1902 Encyclopedia > Pessimism

Pessimism




PESSIMISM is a word of very modern coinage, employed to denote a mode of looking at and estimating the world, and especially human life, which is antithetical to the estimate designated by the term (a much older one) " Optimism." Both terms have a general as well as a special application. In their non-technical usage they denote a composite and ill-defined attitude of mind which gives preponderating importance to the good or to the evil, to the joys or to the sorrows, respectively, in the course of experience. The optimist sees everything in couleur de rose; the pessimist always turns up the seamy side of things. But in their special and technical employment, optimism and pessimism denote specific theories elaborated by philosophers,—the former to show that the world is the work of an author of infinite goodness and wisdom, and is, all things considered, conducive to the happiness of its sentient life; the latter, that existence, when summed up, has an enormous surplus of pain over pleasure, and that man in particular, recognizing this fact, can find real good only by abnegation and self-sacrifice. As a speculative theory optimism is chiefly associated with the Theodicee of Leib-nitz (1710), while pessimism is the work of Schopenhauer (Die Welt als Wille mid Vorstellung, 1st ed. 1819) and Von Hartmann (Philosophic des Unbewussten, 1st ed. 1869). In either case, however, the modern doctrines have their pre-decessors. The Stoics and the Neoplatonists were earlier labourers in the cause of optimism, in their attempt to exhibit the adaptations in nature for the welfare of its supreme product man. And in the metaphysical dogmas of Brahmanism, as well as in the practical philosophy of the Buddhists, the creed of the modern pessimist, that the world is vanity and life only sorrow, is found preluded with startling sameness of tone. Natural Though later as a philosophical creed in the European and in- world, pessimism is far earlier than optimism as a mood of form*1™ feennS ln mankind at large. The ordinary human being, so long as he is engrossed with action and identified with his immediate present, is neither optimist nor pessimist. But in proportion as reflexion awakens—as the fulness of life and vigour of will give place to the exhaustion of age or to brooding thoughtfulness—there comes a sense of doubt as to the value of the aims on which energy is spent and as to the issue of the struggle with nature. It is failure that excites meditation : the obvious disproportion between desire and attainment impresses the poet and thinker, as they scan the page of human life, with the predominant darkness of the record. The complaint is heard from every land and in every language that the days of man are few and evil, that the best lot of all is not to be born at all, and next in order is the fate of those cut off by early death. Even the great king himself (says Socrates in the Apology, xxxii.), far less any private man, as he reviews the course of his past life, cannot point to any better or happier time than a night of dreamless sleep; and Byron bids us—

" Count o'er the joys thine hours have seen, Count o'er thy days from anguish free, And know, whatever thou hast been, 'Tis something better not to be."

In a religious form this pessimism appears as a belief that man is a creature at the mercy of more potent agents, to whom his wishes and fears are of slight importance. Called into existence by instrumentalities over which he has no control, he is involved in a lifelong conflict with forces, natural and supernatural, which work out their inevitable issues with utter indifference to his weal or woe. The wheels of the universe are deaf to the cry of human hearts. There is a hopeless sense of inequality in the struggle between the petty self-centred will of man and the capri-cious and irresistible forces of nature.

This natural and instinctive pessimism is contempo-raneous with the non-theistic religions of the world,—with all the forms of nature-worship, from the grossest and most trivial polytheism to the abstrusest schemes of naturalistic Methods pantheism. In such a state of belief man tries to obtain of relief, relief from the burden of troubles in various ways. There is first of all the vulgar method of adulation and sacrifice. The powers of the unknown which lie ready to thwart the plans of man, and which he conceives in the likeness of beings with vaster forces but with passions and suscepti-_ bilities like his own, may be bribed by gifts or placated by flattery. Hence the common practices of superstitious worship. A second means of escape from the burden of life is given by what may be called Epicureanism. While not denying the divine, it explains away the gods of popular religion, and at the same time rejects the attempt to trans-form the idea of necessary connexion from a principle for the explanation of phenomena into a controlling agency at the summit of the universe. Within the limits fixed by his natural conditions it represents man as free to work out his own welfare without interference from superior powers. But it is forced to admit that the happiness which man can obtain is after all only negative,—all plea-sure is but the withdrawal of pain, and the utmost range of pleasure lies in varying the methods of such deliverance. Epicureanism is pessimistic; but it is an egoistic pessimism which is content to aim at the maximum of painlessness for the individual, and which ignores the metaphysics of universal pain and of universal relief from that pain.

