Schopenhauer, suicide, and contemporary pessimism

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract

Among contemporary philosophers, David Benatar espouses a form of pessimism most closely aligned with Schopenhauer’s. Both maintain that human existence is a misfortune, such that each of us would have been better off having never existed at all. Here my concerns are twofold: First, I investigate why, despite these similarities, Schopenhauer and Benatar arrive at divergent positions regarding suicide. For whereas Benatar concludes that suicide is sometimes a moral wrong to others but is prudentially rational in a wider array of circumstances than we ordinarily expect, Schopenhauer largely sets aside questions of both interpersonal morality and prudence to argue that suicide is self-contradictory or futile because it does not undermine the metaphysical facts concerning the place of will in human life, facts ultimately responsible for our unfortunate condition. Second, I consider Schopenhauer’s attempt to show that suicide is a mistaken response to human suffering. Under any of several plausible interpretations of Schopenhauer’s argument that suicide is a futile exercise, his reasoning is unconvincing. Drawing upon Schopenhauer’s admiration for ‘ascetic’ suicide, I then propose an alternative expressive route for Schopenhauer: that suicide is usually mistaken because it fails to manifest integrity in light of the unfortunate truth about the human condition.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSchopenhauer's Moral Philosophy
EditorsPatrick Hassan
PublisherRoutledge Taylor & Francis Group
Chapter7
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9781003090953
ISBN (Print)9780367547721
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021

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