Arthur Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation, tr. E. F. J. Payne, vol. II (Dover, 1966), p. 162. This is from Chapter XVII, "On Man's Need for Metaphysics" (emphases added and a paragraph break):
Temples and churches, pagodas and mosques, in all countries and ages, in their splendour and spaciousness, testify to man's need for metaphysics, a need strong and ineradicable, which follows close on the physical. The man of a satirical frame of mind could of course add that this need for metaphysics is a modest fellow content with meagre fare. Sometimes it lets itself be satisfied with clumsy fables and absurd fairy-tales. If only they are imprinted early enough, they are for man adequate explanations of his existence and supports for his morality.
Consider the Koran, for example; this wretched book was sufficient to start a world-religion, to satisfy the metaphysical need for countless millions for twelve hundred years, to become the basis of their morality and of a remarkable contempt for death, and also to inspire them to bloody wars and the most extensive conquests. In this book we find the saddest and poorest form of theism. Much may be lost in translation, but I have not been able to discover in it one single idea of value. Such things show that the capacity for metaphysics does not go hand in hand with the need for it . . . .
Modernist to medievalist: Medieval philosophy is substance abuse!
Medievalist to modernist: Modern philosophy is self abuse!
(And that reminds me of a marginalium Schopenhauer inscribed into his copy of Fichte's Wissenschaftslehre: Onanie! (onanism) Wissenschaftslehre translates as Theory of Science. Schopenhauer, however, referred in print to Fichte's book as Wissenschaftsleere, which sounds the same but translates as Empty of Science.
If Schopenhauer had a blog, what might he call it? The Scowl of Minerva.)
Cosmological arguments for the existence of God rest on several ontological assumptions none of them quite obvious, and all of them reasonable candidates for philosophical examination. Among them, (i) existence is a ‘property’ of contingent individuals; (ii) the existence of individuals is not a brute fact but is susceptible of explanation; (iii) it is coherent to suppose that this explanation is causal: that contingent individuals could have a cause of their existence. It is the third item on this list that I propose to examine here.
Man is a metaphysical animal. He does not live by bread alone, nor by bed alone, and he does not scratch only where it physically itches. He also scratches where he feels the metaphysical itch, the tormenting lust to know the ultimate why and wherefore. And where is that punctum pruriens located? What is it that arouses his intellectual eros?
. . . das Böse, das Uebel und der Tod sind es, welche das philosophische Erstaunen qualificiren und erhöhen: nicht bloß, daß die Welt vorhanden, sondern noch mehr, daß sie eine so trübsälige sei, ist das punctum pruriens der Metaphysik, das Problem, welches die Menschheit in eine Unruhe versetzt, die sich weder durch Skepticismus noch durch Kriticismus beschwichtigen läßt.
. . . it is wickedness, evil, and death that qualify and intensify philosophical astonishment. Not merely that the world exists, but still more that it is such a miserable and melancholy world, is the punctum pruriens of metaphysics, the problem awakening in mankind an unrest that cannot be quieted either by scepticism or criticism. (Schopenhauer, WWR II, 172, tr. Payne)
Arthur Schopenhauer was born on this date in 1788. I don't imagine he was given to the celebration of birthdays for reasons that may be gleaned from this YouTube reading by D. E. Wittkower.
It is an accurate and pleasant reading of the whole of "The Vanity of Existence" (from Parerga) with only one insignificant divergence from the English text as presented in The Will to Live: Selected Writings of Arthur Schopenhauer, ed. Richard Taylor, pp. 229-233.
Listening to another read is inferior to careful and meditative reading and re-reading by oneself in solitude with pen and notebook at the ready.
It does little good to listen to philosophy being read or even to read it oneself. One needs to work through a text slowly, pondering, comparing, re-reading, reconstructing and evaluating the arguments, raising objections, imagining possible replies and all of this while animated by a burning need to get to the bottom of some pressing existential question. You must bring to your reading questions if you expect study to be profitable.
If one fails to enter into the dialectic of the problems and issues one will come away with little more than a vague literary impression. But real study is hard work demanding aptitude, time, peace, and quiet, a commodity in short supply in these hyperkinetic and cacaphonous times. Back in the day, old Arthur was much exercised by "the infernal cracking of whips" as he he complained in his classic "On Noise." What would he say today? Could he survive in the contemporary crapstorm of hiphop horseshit kaka-phony?
So turn off that cell phone before I smash it to pieces!
If Schopenhauer were a blogger, would he allow comments on his weblog, The Scowl of Minerva?
I say no, and adduce as evidence the following passage that concludes his Art of Controversy, a delightful essay found in his Nachlass, but left untitled by the master:
As a sharpening of wits, controversy is often, indeed, of mutual advantage, in order to correct one's thoughts and awaken new views. But in learning and in mental power both disputants must be tolerably equal: If one of them lacks learning, he will fail to understand the other, as he is not on the same level with his antagonist. If he lacks mental power, he will be embittered, and led into dishonest tricks, and end by being rude.
The only safe rule, therefore, is that which Aristotle mentions in the last chapter of his Topica: not to dispute with the first person you meet, but only with those of your acquaintance of whom you know that they possess sufficient intelligence and self-respect not to advance absurdities; to appeal to reason and not to authority, and to listen to reason and yield to it; and, finally, to cherish truth, to be willing to accept reason even from an opponent, and to be just enough to bear being proved to be in the wrong, should truth lie with him. From this it follows that scarcely one man in a hundred is worth your disputing with him. You may let the remainder say what they please, for every one is at liberty to be a fool - desipere est jus gentium. Remember what Voltaire says: La paix vaut encore mieux que la verite. Remember also an Arabian proverb which tells us that on the tree of silence there hangs its fruit, which is peace.
Here is the same passage in the German original:
Das Disputieren ist als Reibung der Köpfe allerdings oft von gegenseitigem Nutzen, zur Berichtigung der eignen Gedanken und auch zur Erzeugung neuer Ansichten. Allein beide Disputanten müssen an Gelehrsamkeit und an Geist ziemlich gleichstehn. Fehlt es Einem an der ersten, so versteht er nicht Alles, ist nicht au niveau. Fehlt es ihm am zweiten, so wird die dadurch herbeigeführte Erbitterung ihn zu Unredlichkeiten und Kniffen [oder] zu Grobheit verleiten. Die einzig sichere Gegenregel ist daher die, welche schon Aristoteles im letzten Kapitel der Topica gibt: Nicht mit dem Ersten dem Besten zu disputieren; sondern allein mit solchen, die man kennt, und von denen man weiß, daß sie Verstand genug haben, nicht gar zu Absurdes vorzubringen und dadurch beschämt werden zu müssen; und um mit Gründen zu disputieren und nicht mit Machtsprüchen, und um auf Gründe zu hören und darauf einzugehn; und endlich, daß sie die Wahrheit schätzen, gute Gründe gern hören, auch aus dem Munde des Gegners, und Billigkeit genug haben, um es ertragen zu können, Unrecht zu behalten, wenn die Wahrheit auf der andern Seite liegt. Daraus folgt, daß unter Hundert kaum Einer ist, der wert ist, daß man mit ihm disputiert. Die Übrigen lasse man reden, was sie wollen, denn desipere est juris gentium, und man bedenke, was Voltaire sagt: La paix vaut encore mieux que la vérité; und ein arabischer Spruch ist: »Am Baume des Schweigens hängt seine Frucht der Friede.«