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Chapter 8 - On ethics

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

§108

Physical truths can have much external significance, but they lack internal significance. The latter is the prerogative of intellectual and moral truths, which have the highest levels of the objectivation of the will as their theme, while the former have the lowest. For instance, if we were to determine with certainty that, as we today merely conjecture, the sun at the equator causes thermo-electricity, which in turns causes the magnetism of the earth and the latter polar light, then these would be truths of much external, but of meagre internal significance. Examples of these internal truths are provided not only by all elevated and true intellectual philosophemes, but also by the catastrophe of every good tragedy, indeed, even by the observation of human behaviour in the extreme expressions of its morality and immorality, therefore of wickedness and goodness. For in all of these emerges the essence whose appearance is the world, and it displays its inner nature on the highest level of its objectivation.

§109

That the world has a mere physical but no moral significance is the greatest, most ruinous and fundamental error, the real perversity of the mind and in a basic sense it is certainly that which faith has personified as the antichrist. Nevertheless, and in spite of all religions which assert the contrary of this and seek to establish it in their mythological ways, that basic error never dies out on earth, but always raises its head from time to time until universal indignation once again forces it into hiding.

Yet as certain as the feeling of a moral significance of the world and of life is, still clarifying it and unravelling the contradiction between it and the course of the world is so difficult that it was left to me to explain the true, only genuine and pure foundation of morality, which is therefore everywhere and always effective, along with the goal to which it leads. In this I have too much of the reality of moral events on my side to have to worry whether this theory could ever again be superseded and displaced by another.

But as long as even my ethics remains ignored by professors, what reigns in the universities is the Kantian moral principle and among its various forms the ‘dignity of man’ is now the favourite.

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Schopenhauer: Parerga and Paralipomena
Short Philosophical Essays
, pp. 183 - 216
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2015

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