Fun with Schopenhauer

Here are some quotes from The World as Will and Representation:

If I were to call to mind the way in which Hegel and his companions have misused such wide and empty abstractions, I should necessarily be afraid that both the reader and I would be ill, for the most sickening and loathsome tediousness hangs over the empty bombast of this repulsive philosophaster.

I feel the same way about MMT.

In volume one I regarded it as superfluous to illustrate this theory by examples, as everyone can easily do this for himself by reflecting a little on the cases of the ludicrous which he calls to mind. However, to come to the aid of the mental inertness of those readers who always prefer to remain in a passive state, I will meet their wishes here.

Yes, nothing worse than lazy readers.

In general, I make the demand that whoever wishes to make himself acquainted with my philosophy shall read every line of me.

I feel the same way. And on the same page he ridicules those who will have the nerve to criticize him without being fully informed:

[W]hoever wants to learn from me and to understand me must not read unread anything that I have written.Yet without this people can criticize and condemn me, as experience has shown; and for this also I further wish them much pleasure.

Once I start tweeting, I’ll demand that people read all my tweets before commenting on any one of them.

(At first, Schopenauer’s personality flaws seemed sort of ridiculous to me. Then I began wondering how many I share.)

Is this the least romantic paragraph ever written?

If, from the standpoint of this last consideration, we now contemplate the bustle and turmoil of life, we see everyone concerned with its cares and troubles, exerting all his strength to satisfy infinite needs and to ward off suffering in many forms, yet without daring to hope for anything else in place of it except just the preservation of this tormented existence for a short span of time. In between, however, we see in the midst of the tumult the glances of two lovers meet longingly: yet why so secretly, nervously, and furtively? Because these lovers are the traitors who secretly strive to perpetrate the whole trouble and toil that would otherwise rapidly come to an end. Such an end they try to frustrate, as other like them have frustrated it previously.

And some people think I’m a pessimist.

Schopenhauer has a chapter on homosexuality, a subject on which he seems to be unusually ill-informed. He eventually concludes that while it is a “disgusting depravity”, it is also a necessary evil that helps to preserve the species. The chapter itself is of little interest, but the conclusion is amusing:

Finally, by expounding the paradoxical ideas, I wanted to grant the professors of philosophy a small favor, for they are very disconcerted by the ever-increasing publicization of my philosophy which they so carefully concealed. I have done so by giving them the opportunity of slandering me by saying that I defend and commend pederasty.

I am equally generous. My China posts give my readers the opportunity to slander me with claims of sympathy for the CCP.

And finally, for those of you who wonder what our future AI overlords have in mind, Schopenauer has an answer:

It is a deduction from what has been said that we have no ground for assuming that there are even more perfect intelligences than those of human beings. For we see that this intelligence is already sufficient for imparting to the will that knowledge in consequence of which the will denies and abolishes itself. With this knowledge, individuality, and therefore intelligence, as being merely a tool of individual nature, of animal nature, cease. To us this will appear less objectionable when we consider that we cannot conceive even the most perfect possible intelligences, which we may tentatively assume for this purpose, as indeed continuing to exist throughout an endless time, a time that would prove to be much too poor to afford them constantly new objects worthy of them. Thus, because the inner essence of all things is at bottom identical, all knowledge of it is necessarily tautological. If this inner essence is once grasped, as it soon would be by those most perfect intelligences, what would be left for them but mere repetition and its tedium throughout endless time? Thus, even from this point of view, we are referred to the fact that the aim of all intelligence can only be reaction to a will; but since all willing is error, the last work of intelligence is to abolish willing, whose aims and ends it had hitherto served. Accordingly, even the most perfect intelligence possible can be only a transition stage to that which no knowledge can ever reach; in fact, such an intelligence, in the nature of things, can take only the place of the moment of attained, perfect insight.

What if a future AI decides that Schopenauer is right, that life is not worth living? And we program it to maximize aggregate human utility? Would this be a good thing?

I guess the answer depends on whether they are in fact correct.

Have a nice day!



19 Responses to “Fun with Schopenhauer”

  1. Gravatar of MichaelM MichaelM
    31. October 2021 at 16:47

    Good to see you reading philosophers other than Rorty.

    I have always found the idea that a future general AI would immediately commit suicide because of this to be an interesting thought.

  2. Gravatar of Lizard Man Lizard Man
    1. November 2021 at 04:39

    “ What if a future AI decides that Schopenauer is right, that life is not worth living?”

