p.91, The Art of Controversy and Other Posthumous Papers, Arthur Schopenhauer. Selected and Translated by T. Bailey Saunders. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd. 1896}

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~ by Thanatologist on 2009-07-05.

5 Responses to “Schopenhauer on Fortitude”

  1. I really enjoy reading your posts. I find myself “staring off into space” after reading them, contemplating my own meager existence on this planet. Keep them coming! I found your site from last.fm, I am Stoneguy28, you have excellent taste in music as well.

  2. You own meagre existence? What happened to “the secure consciousness of worth”!

    • Hi Invictus_88, I don’t think a ‘meagre’ and a ‘marvellous’ existence are contradictory ideas; they occur simultaneously on different levels, and Schopenhauer (like all phenomengological ontologists) does discuss this idea in much of his work, especially on the aesthetics of existence. This idea is also found in Wittgenstein’s thoughts on aesthetics: a complex phenomenon, such as existence, is never one thing or another, but is always multiple oppositional truths at once on different levels. E.g. Think of a butterfly’s life: it is both meagre and marvellous! …humans are really no more than butterflies on the grand scale, whose lives last perhaps a few days longer than other butterflies. -Thanatologist

      • To focus on the meagre aspects of the existence of humanity is to condemn oneself to a one-sidedly meagre experience, though. It’s only in accepting the wondrous alongside the mundane that one can be reasonably happy and content with ones’ worth.
        The wondrousness should never be swept aside by exaggerated ideas of our insignificance.

        • Hi Invictus88, I totally agree with you! 🙂 …However, I think that in modern society, there is a tendency to neglect the dark side, to go into a state of denial and create a lop-sided focus on the ‘wondrous’, which then ultimately decays into a quest for mere entertainment since transcendence is not possible without going into the dark and coming out in the light. The desire to bypass the dark and arrive in the light is one of the main reasons, in my observation, why modern society is rapidly depleting and demolishing all that is most beautiful on the earth. Agree? 😉

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