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Class Level: All levels
Age Requirements: 21 and older
Average Class Size: 14
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The Worst of All Possible Worlds: an Introduction to Schopenhauer

Arthur Schopenhauer is a true oddity in the history of philosophy. Although a great metaphysical systematizer in the tradition of Leibniz and Hegel, Schopenhauer posed a worldview entirely antithetical to the “optimism” characteristic of traditional Western philosophizing. Whereas for Leibniz ours is “the best of all possible worlds,” Schopenhauer insisted that we are “not to be pleased but rather sorry about the existence of the world.” Ignored for much of his life, languishing resentfully in Hegel’s shadow, Schopenhauer at last achieved prominence when his conception of the world as objectified “Will,” of life as endless conflict, struck a resounding chord with a younger generation of 19th century thinkers and artists, including Nietzsche, Wagner, Tolstoy, Baudelaire, and Melville. What is the philosophical basis for Schopenhauer’s profound pessimism? How, in a world constituted by “representation” and ceaseless “will,” can humans live meaningfully, peacefully, and morally?

In this class, we’ll make our way through Schopenhauer’s magnum opus The World as Will and Representation, as we attempt to make sense—metaphysically, epistemologically, aesthetically, and ethically—of his systematic philosophy. We’ll consider its roots not only in Kantian and Platonic idealism, but also in Hindu and Buddhist thought. How, for Schopenhauer, do art and aesthetic experience serve as a means for achieving something like “salvation”? What are the moral ramifications of Schopenhauer’s pessimism for an ethics of asceticism and compassion?

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  • Upon request, we will refund the entire cost of a course up until 1 week before its start date.
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Reviews of Classes at Brooklyn Institute for Social Research (28)

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An Introduction to Schopenhauer
Reviewed by Anh T. on 12/11/2019

School: Brooklyn Institute for Social Research

Brooklyn Institute for Social Research

The Brooklyn Institute for Social Research was established in 2011 in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. Its mission is to extend liberal arts education and research far beyond the borders of the traditional university, supporting community education needs and opening up new possibilities for scholarship in the...

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