The third method of relief from the troubles of existence Buddh-has a closer analogy with the pessimism of modern times.istlc. It is the Buddhism of the East. Buddhism, whatever be P^slm" the uncertainty attaching to its founder's personal story, is to all intents a shoot which has been cut off from the main tree of Brahmanism. Its theory rests on the metaphysics of the Brahmanical schools; its scheme of life is one out of the many phases of Hindu asceticism. Buddhism left the parent stock of Hindu religion at a time when the metaphysicians had carried up the polytheism of their country into a unified pantheism, when the philosophy of the Upanishads had worked up the comparatively rude theology of the Vedic hymns into a compact doctrine. The fundamental dogma presented by this system is the contrast between the true self or permanent reality of the world and the changes and plurality of the phenomenal scene in which men live or seem to live. On the one hand is Brahma, or Atman : from one side, the universe, the All, and everything,—from another, the true self, the Ego, the absolute, whose name is the No, No, because no words can describe him, the very reality of reality. On the other hand is the world of growth and decay, of sorrow and death,—the world, as it was subsequently called, of illu-sion, Maya, where the semblance of firm reality is deceit-fully assumed by the phantoms of creation. And as in the universe, so is the contrast in the human soul. There is the unredeemed soul, which desire and action (the will in posse and in esse) hold fast in the bonds of changeable existence, in the mutations of metempsychosis; there is also the redeemed soul, which by ascetic virtues, by renun-ciation of domestic ties, by the continued practice of self-denial and mortification, has found its way from the world of illusory semblances to its true and abiding self.

It is on some such conception of the world, in which over against Brahma in his eternal quiet there stands man suffering and yearning for relief, that Buddhism ultimately reposes. But, while the speculative theories of the Brah-mans put in the foreground the august mystery of the All-one, Buddha starts from the other side of the picture, from the actual experience of life. The four truths of Buddhism, which are the foundation of its religious creed and the recurring burden of its teachings, leave the meta-physical basis out of sight. All life is sorrow, says the first: birth, age, disease, death, is sorrow; and the cause of this sorrow, adds the second truth, is the thirst which leads from birth to birth,—the thirst for pleasures, for existence, for power. The third is, that sorrow can only be removed by the complete annihilation of desire; and the fourth prescribes the means of word and act forming the eight parts of the way which frees from sorrow. The practical need is everything; the theoretical basis, the Brahma, which the orthodox schools presented as the sole reality, is so completely lost sight of that the modern critics are at variance with each other as to how far the goal of Buddhist endeavour can be described as anything positive. That all life is pain is the one perpetual refrain of Buddh-ism. The search for pleasure is vain and ends in increased misery. But the true Buddhist does not allow the perception of this fact to cause, still less to perpetuate, a feeling of melancholy. It only urges him to have compassion on his suffering brothers, and to look forward joyously to the goal of release which he has set before himself.

For further details reference may be made to the article on BUDDHISM. It is enough to say here that the chief point of Buddhist theory is to see in all apparent being only a process of becoming : events happen, nothing is; the only permanence can be but the law of their occurrence. The cosmic philosophy of Buddha is like that of Heraclitus. " All things flow; nothing abides"; only this flux of everything serves to emphasize the fact that the happiness of man is thereby rendered vain. The end which Buddha seeks is the redemption of man from this toilsome world of birth and death. It is not absorption in the unity of Brahma, not felicity in a higher and better world. It is, to cast off the conditions which trammel existence, the consciousness which leads to desire and action, the body and all its appurtenances o it is, to attain death in life, to have so mortified flesh and spirit that the individual can no longer be in the ordinary sense said to exist. He has attained, when so perfected, what is called Nirvana, "the land of peace where transitoriness finds rest." Religious Before discussing the development of this pessimistic recon- ethics in modern days, it remains to notice a fourth issue ciliation. from tte eyil t]lat ig in the W0j.]d This view of life and of the universe is specially connected with Hebrew monotheism and its later developments in Mohammedan as well as Christian doctrine under the potent stimulus of Greek philosophy. It is in the belief of a moral God—a good and wise creator and governor of the universe—that the optimistic problem and theory finds its chief origin. When the idea of God has been purged of its naturalism and identified with the ideal of wisdom, goodness, and justice, there soon arises for thinking minds the necessity of a "theodicee,"—a justification of providence. Can the evil and misery found upon earth, the disproportion between merit and recompense, be explained on the hypothesis of a wise and beneficent ruler in heaven 1 One of the most familiar and typical instances of such a feeling is given by the book of Job. In the later times of Israel, when the vigour of creative faith was undermined by a critical spirit, born of bitter fates and foreign influences, voices were heard, like those of the writer of Ecclesiastes, giving utter-ance to pessimistic doubt. The story of Job is another and more edifying presentation of the same theme. How, it is asked, can the misfortunes of the just man be har-monized with the idea of a righteous God ? Is suffering the penalty of sin, and must virtue be always paid its wages in pleasure ?

