I have had a quiet little stretch of days available to me. Through the auspices of the Biblioteca Publica here, the bilingual local library, I determined to do something that I have always wanted to do, take a look into a little classic German philosophy. Do not ask me why. I myself cannot explain this other than to say that I had seen these big names in philosophy pop up here and there in other reading, and I was curious. Mainly, I was curious to see whether I could wrap my own brain around any of the ideas that these gentlemen espoused. The three I chose at random were Immanuel Kant, Arthur Schopenhauer, and Friedrich Nietzsche.
In short this was something that I have wanted to try, and the time seemed right.
Immanuel Kant might require a bit more mental horsepower than I have. That is incredibly dense reading involving his own little vocabulary of terms. So I set him aside for a time and went on to Schopenhauer. The name of the book is The World as Will and Idea published in 1818.
Admittedly, this is an English translation. Nonetheless, I was shocked to find that Schopenhauer writes plainly, clearly, and very intelligibly and without a whole lexicon of specialized terminology that one has to master. For that reason I suspect that it has translated well. It is relatively easy reading.
Here is the lowdown. This guy developed a vision of why we are here, what we are up to, and where we are going that is the blackest, most pessimistic thought on the subject that I have ever encountered or ever could have conjured up myself. It would be difficult for me to overstate this. I know I fall under little spells of pessimism occasionally. I am a piker. This guy apparently lived life with an incredible variety of black thoughts about what it is to be a human being.
Don't worry. I will spare you the details. The problem is--and it is a problem--that many passages make perfect sense when measured against one's own experience, and it is riveting reading. The whole experience was complicated by the fact that it is raining off and on every day. We are at the tail end of the rainy season, which earlier had been a very dry one, I am told.
I do not recommend this to anyone. After a weekend of reading Schopenhauer with it raining outside, I am ready to come up for some fresh air on this Monday morning as the sun rises.