In these pages I shall speak of The Wisdom of Life in the common meaning of the term, as the art, namely, of ordering our lives so as to obtain the greatest possible amount of pleasure and success; an art the theory of which may be calledEudaemonology, for it teaches us how to lead a happy existence. Such an existence might perhaps be defined as one which, looked at from a purely objective point of view, or, rather, after cool and mature reflection—for the question necessarily involves subjective considerations,—would be decidedly preferable to non-existence; implying that we should cling to it for its own sake, and not merely from the fear of death; and further, that we should never like it to come to an end.
Now whether human life corresponds, or could possibly correspond, to this conception of existence, is a question to which, as is well-known, my philosophical system returns a negative answer. On the eudaemonistic hypothesis, however, the question must be answered in the affirmative; and I have shown, in the second volume of my chief work (ch. 49), that this hypothesis is based upon a fundamental mistake. Accordingly, in elaborating the scheme of a happy existence, I have had to make a complete surrender of the higher metaphysical and ethical standpoint to which my own theories lead; and everything I shall say here will to some extent rest upon a compromise; in so far, that is, as I take the common standpoint of every day, and embrace the error which is at the bottom of it. My remarks, therefore, will possess only a qualified value, for the very wordeudaemonology is a euphemism. Further, I make no claims to completeness; partly because the subject is inexhaustible, and partly because I should otherwise have to say over again what has been already said by others.
The only book composed, as far as I remember, with a like purpose to that which animates this collection of aphorisms, is Cardan's De utilitate ex adversis capienda, which is well worth reading, and may be used to supplement the present work. Aristotle, it is true, has a few words on eudaemonology in the fifth chapter of the first book of his Rhetoric; but what he says does not come to very much. As compilation is not my business, I have made no use of these predecessors; more especially because in the process of compiling, individuality of view is lost, and individuality of view is the kernel of works of this kind. In general, indeed, the wise in all ages have always said the same thing, and the fools, who at all times form the immense majority, have in their way too acted alike, and done just the opposite; and so it will continue. For, as Voltaire says, we shall leave this world as foolish and as wicked as we found it on our arrival.
Arthur Schopenhauer (22 February 1788 – 21 September 1860) was a German philosopher. He is best known for his 1818 work The World as Will and Representation, in which he characterizes the phenomenal world, and consequently all human action, as the product of a blind, insatiable, and malignant metaphysical will.
Proceeding from the transcendental idealism of Immanuel Kant, Schopenhauer rejected the contemporaneous post-Kantian philosophies of German idealism. Instead, he developed an atheistic metaphysical and ethical system that has been described as an exemplary manifestation of philosophical pessimism. Schopenhauer was among the first thinkers in Western philosophy to share and affirm significant tenets of Eastern philosophy (e.g., asceticism, the world-as-appearance), having initially arrived at similar conclusions as the result of his own philosophical work. His writing on aesthetics, morality, and psychology would exert important influence on thinkers and artists throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.
As regards the rendering of the technical terms about which there has been so much controversy, the equivalents used have only been adopted after careful consideration of their meaning in the theory of knowledge. For example, “Vorstellung” has been rendered by “idea,” in preference to “representation,” which is neither accurate, intelligible, nor elegant. “Idee,” is translated by the same word, but spelled with a capital,—“Idea.” Again, “Anschauung” has been rendered according to the context, either by “perception” simply, or by “intuition or perception.”
Notwithstanding statements to the contrary in the text, the book is probably quite intelligible in itself, apart from the treatise “On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason.” It has, however, been considered desirable to add an abstract of the latter work in an appendix to the third volume of this translation.
If my object in these pages were to present a complete scheme of counsels and maxims for the guidance of life, I should have to repeat the numerous rules—some of them excellent—which have been drawn up by thinkers of all ages, from Theognis and Solomon down to La Rochefoucauld; and, in so doing, I should inevitably entail upon the reader a vast amount of well-worn commonplace. But the fact is that in this work I make still less claim to exhaust my subject than in any other of my writings.
[Footnote 1: I refer to the proverbs and maxims ascribed, in the Old
Testament, to the king of that name.]
An author who makes no claims to completeness must also, in a great measure, abandon any attempt at systematic arrangement. For his double loss in this respect, the reader may console himself by reflecting that a complete and systematic treatment of such a subject as the guidance of life could hardly fail to be a very wearisome business. I have simply put down those of my thoughts which appear to be worth communicating—thoughts which, as far as I know, have not been uttered, or, at any rate, not just in the same form, by any one else; so that my remarks may be taken as a supplement to what has been already achieved in the immense field.
However, by way of introducing some sort of order into the great variety of matters upon which advice will be given in the following pages, I shall distribute what I have to say under the following heads: (1) general rules; (2) our relation to ourselves; (3) our relation to others; and finally, (4) rules which concern our manner of life and our worldly circumstances. I shall conclude with some remarks on the changes which the various periods of life produce in us.
In boundless space countless shining spheres, about each of which, and illuminated by its light, there revolve a dozen or so of smaller ones, hot at the core and covered with a hard, cold crust, upon whose surface there have been generated from a mouldy film beings which live and know—this is what presents itself to us in experience as the truth, the real, the world. Yet for a thinking being it is a precarious position to stand upon one of those numberless spheres moving freely in boundless space without knowing whence or whither, and to be only one of innumerable similar beings who throng and press and toil, ceaselessly and quickly arising and passing away in time, which has no beginning and no end; moreover, nothing permanent but matter alone and the recurrence of the same varied organised forms, by means of certain ways and channels which are there once for all. All that empirical science can teach is only the more exact nature and law of these events. But now at last modern philosophy especially through Berkeley and Kant, has called ] to mind that all this is first of all merely a phenomenon of the brain, and is affected with such great, so many, and such different subjective conditions that its supposed absolute reality vanishes away, and leaves room for an entirely different scheme of the world, which consists of what lies at the foundation of that phenomenon, i.e., what is related to it as the thing in itself is related to its mere manifestation.
“The world is my idea” is, like the axioms of Euclid, a proposition which every one must recognise as true as soon as he understands it; although it is not a proposition which every one understands as soon as he hears it. To have brought this proposition to clear consciousness, and in it the problem of the relation of the ideal and the real, i.e., of the world in the head to the world outside the head, together with the problem of moral freedom, is the distinctive feature of modern philosophy. For it was only after men had spent their labour for thousands of years upon a mere philosophy of the object that they discovered that among the many things that make the world so obscure and doubtful the first and chiefest is this, that however immeasurable and massive it may be, its existence yet hangs by a single thread; and this is the actual consciousness in which it exists. This condition, to which the existence of the world is irrevocably subject, marks it, in spite of all empirical reality, with the stamp of ideality, and therefore of mere ...