The difficulty, it is evident, arises with the perception of the antagonism between the natural and the moral, and implies a desire to bridge over the gulf between them. With the gradually deepening conviction that the central principle of the universe is a moral principle, the need is felt for explaining the immorality (so to speak) of the natural laws, for reconciling the unconditional imperative of the word of duty with the indifference to right and wrong displayed in the facts of life. Sometimes we are referred for answer to another world, which shall compen-sate for the mistakes of the present. At other times it is suggested that physical evil has the function of a moral discipline, that suffering teaches nobility, that misfortunes are blessings in disguise. Leib- The optimism of Leibnitz is of a different cast, and goes nitz's op- more boldly to face the real difficulty of the situation. It timism. argUes against the common estimate of moral and physical evil, and seeks to reduce them both to little more than privations of good,—to mere absence of good, to a defect rather than a blemish, to what is called metaphysical evil.

The world, it is admitted, is far from perfect, but it is as good as it could be made if all the good which it contains was to be realized. Like everything else, it is not free from the defects of its qualities. It is, we may be sure, the best of possible worlds. But this is far from saying that it is a good world. Ignorant as we are of the limits of what is possible, it is not for us to say that the quality of the best, under the given circumstances, is at all distin-guishable from what is really very bad. The defence of theism which Leibnitz thus undertook against the sceptical suggestions of Bayle is only the common argument that the work must be judged as a whole, that it is unfair to pronounce judgment on an isolated event or thing apart from the question how it is affected by its interdependence. But, unfortunately, in the case before us, in the problem of the universe, we do not know the whole, and can only grope our way tentatively from point to point, feebly endeavouring to forecast the plan of the total structure.

But Leibnitz goes farther than this assertion of inter-connexion or adaptation. It is the ultimate assumption of his argument that the forces of the universe are in the hands of a perfectly wise intelligence, that, as in man there is a rational power of initiation and guidance, so in the world as a macrocosm there is a primal reason which governs its movements and co-ordinates them to a desirable end. The actual phases of existence only carry out in palpable shape and successive or simultaneous manifesta-tions an ideal or rational plan, which is their original and sufficient reason. The world at large is somewhat of a machine, or a congeries of machines, which run down according to their own internal and innate conditions of existence; but these machines are wound up by one supreme machinist, who has predetermined the aim and object of their combined movements. Thus the doctrine of the pre-established harmony, while on the one hand it is an apotheosis of logic by the emphasis it lays on the necessary causal interdependence of the several partial movements, is on the other hand, by its principle of suffi-cient reason—the principe du meilleur or de convenance— a doctrine of teleology, whereby an ideal principle of de-sign interpolates the contingent and subordinates necessity to freedom. The world is not a mere group of causes and effects governed by the logic of contradiction and identity; over and above the necessitarian logic is a mind which looks behind and before, and combines all events, not reck-lessly or necessarily, but in the bands of reciprocal subser-vience to the greatest good of which they admit.





