14 September 2009

A Little German Philosopy

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.



mister anchovy said...

Har! Don't try this at home kids.
I haven't read any German philosophy since university, and it seems a very long way back right now.

Señor Steve said...

I myself took one philosophy course, Ethics I, the course to which I owe everything. (That's a joke.) We English Majors attended classes at the English/Philosophy Building. Just the appearance of those Philosophy Professors and Grad Assistants was enough to warn me off.

This is saying something because we English Majors were a pretty scruffy looking crew. This was in the heart of the late '60's. I turned 21 in 1968, quite a year if you will recall.

Robyn said...

Senor Steve...the email you gave doesn't work anymore and I can't find you on Facebook. Are you disappearing from civilization? lol
I will have to read some of this German philosophy. I have been on vacation with a co-worker Hilary for about 10 days. I tried to send you photos! I couldn't wait to get back and catch up on your blog. You make me laugh so hard... Robyn

Señor Steve said...

Robyn, we will correct this email problem.

Candy Minx said...

I am quite fond of both Arthur Schopenhauer, and Friedrich Nietzsche. I find Kant to be a pill. A real stick in the mud.