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Chapter 12 - Additional remarks on the doctrine of the suffering of the world

from PARERGA AND PARALIPOMENA, VOLUME 2

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 November 2015

Adrian Del Caro
Affiliation:
University of Tennessee
Christopher Janaway
Affiliation:
University of Southampton
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Summary

§148

If suffering is not the closest and most immediate goal of our life, then our existence is the most inexpedient thing in the world. For it is absurd to assume that endless pain, which springs from the distress that is essential to life and of which the world is everywhere full, should be pointless and purely accidental. Our sensitivity for pain is almost infinite, while that for pleasure has narrow limits. Each individual misfortune appears to be an exception, to be sure, but misfortune generally is the rule.

§ 149

Just as the brook makes no eddy as long as it encounters no obstacles, so too human as well as animal nature entail that we do not properly notice and realize everything that goes in accordance with our will. If we were to notice it, then it must not have immediately gone in accordance with our will, but must have met with some obstacle. – On the other hand, we sense directly, immediately and very clearly everything that opposes, crosses and resists our will, therefore all that is unpleasant and painful. Just as we do not feel the health of our entire body but only the small place where the shoe pinches, so too we do not think of the totality of our well-functioning affairs, but of some insignificant trifle that annoys us. – On this rests the negativity of well-being and happiness, frequently emphasized by me, as opposed to the positivity of pain.

Accordingly I know of no greater absurdity than that of most metaphysical systems which declare evil to be something negative, whereas it is precisely the positive that is making itself felt. On the other hand, the good, i.e., all happiness and satisfaction, is the negative, that is, the mere suspending of desire and ceasing of a pain.

What is also consistent with this is that as a rule we find joys far below but pains far above our expectation.

Whoever would like to briefly test the assertion that pleasure outweighs pain in the world, or that they are at least in equilibrium, should compare the feelings of the animal that devours another with those of the one being devoured.

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Schopenhauer: Parerga and Paralipomena
Short Philosophical Essays
, pp. 262 - 275
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2015

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