Our February meeting will be a talk by our chair John Pittock. This will be a second talk on the nineteenth century atheist philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, this time relating his influence on the later existentialists. John says of his talk

“Humanists have good reason to be grateful to Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860). As he laid the foundations for the acceptance of radical, atheistic & agnostic viewpoints in Western culture at a time when it was dangerous to do so (evidenced by the fact that the last people to be burned at the stake for heresy in Europe was only 7 years before his birth). Additionally, some authorities hold that his wide-ranging metaphysical discourses on human existence (not reliant on a religious explanation) had the consequent and profound effect of being unconsciously absorbed into the Western canon of thought. His ideas captured the attention of some of the most influential of the 19th and 20th Century Existentialists and, paradoxically, some of whom were radically anti-religious and others devout Christians. My talk will centre on the theme that whilst Existentialism is no longer in vogue, it did for a time have an extraordinary hold over the thinking classes. I will focus on a doctrine that emphasised ‘existence’ as a precursor to ‘essence’ and with it, the conflicting dilemmas involved with the forming of judgements and freedom of choice, when viewed from a non-religious backdrop. In this, I will contend that there are parallels with Schopenhauer’s ‘philosophy of pessimism’, which places great prominence on the isolation of each conscious individual struggling to find meaning in a cruel and hostile world.”

All Welcome.