April 15, 2021

Two hundred years of Schopenhauer's "The World as Will and Representation"

Two hundred years of Schopenhauer's "The World as Will and Representation"


Pessimism has a bad reputation, but in this world of abundant ephemeral happiness, probably the only way to achieve happiness, without adjectives and fully, is to surrender to what they call well-informed optimism, that is, pessimism. . There are works of great philosophical scope that people recognize only through their popular reduction, by a generality devoid of depth. De Schopenhauer has transcended the image of a sullen and uncouth thinker, of difficult temperament and of ideas that invite melancholy, perhaps by decontextualized excerpts such as the following: "It always was an obstacle in my life and in everything that I undertook that until a very advanced age was not able to form a sufficiently clear idea of ​​the smallness and misery of men ». An affirmation that for today's homo sapiens, who frequents large surfaces and insatiable consumerism of fashions, results from an inasurable sadness. But the topics, an early anticipation of the «Fake News», never respond to a framework of truths. And it would not hurt to review the image and the philosopher's thought, taking advantage of the fact that this year marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of his masterpiece: "The world as will and representation" (now published in Alianza). "It is the foundational book of philosophical pessimism," comments the editor and philosopher Carlos Javier González.

This work is published in 1818, but dated 1819, which is what has been established worldwide to celebrate its edition. The text has had a special impact on Cioran, Freud, Emilia Pardo Bazán, Unamuno and Baroja, among other great names in philosophy and letters. But what does this title count? Carlos Javier González glosses it in a simple way: "Fundamentally, we are what we know about the world. But this knowledge is not direct. It is mediated by the senses, emotions and feelings. On the other hand, there is something that underlies this partial or equivocal vision, which is what Schopenhauer calls "what is in itself", and that is the will, what dominates the world, a devouring force always in a bid with itself . What he put in the fight is a constant struggle in the world, both labor and biological or inorganic, because everything that has no life is also in puja: the planets going around the sun. Everything is in tension for him. And there is no victory without struggle. It's what comes to tell ». But there is an aspect that Carlos Javier González goes to nuance urgently to avoid misunderstandings and remove prejudices: "He never justifies suicide, although he says that there are abysmal depths in the human heart, he assures that we must try to deny this will. Life is learning to deny that constant that dominates us ».

In this society of pragmatism, where everything must have a usefulness, and forgetful memory, nothing occupies our attention in a lasting way, it is worth highlighting what can be Schopenhauer's greatest teaching for men today: «Schopenhauer -explains Carlos Javier González- thought that the will was a cosmic mechanism by which we are all controlled by the biological side. That can be transported to our days by multinationals, pharmaceutical companies and the gigantic influence of the advertising apparatus to which we are all exposed. It is the capitalist will. The metaphysical will has become a neoliberal will. The actuality of his thinking is in that. You have to accept an active stoicism, because, according to him, the last thing to do in life is to be still. To all this dependency syndrome is added the obligation to be happy. All the time our thinking is contaminated with the idea of ​​being happy. But Schopenhauer tells us that we were not born to be happy, but to be in the world and take advantage of the moments of joy that are given to us. The error of the human being is to believe that we are born to be happy. This idea, however, takes it from Baltasar Gracian. In fact, the Germans read the works of our writer in Schopenhauer's translation ».

The philosopher, like others, was misinterpreted by the Third Reich, as Carlos Javier González recalls. The Nazis took the concept of will and manipulated it to respond to their interests, as shown in a film, "The triumph of the will." «Hitler read this book. The concept "will" is very strong in German. Hitler appropriated that idea to apply to the supremacy of the Aryan race. All that movie shows the grandiosity of the Nazi will, when Schopenhauer actually talked about something else ». The influence of the work is present in the existentialist movement, from Sartre to Camus, nourishes the writers of the Generation of 27, but also to Freud and psychoanalysis because "that will is unconscious and it is life". But it does not end there. The work of the terrible child of French letters, Michel Houellebecq, is imbued with the ideas of Schopenhauer. «Houellebecq vindicates the relevance of the thinker. His work is full of corporations that want to appropriate our thinking and just want us to be happy. Even his latest novel has in the title the name of a biochemical component so that our brain can be happy. All of Houellebecq's speech is impregnated by Schopenhauer. But in the sense of claiming a healthy pessimism. Schopenhauer and Houellebecq talk about the flight of society, in a gregarious movement. The only way to escape is for each person to recognize their individuality. Otherwise, you are still one of the masses. Houellebecq affirms that we are involved in it and that we must dare to think for ourselves ».

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