Arthur Schopenhauer and Compassion

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This video explains the dark depressing philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer. According to his thinking, we are here not to have joy or heaven on Earth, but rather to avoid and alleviate the inevitable suffering that is ever present in and throughout our lives. We are like prisoners, captive to live lives of suffering.

That is all bleak enough, but interestingly, the late great mythologist, Joseph Campbell, often quoted Schopenhauer for Schopenhauer’s conclusion to this suffering which inevitably results in compassion due to the fact that we recognize that everyone else here is also suffering.

Joseph Campbell:

The great German philosopher Schopenhauer, in a magnificent essay on ‘The Foundation of Morality,’ treats of this transcendental spiritual experience. How is it, he asks, that an individual can so forget himself and his own safety that he will put himself and his life in jeopardy to save another from death or pain—as though that other’s life were his own, that other’s danger his own? Such a one is then acting, Schopenhauer answers, out of an instinctive recognition of the truth that he and that other in fact are one. He has been moved not from the lesser, secondary knowledge of himself as separate from others, but from an immediate experience of the greater, truer truth, that we are all one in the ground of our being. Schopenhauer’s name for this motivation is ‘compassion,’ Mitleid, and he identifies it as the one and only inspiration of inherently moral action. It is founded, in his view, in a metaphysically valid insight. For a moment one is selfless, boundless, without ego.

Schopenhauer rejected Christianity, considering it provincial, and embraced the Hindu Upanishads which he called an ancient wisdom.

From Eastern spirituality, he finds the source of inward joy and a peace that cannot be shaken, with the end of craving.

But in summing him up as a philosopher, the narrator refers to Schopenhauer as “a Western pessimistic intellectual.”

“Money is human happiness in the abstract; he, then, who is no longer capable of enjoying human happiness in the concrete, devotes his heart entirely to money.”–Arthur Schopenhauer

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