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Arthur Schopenhauer

The World as Will and Representation

Excerpts

[…] “It is really incredible how meaningless and insignificant when seen from without, and how dull and senseless when felt from within, is the course of life of the great majority of men. It is weary longing and worrying, a dreamlike staggering through the four ages of life to death, accompanied by a series of trivial thoughts. They are like clockwork that is wound up and goes without knowing why. Every time a man is begotten and born the clock of human life is wound up anew, to repeat once more its same old tune that has already been played innumerable times, movement by movement and measure by measure, with insignificant variations. Every individual, every human apparition and its course of life, is only one more short dream of the endless spirit of nature, of the persistent will-to-live, is only one more fleeting form, playfully sketched by it on its infinite page, space and time; it is allowed to exist for a short while that is infinitesimal compared with these, and is then effaced, to make new room. Yet, and here is to be found the serious side of life, each of these fleeting forms, these empty fancies, must be paid for by the whole will-to-live in all its intensity with many deep sorrows, and finally with a bitter death, long feared and finally made manifest. It is for this reason that the sight of a corpse suddenly makes us serious.”

“And to this world, to this scene of tormented and agonised beings, who only continue to exist by devouring each other, in which, therefore, every ravenous beast is the living grave of thousands of others, and its selfmaintenance is a chain of painful deaths; and in which the capacity for feeling pain increases with knowledge, and therefore reaches its highest degree in man, a degree which is the higher the more intelligent the man is; to this world it has been sought to apply the system of optimism, and demonstrate to us that it is the best of all possible worlds. The absurdity is glaring.”

[…]

“Any beautiful mind, full of ideas, would always express itself in the most natural, simple and straightforward way, anxious to communicate its thoughts to others (if this is at all possible) and thus relieve the solitude that he must experience in a world such as this: but conversely, intellectual poverty, confusion and wrong-headedness, clothe themselves in the most laboured expressions and obscure turns of phrase in order to conceal petty, trivial, bland or trite thoughts in difficult and pompous expressions.”

[…]

“However, for the man who studies to gain insight, books and studies are merely rungs of the ladder on which he climbs to the summit of knowledge. As soon as a rung has raised him up one step, he leaves it behind. On the other hand, the many who study in order to fill their memory do not use the rungs of the ladder for climbing, but take them off and load themselves with them to take away, rejoicing at the increasing weight of the burden. They remain below forever, because they bear what should have bourne them.”