Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Book Review: Essays of Schopenhauer

I am so impressed by his other book, I badly wanted to read another one. Essays of Schopenhauer is the one I could get hold of. As the translator Mrs. Rudolf Dircks says,  this is a valuable criticism of life by a man who possess a wide experience of life, a man of the world, who held an almost inspired faculty of observation. After a short commentary on the writing style of these essays, the essayist starts by examining writing; the motivation for authors in general, contrasting different incentives to this occupation. He has a word of caution though, "Just as neglect of dress betrays contempt for the society in which a man moves, so does a hasty, careless, and bad style show shocking disrespect for the reader", who then may decide "not to read the book".
On 'reading', Schopenhauer comes with a not so complimentary view. "..to read in every spare moment, and to read constantly, is more paralyzing to the mind than constant manual work, which, at any rate, allows one to follow one’s own thoughts. Just as a spring, through the continual pressure of a foreign body, at last loses its elasticity, so does the mind if it has another person’s thoughts continually forced upon it."
This is followed by reflections on "the emptiness of existence". Here examining life both as a road going uphill and downhill, he finds existence as an interval free from pain, which was immediately followed by boredom, which gives rise to fresh needs. Something more comic than tragic.
He is quite sexist while handling the next essay, On Women. "The nobler and more perfect a thing is, the later and slower is it in reaching maturity. Man reaches the maturity of his reasoning and mental faculties scarcely before he is eight-and-twenty; woman when she is eighteen; but hers is reason of very narrow limitations." This is followed by a dialogue on religions that examines the different religions of the world, especially how its two faces, one of truth and one of deceit, serves to feed the needs. While discussing happiness, he lays stress on the need to view things from a distance. As one goes near we tend to envy the position of others. Some more such topics follow, like suicide,or metaphysics of love.
As I expected, all of his opinions triggers a spate of reflective effort, in addition to being different from the popular. The author forced me to think at every phrase or expression. For example, who can fail to notice the novelty of the view that it "is worth while to observe everybody attentively; even if they are not worth talking to." Because, as "the tongue only speaks the thoughts of one man, while the face expresses a thought of nature", there will be much to learn.

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