The pessimism of Schopenhauer is profoundly metaphysical. The world itself is will and the will of the world or the nature thereof is principally wicked. Evil exists in the world because the world itself is a manifestation of will. All humans have a will but the will of man is identified with the will of the world; similar to Spinoza’s concept of all substance being of the same substance of God. The will of man its self is “a mindless, aimless, non-rational urge at the foundation of our instinctual drives, and at the foundational being of everything . . . devoid of rationality or intellect,” (Wicks). In other words, the will is not a thing in itself and is beyond space and time because the will itself has no point of origin. The body is a separate object from the will. To Schopenhauer, the body is a mere object like any other object of the world subject to natural and universal laws. The body may be perceived as a vessel by which the will uses to make itself evident.
Since the cosmos is altogether a wicked will, then it is the source of all suffering humans must endure since humans are all one vast will. If will had some form of end, there would be a sense of hope to an end of suffering and pain. But since there is no end in sight, then there can never be true happiness in life, and the more humans achieve true knowledge of the world, the more they increase in knowledge of evil. In relation, Bertrand Russell writes, “the cause of suffering is the intensity of will; the less we exercise will, the less we shall suffer,” (p. 756). In other words, one must try to escape the will without suicide, because suicide would raise the intensity of the will in relation to suffering.
What is striking about this philosophy is that it makes sense from one perspective. It gives an account of the existence of evil in the world, but it does not give an account for the existence of goodness in the world. Obviously, there cannot be one without the other to distinguish the good from evil volition. If wickedness is the fundamental will, then is the opposite representation from human activity sedition? Or could it be philosophically accepted if the concept is rephrased to suggest the cosmic will to be principally good? Furthermore, it does not make sense to suppress one’s will in order to deviate suffering. Since the cosmic will demands volition from humans; evidently because of good virtue on earth, evil volition is not the only manifestation. This means that whatever cosmic will is commanding volition from humans, it is not only evil but good as well. And if all were to suppress their wills, there would be none with the volition to combat the evil of the world or have the volition to become wealthy, or seek success, or just spread general goodness. To this Schopenhauer would respond that it would be futile to seek happiness, objectives, or goals because failure would just increase pain. Consequentially, to accept such a state of mind would make an attempt for an ethical lifestyle impractical. And if one looks at Schopenhauer’s lifestyle, not even he could make it ethically practical, instead one may argue that his life was inconsistent with his beliefs.
One of the characteristics that drew me to Schopenhauer is his pessimism; however, I am pessimistic in a far different sense for personal practical reasons, not pessimistic for morbid reasons, but simply because it may be better to view situations as they are in a realistic sense, as opposed to thinking optimistically about a situation that is most likely not going come to fruition as one may hope. Some say to hope for the best but prepare for the worst, but how can one effectively prepare for the worst if they hope or think the worst may not happen. Is it not better to accept the gravity of the situation that may occur so the subject can more effectively plan for the worst outcome? Instead of hope for the best but prepare for the worst; is it not better to think, “in any given situation the worst occurrence is always probable. If you can expect the worst to occur then plan for it. The end result is you gain from your preparation. If the worst does not occur then you have lost nothing.”
Wicks, Robert. Arthur Schopenhauer. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2009. https://edge.apus.edu/access/content/group/arts-and-humanities-common/Philosophy/PHIL415/Documents/schopenhauer.pdf. Web. 19 Dec. 2018.
Russell, Bertrand. The History of Western Philosophy. New York. Simon & Schuster Inc. 1972. Print.