    Then we teach it to play the flute.

  3. Gravatar of David S David S
    1. November 2021 at 06:36

    Scott, do you feel the same way about Crypto enthusiasts as you do about MMTer’s?

  4. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    1. November 2021 at 07:59

    David, No, as I don’t know what crypto enthusiasts believe.

  5. Gravatar of Michael Rulle Michael Rulle
    2. November 2021 at 06:18

    Re Crypto. I don’t really know what they believe either——even as I am consulting with a significant entity in the space——although we are working on more technical micro-aspects that are not related to their strategic business end goals per se—I.e., we are performing a facilitating function—-we don’t need to know much for the assignment about its strategic beliefs—-but am hoping to learn something.

    One thing that I believe is believed (!!)—-is that digital finance (“person to person”—“business to business”) can be more efficient ——less costly—-when the banking system is bypassed. I have no opinion on this. But “miners” become “the Fed”—(analogy only). I am convinced that money managers and traders are just trading and investing without really understanding it’s nature.

    I believe blockchain technology has become perceived as something that can protect the new financial system—-except there have been hacks already. There are 13000 (!) different currencies. But the 20th largest in market cap is 1/1000th the market cap of Bitcoin.

    Ethereum —number 2–seems to be the one that does the most financial “person to person” business—-but I have no idea what business they do.

    Having said all of the above, I am convinced that the participants in fact have a strategic vision——even if it may be only partially self articulated—-and the people involved on the currency side appear to be smart people.

    In time we will know all.

  6. Gravatar of David S David S
    2. November 2021 at 08:43

    Michael, it sounds like you’re helping sell shovels to the prospectors rushing to Alaska for the gold rush. More power to you and I hope you’re making money—certainly more than those poor fools who bought the Squid Game crypto. In any event, I appreciate that we’re all a little bit confused by it. I don’t share your optimism about the motivations of some of the brains behind some of it, but we’ll see what happens. I have yet to buy anything with crypto and I’m not sure I’d accept as payment from a client. If Scott starts selling merchandise on this blog and giving us the option to pay him in “Scottcoins” I might rethink some things.

    I apologize for diverting this thread away from musings on such a lovely little thinker like Schopenhauer.

  7. Gravatar of msgkings msgkings
    2. November 2021 at 13:19

    Re: crypto

    I think we can think of this new phenomenon in a granular way. It’s not either “crypto is the future, the dollar is dead, all will be digital currency” vs “crypto is a scam, all will disappear”

    Clearly the wilder outlier currencies and tokens are silly, like the Squid Game one or whatever. But bitcoin isn’t going anywhere, nor are some of the other big ones like ethereum. They are past the novelty phase. The only question is what will that eventual permanence look like. Digital gold? Replace the dollar? Use cases that run side by side with the dollar?

    It’s pretty interesting to watch, truly new developments are rare in finance.

  8. Gravatar of rinat rinat
    2. November 2021 at 17:57

    Words that come from your mouth cannot be slander.

    You may not like those words. You may look in the mirror, contemplate and reflect, then in some fitted rage of self denial claim to have never said such things, but YOUR words are still YOUR words.

    You praised the CCP for their draconian lockdown – a lockdown that welded doors shut, gave out color coded wrist bands, and posted apparatchiks on every street corner. People who advocate such things are not fans of liberty!

    You continue to advocate for “free trade” policy, even when that trade enriches and empowers an organization that has one singular objective: that is, to destroy the American republic. Indeed, the destruction of America is engraved in the CCP’s very constitution. You have praised their “innovation”, innovation that apparently involves stealing America’s intellectual property, sending hoards of graduate degree students as spies to steal data from academies and corporations they work and study for (not all, but some), and bribing academics and officials.

    You posted in favor of packing the courts and destroying the electoral system, a system that is designed (please read the federalist papers) to give EVERYONE a voice: not just those in heavily populated regions (i.e., on the coast). Packing the court is also a very, very, very radical proposal. It would DESTROY confidence in the Supreme Court, a court which has historically used legal precedent to determine outcome, not politics: hence, why they wear robes!

    Your proposals on drugs would destroy communities.

    Indeed, everything you propose leads to one party rule. You are highly partisan, yet continually pretend otherwise. Everything you say leads to centralization of the state apparatus. Everything you say makes people WORSE OFF, not better off. And finally, EVERYTHING you say is in direct opposition to the very nature of America’s founding; a founding predicated on individualism, decentralization, and separation of power.