In this argument Leibnitz is open to the criticism of Kant, that he has passed from a legitimate conception presiding over the synthesis of phenomena to the illegiti-mate idea of a self-subsistent and personal principle, which, far from being a mere ideal of complete synthesis, itself creates and predetermines that synthesis. To the logical scientist the phenomena are merely connected by a formal unity; to the theist like Leibnitz this unity is identified with a cosmical mind, an intelligent power which regulates the evolution of things and subordinates them all to the fulfilment of its original plan. Leibnitz thus manipulates two ideas, the logical and the religious, as if they were interchangeable, though in reality they lie in different planes. The reason which at one time is treated as an abstract principle of self-consistency is at another time clothed in the concrete mental life associated with it under its human aspects. Mere reason, says Aristotle, can initiate no change; it neither chooses nor commands, but simply asserts. But human reason is always in the long-run wrapped up with some aim, is always (in the technical sense) practical, and only for moments of abstraction ever merely theoretical. Thus the reason in the universe Was spoken of as God, and conceived anthropomorphically after the pattern of human personality. English The optimism of Leibnitz found its well-sounding but views. somewhat misleading phrase that all is for the best in this best of possible worlds bitterly satirized in Voltaire's Candide, and painfully commented upon by the earthquake of Lisbon. But the real object of the Frenchman's wit was the baser optimism of the age which sheltered its vulgar features under the mask of the Leibnitian Theodicee. An easy-going generation had settled down in the pleas-ing faith that their barns were filled with good things for many years, and that they might eat, drink, and be merry. The creed found in England a prophet of solemn pomp in Pope, whose Essay on Man has fixed in pregnant lines the main half-truths of the Leibnitian theory, which the poet had probably learned from Bolingbroke. The same optimism appears in Shaftesbury ("'Tis good which is predominant"), and shows its presence in Paley. Some opposition to the current eudsemonism is found in the well-weighed and all but sceptical judgments pronounced by Butler, as well as in the cynical pessimism that tried to raise its voice in Mandeville. But the great instance against the comfortable view of life is the striking passage which Hume in his Dialogues concerning Natural Religion has put in the mouth of Demea, beginning " The whole earth, believe me, Philo, is cursed and polluted. A per-petual war is kindled amongst all living creatures," &c. German In Germany, under the head of Natural Theology, the Natural ordinary optimism flourished amain. The whole range of Theology. creatjon was ransacked to show how well man had been provided for by God. The poetry of Brockes (the translator of Pope) is full of the theme,—the laudation of the many gifts we owe to Providence, of the multifarious uses to which each animal and plant can be put. It is an anthro-pocentric optimism which thus makes man's welfare the main end of the creation, and which, above all, finds that welfare in what we eat and drink and wherewithal we are clothed. The good which Leibnitz had spoken of was understood as material prosperity, comfort, happiness. God's goodness was measured by the amount of worldly wellbeing which He bestows upon us. Attitude The great Kant, as late as 1759, when he printed a of Kant, short sketch On Optimism, was still inclined to keep terms with this base caricature of a great theory, and spoke with full agreement of that theory itself. But here as elsewhere Hume's influence was potent upon him, and in a paper published in 1791 (On the Failure of all Philosophical Attempts in Theodicy) he had altered his tone. Our intelli-gence, he argues, is absolutely powerless to discover the proportion in which the world, at least as known to us in experience, stands to the supreme wisdom. And to the grounds adduced to prove that the pleasures of life far exceed its pains his reply is : take a man of sound mind, who has lived long enough and thought enough on the value of life to be able to form a judgment on the subject, and ask him whether he would like to play out the game of life once more (not on the same terms, but) on any terms he pleases, be it only in this terrestrial world of ours, and not in fairy land. In one direction indeed Kant may be called optimist (or at least meliorist),—in his belief in the ample possibilities of moral and political improvement, and in his enthusiastic hopes for the cessation of some chief causes of human misery.

But in one way Kant had laid the axe to the chief root of optimism. That root is the utilitarian or eudcemonistic theory of conduct,—the theory which seeks to explain morality away into a sort of magnified selfishness, and regards the authority of moral rules as due to their origin in counsels of prudence. The moral law, said Kant, is the one clear utterance of the Absolute. And the lesson thus taught bore fruit. At first indeed idealism with its optimistic interpretations returned. The double-faced dictum of Hegel, that the real is the rational and the Hegel's rational the real, was often understood to justify the prin- ideal °P-ciple that, whatever is, is right. The net of Hegeliantim thought seemed to grasp everything o everything fell as it were naturally into its place, and seemed to be justified by the symmetry of its position in the logical evolution. For in idealism we find the true home of optimism. The world as experienced in sense and feeling is full of discords and defects, and the more we abstract each part of the whole into its " beggarly elements," the greater seems the weakness and the triviality. But, when we rise in thought to the contemplation of the unity and order, these real discords pale before the spectacle of ideal harmony. The formal symmetry carries the day. The corpse may be hideous and yet the theory of the anatomist has its beauty. The sorrows of the hero do not make impossible the plea-sure of the spectator in the drama. Just as the hardships long ago endured are sweet to remembrance, so the individual suffering's are lost in the conception of the universal ends they subserved. The real pain is compatible with a formal pleasure; reason can find commendable and good what is torment to flesh and blood.

