The Atheism of Schopenhauer

Date:        Monday 21st January 2019, 7.30pm
Venue:    Willerby & Kirkella Parish Institute, 58 Main St, Willerby, Hull HU10 6BZ

The first meeting of 2019 at our new venue was a great success with 25 people attending and was a talk by HERHG committee member John Pittock who talked about Arthur Schopenhauer. John said of his talk:

“Metaphysical systems, by their very nature, should be anathema to most committed Humanists, however, it is generally agreed that the great metaphysical system builder Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 to 1860) had a profound influence on the minds of some of western cultures greatest thinkers: musicians, writers and artists (Einstein, Wittgenstein, Tolstoy, Kafka, Mahler, Wagner, Camus et al).
Widely acknowledged as being the first major western philosopher to publicly declare his atheism at a time when it was dangerous to do so, he also propounded a form of pessimistic philosophy that was bleak in the extreme which laid the groundwork for the realism and authenticity of the later existential philosophers.
Paradoxically, in spite of his renowned pessimism, he crafted a system of salvation utilising, aesthetic, moral and ascetic forms of self-awareness as instruments for sublimating what he saw to be integral to the human condition, namely; anxiousness, fear, selfishness and the imperatives/urges of what he described as the ‘Will’.
Whilst not commanding universal recognition or acceptance, Schopenhauer’s philosophy is usually seen as an important milestone in the history of ideas, furthermore, his theories on aesthetics and music still hold influence.
What was it then that caused the mature Wagner to write that his introduction to Schopenhauer’s philosophy was the most significant event of his life and that ‘the impact was extraordinary and decisive’? Why would Brian Magee write in his own autobiography that on reading Schopenhauer’s ‘World as Will and Representation’ the extraordinary commendation – ‘which I regard as the most mind stretching, capacious, illuminating and penetrating system of philosophical ideas that has yet been forged by a human mind’ . I will give an account of the primary concepts that constructed Schopenhauer’s philosophy and its impact on the minds of the major influencers of the 19th and 20th Century, which were both beneficial and cataclysmic.”

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