    So it’s hard to have sympathy for the claim of “slander” when these proposals come from your own mouth.

    And it’s very easy to refute these claims. Instead of saying “I don’t believe that”. Why don’t you tell us what YOU DO BELIEVE.

    A commenter a few months ago brought up Noam Chomsky’s Anarcho syndicalism in what was a very well written post. Your response was: “I’m not a fan of Chomsky”.

    Yeah, okay. But “Not being a fan” is not an argument!

    At least Chomsky believes in individualism and a powerful community government, not institutionalized European collectivism whereby some unelected loser in Brussels enacts mandates that local communities don’t want, nor need.

    At least Chomsky understands the immutable principle since time immemorial: governments are corrupt, many academics and corporations are corrupt, and it’s much easier to hold the corrupt accountable when they are LOCAL!

  9. Gravatar of steve steve
    3. November 2021 at 05:03

    Schopenhauer was an existentialist living in a transcendental world…..and he had a groovy haircut.

  10. Gravatar of Ankh Ankh
    3. November 2021 at 13:33

    “I feel the same way. And on the same page he ridicules those who will have the nerve to criticize him without being fully informed:”

    I’m curious. When you claim that Trump inherited ALL of his wealth, and that he never “produced anything of value”, do you think you are “fully informed”. Because the facts show otherwise.

    When you claim that Bolton is a reliable source of information, have you considered the man’s historical accuracy such as his false claims about Saddam, his recommendations to attack North Korea and bomb Iran? Do you also consider the fact that Bolton is oddly in favor of sending America’s boys – and now woman – to war, but was himself a draft dodger? Would you consider his war proposals, smart proposals? Does he sound like a credible person?

    When you advocate for drugs and prostitution, claiming that regulating such things causes externalizations, do you consider the deleterious effects these drugs have on the human mind, the danger to society at large, and the consequences of wide spread addiction?

    When you say that tariffs are bad, do you consider homeless people? Do you consider that no tariffs increases inequality, which creates a two tiered society? Do you consider the destruction of America’s towns? Do you consider the chaos of urban sprawl? Do you consider that GDP and efficiency might not be the only measurement when determining a better life?

    When data is not supportive of the vaccine, and when you claim that all data you disagree with, and all whistle blowers, are simply “conspiracy”, is that “fully informed”? When academics don’t disclose their special interests and funding, or try to hide their interests, as the FBI has found several times over the past two years: is that “fully informed”?

    When academics propose the 1619 project, a historical inaccurate slander of American history, and they do so for political purposes, and tell us that they know it’s not historically accurate, and that it’s designed to “change policy”, is that “fully informed”.

    When you wrote an article in support of BLM in July of 2020, a group that self identifies as “communist”, and “trained communists”, was that “fully informed”?

    I don’t you specifically, and your profession generally, can claim to be “fully informed”.

  11. Gravatar of Harry Harry
    3. November 2021 at 14:13

    “What if a future AI decides that Schopenauer is right, that life is not worth living? And we program it to maximize aggregate human utility? Would this be a good thing?”

    Terminator 1, 2, 3, 4?

    Elon Musk countless interviews?

    This is something we’ve feared for the last fifty years.

    But America doesn’t need to concern itself with technological singularity; that is so far off in the future.

    What America does need to concern itself with, and hopefully quickly, is their radical left Bolshevik party.

    When Putin is comparing the Woke to the Bolsheviks, and warning Americans in advance, then I suggest listening.

    Putin knows a thing or two about Communism!

    He’s also very bright!

  12. Gravatar of Effem Effem
    4. November 2021 at 06:25

    Unrelated to this post, but curious why you think the Fed would announce policy that results in a 6bp increase in 10y inflation expectations (as of 10am the following morning)? Seems like odd central bank behavior right now, no?

  13. Gravatar of anon/portly anon/portly
    4. November 2021 at 07:53

    That “least romantic paragraph” is very good, and very funny. In fact they’re all amusing. Is Schopenhauer always like this or are you just singling out passages where’s he’s taking the piss a little bit?

    Maybe if Schopenhauer came back to life today, he’d eschew academic philosophy (which no one cares about now) and do standup.

  14. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    4. November 2021 at 08:04

    Rinat, You said: “You posted in favor of packing the courts”

    LOL, I have expressed extreme opposition to court packing many times. Ask my liberal commenters. And you say I support BLM? Are you on drugs? I thought you opposed illegal drugs?