But, while the life-work of Hegel had been to show that at bottom the principle of being and the principle of thought were the same, that nature and history were the incarnations of reason, the succeeding philosophy of Schopenhauer reverted to the distinction of Kant, which it emphasized, between thought and existence. Schopenhauer dethroned Sehopen-reason and claimed to have discovered the real root of that hauer s being which we know as an idea. This root of existence WlU't le o _ prunary is what he called Will. The source of the reality which reality. we cognize—the secret essence which is objectified in the forms of the universe as it presents itself to our concep-tions—is Will. By this Will he meant a blind but irre-sistible effort to exist, a craving of inexpugnable strength towards life and objective being, an unconscious lusting after the pleasure of manifesting itself as something acting here and now. It is something less than Will, as we know will, and yet something more than force. Under every known kind of actions and phenomena in space-and-time— phenomena, known by their reciprocal relations—there is an unknown but felt something, an endless, aimless, limitless struggle to be upraised into the light of existence. This ultimate basis of will-force we must assume as the fact presupposed by all specific causal explanations. But in its generic basis the Will has no definite aim; it is the will to be everything in general and nothing in particular,— the will to be, to do, to act. End or purpose supervenes only wuth the rise of consciousness. Intelligence comes forward at first as a mere organ in the service of the Will; it is only a means for the preservation of the individual and the species. It is observable first in the animal, where the purely instinctive stimuli fail to procure sufficient material for subsistence, where the food has to be selected, and the motions of the animal are accordingly dependent on motives, i.e., on conceptions of objects to be attained. It is this need which occasions the development of the brain; with the brain intelligence rises upon the scene; and thus the world now comes to see itself, not in its reality, but in its phenomenal objectification, as the realm of causes and effects in the element of space and time. This conscious knowledge, which at first consists merely in momentary and individual perceptions, attains higher powers, as abstract and general reason, by the aid of speech.





Now intelligence, which originally came with the forma-tion of brain-tissue as a mere tool of the Will in the more complex forms of its objectification, may rise at length, according to Schopenhauer, to be the liberator of the human race from the restless tyrant which works in them now, as it erewhile brought them to the birth. For, firstly, knowledge in its own character emancipates; it lets its possessor know that he suffers and why he suffers. Such is the first prerogative of reason. But, secondly, in the occasional intervals when the storm of Will is laid to rest, the mind, instead of striving in the interests of practical intelligence to detect the causal relations of things, can concentrate itself exclusively on a single isolated object. A transformation is thus accomplished whereby the object, ceasing to be a mere particular, becomes the type-idea, the Will and eternal form, the generic .and adequate embodiment of Art. Will in a special grade; while, on the other hand, the in-dividual who has become absorbed in such contemplation is no longer a mere individual, but has become the " will-less, painless, timeless subject of knowledge." It is this power of rising above the prosaic requirements which science gratifies, of seeing the permanent and one reality in the dependent and disunited phenomena of the particu-lars, which what we call Art imitates by production. The artist produces the eternal types which the blind Will only realizes in many imperfect and particular adumbrations; he conquers nature by fixing in a single image the traits which constitute the true and permanent meaning con-fusedly presented by her in many exemplars. For the mind which can see that idea in the natural forms, or which beholds it in the works of art, for him who contem-plates without reference to the Will, " the wheel of Ixion stands still; freed from the prison-house of blind desire, he enjoys the sabbath of aesthetic beatitude." Sehopen- But the relief obtained in art is only for blessed etJricsS momen*s- Perennial consolation can be found only in the ethical life, and in an ethics of asceticism and self-sacrifice. True life begins only when we have learnt that happiness is impossible by means of gratifying the cravings of desire. Each satisfaction of the will is only a starting-point for fresh effort; the achievement of the desired object suggests a new want. " Alles Leben ist Leiden." At every point desires are thwarted; even when they gain their end the satisfaction is merely negative. The weary Titan of humanity knows no repose; his feeble pleasures are drops in a sea of pain. Thus the central principle of pessimism asserts that in the order of nature, i.e., so long as the will to live remains unbroken, happiness in the true sense is impossible. Life as life necessarily involves misery. No doubt the man of the world may turn round and declare that notwithstanding this he means to gather the rose without the thorn. Undismayed by the analysis of the consequences involved in will, he affirms the will to life. Adopting the principles of the Cyrenaic hedonists, he closes his eyes to far-reaching eventualities and lives in the moment; he turns life in every portion into art; he revels in the inspiring sense of action without care for past obli-gations and future anxieties. It is otherwise with the man who has surveyed all the issues of things, who looks at the net result of life as a whole and in all individuals. For him it is a duty to deny and abjure this will to life. He must, in other words, renounce the works of egoism and of injustice. He must see through the illusion of the principium individuations, must recognize that his very self, his will, is identical in essence with every creature, even with the suffering. When he has done this, and is in love and sympathy with all around him, " the veil of Maya " has for him become transparent. In every way he proceeds (over and above cultivating in active love compassion for others) to deny the exercise of the will to life in his individual case, in his own body. He will, above all, according to Schopenhauer, perpetually keep the vow of chastity ; he will by fasting and penance so mortify his body that the will to life shall be utterly broken in him.

