(More Hegel quotes below*)
3. Stern says Hegel's philosophy is ______ (similar to, different from) Mill's in its emphasis on progress, optimism, and freedom of speech.
5. Schopenhauer called the "deeper reality beyond the world of appearances" ___.
BONUS: Who thought he might better understand Hegel if he first ingested nitrous oxide before reading The Phenomenology of Spirit?
BONUS+: Was Schopenhauer an ascetic?
4. What do you think of Schopenhauer's belief that everyday life ("the human situation") is a meaningless cycle of will, striving, and unfulfilled desire? Is a blind, purposeless, voracious Will really the ultimate reality of our existence? What do you think of the idea that art and music are our salvation? LH 135
HE has short hair and a long brown beard. He is wearing a three-piece suit. One imagines him slumped over his desk, giggling helplessly. Pushed to one side is an apparatus out of a junior-high science experiment: a beaker containing some ammonium nitrate, a few inches of tubing, a cloth bag. Under one hand is a piece of paper, on which he has written, "That sounds like nonsense but it is pure on sense!" He giggles a little more. The writing trails away. He holds his forehead in both hands. He is stoned. He is William James, the American psychologist and philosopher. And for the first time he feels that he is understanding religious mysticism... (from "The Nitrous Oxide Philosopher"... "The Subjective Effects of Nitrous Oxide"... Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit)
But despite the density and difficulty of his prose style, "friend Hegel" had a fairly straightforward message:
To the degree that we are thinking beings, Hegel says, we have to consider ourselves as part of a larger whole and not as neatly individuated. He calls this mental whole Geist, or Spirit, [or Absolute Reason,] and tries to work out the rules by which it develops through time… Robert Prowse
Hegel thinks that one important movement in history is the movement from thinking that just one of us is entitled to freedom (a king, say) to some (the patricians of ancient Athens, say) to all of us, where obviously this development relates to changing views of what freedom is, what we are, how we relate to one another... I'm not free unless I'm working for the good of society. Robert Stern
So Hegel's an optimist, unlike his countryman Schopenhauer and perhaps oddly more like the Brits Mill and Darwin.
*A few pithier-than-usual Hegel quotes:
“Only one man ever understood me, and he didn't understand me.”
“Truth is found neither in the thesis nor the antithesis, but in an emergent synthesis which reconciles the two.” [There's a pedestrian example of what Hegel means by "dialectic" in The Cave and the Light: think of automobiles as the thesis, traffic jams as the antithesis, and stop signs & traffic laws as the synthesis... and so on, ho hum.]
“We may affirm absolutely that nothing great in the world has been accomplished without passion.”
“What experience and history teaches us is that people and governments have never learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it.”
“To be independent of public opinion is the first formal condition of achieving anything great.”
Thursday, April 9, 2015
Hegel & Schopenhauer
We're into the 19th century, with Hegel (and Robert Stern on Hegel's dialectic) and his arch-rival Schopenhauer. A pair of audacious Hun metaphysicians who presumed to speak grandly for Reality.
(What's real, if you ask me? Younger Daughter's home pitching debut for her new school resulted in a 15-3 win yesterday afternoon, as she chipped in another triple and a beautiful scoring line drive to support her own cause. Later, Older Daughter phoned home from college with news that she's been recognized for excelling in both cinema and oratory. That's reality. I don't need a theory to tell me so. But Hegel and Schopenhauer thought otherwise.)
And here come the Germans now, led by their skipper Knobby Hegel...
They’re both in the song, if that helps. Let’s see… Schopenhauer and Hegel were both out-consumed by David Hume.
But it would probably be more helpful to relate the Germans to their predecessor Kant.
Schopenhauer and Hegel tried to go beyond Kant’s proscription against specifying the “thing-in-itself,” the ultimate “noumenal” reality beneath the appearances. For Hegel, History’s the thing. For Schopenhauer it’s Will.
An amusing sidelight: in spite of himself, and his intent to renounce personal will (so as to starve ultimate Will, or at least deprive it), Schopenhauer was stubbornly competitive with his philosophical rival Hegel. He insisted on lecturing at the same time as the more popular Hegel, with predictable results.
But you have to wonder if his auditors understood a word Hegel said? Maybe free gas was provided? (See William James’s “observations on the effects of nitrous-oxide-gas-intoxication” and his essay On Some Hegelisms - ”sounds like nonsense, but it is pure on-sense!”)
That's funny, but not entirely fair. Hegel wanted to fly with Minerva, through a glorious dawn. Any given snippet of Hegelian prose may be impenetrable, but his overall objective is clear enough: he wanted us to understand ourselves and our lives as active participants in the great progressive unfolding of history, of the coming-to-consciousness of spirit ("geist"), of the birth of enlightenment and freedom. Friendly aspirations all.
My old Mizzou prof often spoke of "Friend Hegel," and so did Michael Prowse.
To the degree that we are thinking beings, Hegel says, we have to consider ourselves as part of a larger whole and not as neatly individuated। He calls this mental whole Geist, or Spirit, and tries to work out the rules by which it develops through time… Hegel didn’t regard Geist as something that stands apart from, or above, human individuals. He saw it rather as the forms of thought that are realised in human minds… What Hegel does better than most philosophers is explain how individuals are linked together and why it is important to commit oneself to the pursuit of the general or common good.
And that's why, as Stern points out,
Hegel thinks that one important movement in history is the movement from thinking that just one of us is entitled to freedom (a king, say) to some (the patricians of ancient Athens, say) to all of us, where obviously this development relates to changing views of what freedom is, what we are, how we relate to one another... I'm not free unless I'm working for the good of society.That's not Schopenhauer's view, nor is it even remotely close to his mindset and general sensibility. Anything at all ambitious, let alone something as grand as the liberation of society and triumph of good, was to him just more fuel for the Will. Will is a voracious, never-sated, all-devouring blind force or power that uses us, and everything else in its path, to no end beyond its own perpetuation and expansion.
Moreover, Schopenhauer was morose and constitutionally dis-affected. He despised happiness as a form of self-delusion.
But I have to admit: for such an old sourpuss, Schopenhauer’s a lot of fun to read. His aphoristic Art of Controversy is a good place to begin.
The average man pursues the shadow of happiness with unwearied labour; and the thinker, the shadow of truth; and both, though phantoms are all they have, possess in them as much as they can grasp. Life is a language in which certain truths are conveyed to us; could we learn them in some other way, we should not live. Thus it is that wise sayings and prudential maxims will never make up for the lack of experience, or be a substitute for life itself.
And his Studies in Pessimism are oddly cheerful.
Schopenhauer, In Our Time...
One of the lesser-known but more intriguing facets of Schopenhauer’s philosophy was his belief that music is our point of entree to Will, and to ultimate reality.