    “When you say that tariffs are bad, do you consider homeless people?”

    LOL, so tariffs prevent homelessness? BTW, I frequently blog against zoning laws, which the GOP now supports (thanks to Trump.)

    Effen, Yes, they probably should have been a bit more contractionary.

    Anon/portly, No, these tirades are unusual (the first few), out of character. Normally he’s one of the wisest philosophers that ever lived. So how can someone that wise write this stuff? It’s a mystery.

    The “romantic” and AI quotes are more typical.

  15. Gravatar of Ron Ron
    5. November 2021 at 01:03

    Have you heard of Arabella Advisors and their four in house NGO’s: the “new venture fund”, “sixteen thirty fund”, “hopewell fund”, and “winward fund”?

    Yeah, I suspect not.

    These funds are simply shelf companies that act as advisors to 340 NGO’s that fund political projects.

    Did you know all of those 340 NGO’s use buzz words like “social change”, “family planning”, and “inclusive sustainability”? These rather meaningless terms originated behind the closed doors of the UN, and encompass everything from eugenics to open borders. These companies often fund “social activists” who are primarily clueless undergrads paid to follow politicians, yell curse words, dress as Ku Klux Klan members, attempt to buy up politicians and those with the power to “fix outcomes”, etc, etc.

    Do you know that all of the four NGO’s connected to Arabella are funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the open society, four NGO’s directly controlled by Warren Buffets Family, several Rockefeller foundations (all owned by the Rockefeller family), and foreign entities?

    Did you know that these dark money “advisers”, spent nearly three times what conservatives spent on the election? Did you know that these 340 groups move in lockstep, and that their proposals mimic each other?

    Based on what you write about politics, I think know very little about the two political machines, how they operate, and the threats America currently faces from dark money sources. Sources that don’t care about Schopenhauer, your blog, or your theoretical economic suppositions.

    The word humility is something you and the late Schopenhauer may want to look up.

  16. Gravatar of anon/portly anon/portly
    5. November 2021 at 13:09

    “Normally he’s one of the wisest philosophers that ever lived. So how can someone that wise write this stuff? It’s a mystery.”

    At least with regards to the first two snippets, if it’s really true that we should hold Schopenhauer in high regard, shouldn’t we then assume that or wonder if he has a reason, perhaps a well thought-out reason, for writing them?

    Of course we’re just seeing the snippet, not the context, so maybe we should just take your word for it that there’s something especially inexplicably jarring or out of character going on. You almost seem to be saying they have a “non sequitur” quality. Yet it’s hard to imagine that the effect is not intentional.

  17. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    6. November 2021 at 07:54

    anon/portly, On second thought, “out of character” is a poor description. Obviously it must in some sense reflect his character. Rather it’s evidence of a character containing a bewildering mix of wisdom and cluelessness.

  18. Gravatar of henry henry
    6. November 2021 at 15:00

    Appeals court blocks Biden’s unconstitutional overreach today.

    Your welcome America!


    The great, and I do mean the “GREEAAAATTT” state of Texas!

    P.S. Bigger is better!

  19. Gravatar of jorgen jorgen
    7. November 2021 at 18:17

    “Genius is the power of leaving one’s own interests, wishes, and aims entirely out of sight… so as to remain pure knowing subject, clear vision of the world.” – Schopenhauer

    Like most academics Schopenhauer had excessive hubris, following his passions to the extreme which led him to a life of depression and misery.

    This is pertinent to our times, because the western world is confronted with more Thomas Paine & Schopenhauer radicals. As Burke said, “Reform must begin with circumstance, not theoretical presuppositions.”

    It’s extremely dangerous to pursue the abstract to its fully realized form, not just because it’s an impossibility, but because you will lose everything in the process. Social unity, order, tradition, culture all destroyed in the name of some utopian ideal that an academic has thrust upon society because they have a disorganized, half-baked, abstract concept of the good life.

    Sorry Sir, but your profession is a societal menace.

    I hope Elon Musk does start a University in Texas, because we need a University with competent academics to attack this ridiculous puritanism descending upon us.

    Burke was also afraid of radicals cutting ties to the past, while proceeding with extremism and mob rule. Sound familiar?

    Apparently, nobody in the United States learned anything from the French Revolution.

    Here we are again!

Leave a Reply