"And," adds Schopenhauer (§ 67), "I think I may assume" that along with the highest manifestation of will the feebler counterpart of it in the animal kingdom would also dis-appear." Man, by ascetic mortification of the will, and by sanctity of beneficence, becomes the redeemer even of the rest of the animated creation.

The contrast between nature and grace, between the physical and the moral, the life of the flesh and the life of the spirit, stands out in these outlines as the central doctrine of pessimism. It is in essentials the same doctrine which was preached by Buddha, which is put into the mouth of Socrates in the Phaedo (philosophy is a rehearsal of death : _____ Bavdrov); it is the doctrine which stands indelible in the early archives of Christianity, and was proclaimed as the better and more excellent way by myriads of the noblest Christian teachers for more than ten centuries of the church. The pessimistic ethics of Schopenhauer casts aside the feeble compromises by which it is alternately asserted that morality makes for happiness and happiness is morality; it rejects the postulates by which Kant tried to lighten for human nature the burden of imperative duty; it goes behind the social sanctions which. see in good conduct acts subservient to the good of a human community. In pessimistic ethics—and the pessimism of Schopenhauer has essentially an ethical aim—we have the wreck left on the wastes of time by Hegelianism. Hegel-ianism had taught, or seemed to teach, that God was in the beginning by Himself as a Logos, or self-evolving idea, which uttered itself in the unconscious forms of nature, till in the conscious spirit of man He gradually realized Himself in moral and intellectual life, in art and religion. Schopenhauer stripped this cycle of its first period. There was no idea, no logical machinery, at the basis of things; nature began out of a blind impulse ; and it was only in man's intelligence that the vague longing of the heaving world knew itself to be. But that intelligence has for its supreme aim—not, as in Hegel, to enter into and carry on the great process which is the absolute, but—to deny its creator and annihilate the principle of being. The world of Will, in its process of objectification, has thus given birth to a child which in the fulness of time will destroy the womb that bore it.

It will be apparent that in Schopenhauer's system we can distinguish two parts,—the first, the doctrine of the positivity of pain, and that life is always and only pain : the second, the ethical condemnation of the principle of such a world, and the method for correcting the evil which it had introduced. In the latter lies his chief and charac-teristic achievement,—in what we may call his metaphysic of ethics. Man by morality (ascetical morality) is to be the redeemer of the world. In this conviction Schopen-hauer shows himself the descendant of the metaphysical systems of the past, which find in man the key to the mystery of the universe. It is a strange and a weary way of redemption which he delineates; the cross is heavier than humanity seems able to bear. Yet the suggestion to deliver ourselves shows that the old belief in human spontaneity, in the primacy of the moral principle, in the possibility of noble deeds and of a victory over egoism, was still vigorous in his mind. Another pessimism neglects this ethical element altogether. To this ignoble pessimism man is in truth only an animal like the rest, and the distinction on which he prides himself—his moral nature—is but a confused and illusory product of simpler animal experiences. He has knowledge of wider range, it is true; but knowledge is powerless to change his nature. His acts in every case are necessarily determined ; his fancied freedom is found on examination to be no whit more spon-taneous than the fall of the unsupported stone. The necessitarianism of evolution did away with the independent existence of morality, and reduced it to conventional stereotyping of natural symbols, with, forgetfulness and misinterpretation of their meaning and applications.

To an age so minded the consolations of pessimism sounded faint and unreal. They had lost the old ______, —the optimistic creed that man was the undisputed head of creation. They saw themselves no longer a select race, favourites of God, but as engaged in the struggle for life with thousands of other species. The role of saviour of the world was not for them. And so, turning a deaf ear to the high words of Schopenhauer, they sought easier consolations in the common and casual pursuits and pleasures in the world; they determined to make the best of this vale of tears,—even in Pandemonium there might be shady spots and cool retreats. A few spirits who had drunk more deeply at the wells of suffering, and who were alike without the mental energy of Schopenhauer and the comfortable inconstancy of the mass of men, could not rise beyond the ever-present sense of the emptiness and in-felicity of life. There are many such types in literature; but perhaps no more perfect expression has been given to the strange abysmal melancholy of a withered life than by the Italian poet-scholar Leopardi. At one time dallying lovingly with the idea of death, at another finding only deception and illusion in love, liberty, progress, and all human ideals, and almost always with irony, bitterness, and hopelessness living in the sense of an inexorable destiny, a malign nature, which calmly motions man to destruction, Leopardi presents pessimism in its naked terrors. For him there are no consolations, either base or noble. Man is at the mercy of a pitiless nature; he must endure a thousand deaths daily. This mood of Leopardi's, however he himself protested against the suggestion, was unquestionably to a main extent due to the tremendous disproportion in which his mental and aesthetic nature stood to the circumstances of his life, and not a little to the general political condition of his country. Various When the first edition of Schopenhauer's great work appeared in 1819 it did not attract much immediate attention- Pessimism was in the air : the Romantic school in Germany, and especially Heine and Lenau, Byron in England, and Chateaubriand in France,—not to mention many other names,—all in their several ways gave expression to the " Weltschmerz." Yet it was not till 1844 that a second and much enlarged edition of the work appeared, followed by a third in 1859. By this time the doctrines of Schopenhauer had found many enthusiastic followers, and a flood of literary works poured from the press in criticism or support of them. With the year 1866 the title " Pessimism" began to show itself in books which discuss his views. And in 1869 appeared the Philosophy of the Unconscious, by E. von Hartmann. The popularity of this work was enormous. In the ten years which elapsed between its publication and that of Hartmann's next systematic work (The Phenomenology of the Moral Consciousness) it had run through eight editions. The lesser works of Hartmann, his articles in reviews, the pamphlets by friends and opponents during the last fifteen years, are truly named legion. The question "Is life worth living?" has become a question of the day, to which the problems of socialism, liberalism, and religion contribute their quota. The novels of Turgenieff and Sacher-Masoch are full of the ideas of Schopenhauer's pessimism.

Hartmann's first work was written when its author was twenty-five. It bears traces of the paradox and exaggeration which sometimes go with youthful talent, and occasionally pays the tribute of imitation to the naturalistic pruriency and sensationalism of the contemporary novel. The style is cumbersome and pretentious. And yet its popularity proves that its author has the faculty of directing with no unskilful or incompetent hand the vague and in-coherent tendencies of the cultivated masses. The world which has lost hold of, and perhaps broken with, the faith of its fathers is on the look-out for a "Weltanschauung"; it wants to know the metaphysical inferences to be gathered from the recent advances of scientific theory. Not merely had Darwinism, as may be seen from the character of Hackel's Natural History of Creation, caught the public ear more widely in Germany than in England, but the deductions from its principles had been carried to far greater lengths. Amid the decay of distinctively Chris-tian beliefs, and even of theism, the doctrine of pessimism attracted a sort of religious fervour. The prevalent sense of dissatisfaction and baffled endeavour was met by a theory that the principle of the universe was radically per-verse, and could not be amended. And, if it be urged that it is difficult to believe in the genuineness of a pes-simism when its professors take their ease and mirthfully jeer the stranger who expected to find people not clad in soft raiment nor dwelling in kings' houses, it may be replied that pessimism is not the only temporizing creed. The moral indignation (Entriistungs-Pessimismus) of a Carlyle or a Juvenal, which pours its vials of scorn on the selfish meanness of mankind, and the churchly exhibition of the sores and frailties of human flesh and blood in which books like the De Contemptu Mundi of Innocent III. revel, alike overshoot their mark and leave the world un-convinced of its nothingness.

It is out of place here to enter into any lengthened exposition of Hartmann's metaphysics. This world, according to him, is the work of an Unconscious, a being which is at once will and intelligence,—a will urging to be and physics, to do somewhat and an intelligence which adapts means to ends. But the will is only instinct, and the intelligence is the unconscious reason which guides the somnambulist or the clairvoyant. Thus there is wisdom in the frame of the world, but the original resolution to exist was the work of a blind will. Beason did not prompt the initial act, yet at every movement towards existence an unconscious reason effectively correlates the elements into united action. The various individuals seem indeed to be acting of them-selves : they pursue aims of their own; but they are only puppets in the hand of nature, the unconscious intelligence and will. Apparently, there are many agents, each in some degree independent; really, there is only one source of action, the union of will and idea in instinctive adapta-tion and unwitting design.

With man at length consciousness awakes, and the pos-sibility is laid for a new relation between the two elements in the universal principle. Knowledge, however, is not an end in itself; it is not enough to know the process of the world. The consciousness which is generated at length by the unconscious reason out of the workings of will has its function marked out for it beforehand by its uncon-scious author. Its final purpose is to revoke the effects of that irrational step by which the unconscious will in its eagerness to exist dragged the idea with it in its service. The hour of vengeance may come some day. The intelli-gence which has become conscious in man may at length induce his will to take the backward step, to retire into non-existence even as it erewhile rose into existence. In that day when the force of will has been mainly accumu-lated in the province where intelligence prevails, it is probable that a successful act of suppression of the will to life on the part of human reason would entail the utter prostration and annihilation of the will to life throughout the universe. By the act of its intelligent portion, in which the major part both of the cosmical will and intelli-gence has been gradually accumulated, the world, as a whole, will commit suicide.

But Hartmann is not merely a metaphysician ; he proposes to supply inductive proof for his propositions. The question of the preponderance of pleasure or pain in the world is to be worked out by observation of facts and summation of figures. So far differing from Schopenhauer, he admits the jiositivity 0f pleasure, but maintains nevertheless that pleasure and pain are representable by quantities of the same denomination, prefaced respectively by the plus or minus sign. When the accounts of debt and credit are drawn out, it appears that the balance is enormously on the side of pain. To him who has once perceived the surplus of pain it is an obvious duty to extinguish the source whence sprang the unmitigated evil. Yet mankind in the past has shrunk from the acceptance of this conclusion, and sought refuge in three successive illusions : (1) the naive illusion of the natural mind that happiness is to be found in this present world o (2) the illusion that happiness, though a failure here, will be realized in the world beyond the grave; (3) the illusion which puts its hopes on the amelioration of humanity in the future history of the world. One after another these illusions are shown to be vanity. A little taste of pleasure, amid the insipidity and bitterness of life, is snatched by a select few from the consolations of art and science. But at last, as wisdom grows and the hopeless monotony of
grief is more acutely felt by the race, humanity will rise up boldly to the last great act of despairing suicide, and reduce the unconscious to its primeval nullity.

If we pass from this grandiose drama of the birth and destruction of the universe to consider the ethical doctrine ethics8 wni°n Hartmann supposes himself to base upon his metaphysical theory, we find ourselves on safer ground. For, apart from the method by which he reaches it, his moral principle is not very different from the general view on such subjects. The basis of morality in his theory is the relation of the individual consciousness to the Absolute in which consists its true being. It is in this ultimate identity of the individual with the All-one—not merely in the preservation of his phenomenal welfare, or of the welfare of the society he belongs to, or the furtherance of some one ideal good—that the obligation to be moral is to be sought. On the other hand, there is nowhere in the universe a surplus of pleasure; and therefore the moral agent cannot either here or elsewhere look for happi-ness in a positive sense as the reward of his virtue. Egoism of every range—from the more materialistic to the more religious pleasures—is incompatible with genuine virtue. The aim of morality is the redemption of the whole world from the evil into which its initial act has plunged it. And in this act of redemption—the result of which will not be joy, but rest, the quietude of the universe—man by his intelligence and will is the main worker, the fellow-worker of the Absolute; it is by him that God works out the redemption of himself and of the universe. " Beal existence," so closes the Phenomenology of the Moral Consciousness, "is the incarnation of the God-head ; the world-process is the story of the Passion of the God who has become flesh, and at the same time the way to the redemption of Him who is crucified in the flesh; but morality is the co-operation towards shortening this way of suffering and redemption." Critical It would be vain to criticize in detail these speculations, remarks. ou^ 0f whi0li a few principal points have been adduced, and which, besides being in themselves vague, are pliable in the hands of their author. But a few remarks may be made on some main issues involved in the dispute. It may be admitted in the first place that the doctrine of the origin of existence in an a-logical principle is but an extra-vagant way of stating that the intelligence when it awakes to consciousness finds itself in presence of another world of nature and custom which seems irrational and antagonistic —a world which is outside of us and seems to mock our puny individual efforts for its improvement. Secondly, it may be admitted that there is no evidence for the thesis that the world was intended to suit the convenience of man, or of any species whatever. As a matter of fact, there is abundance of misery in the world. But, quite apart from the reducibility of the amount by the application of intelligent means, it seems certain that no attempt to draw up a balance-sheet of absolute cosmic misery or hap-piness is ever likely to be successful. It is as irrational to pronounce this to be the worst of all possible worlds as the best. The superlatives employed in the terms " optimism " and " pessimism" betray a passionate estimate of things. Life, one has said, would be tolerable but for its pleasures. Even those who, like Leopardi, have declared themselves in love with death, show, by still electing to live, that life has something not measurable by pleasures, yet chosen even amid mental tortures and extreme ill-health. As Aristotle said long ago, we are not unbiassed judges in re Pleasure v. Pain. Thirdly, if it were worth while, it might be urged that the main terms of the pessimists are extremely vague. The "Will" and the "Unconscious" can-not be tied down to a definite meaning without losing their power; the contrast between the positivity and negativity of pleasure and pain shows an ignorance of logic; and, above all, the habit of transferring the terms of religion to express what are supposed to be analogous ideas in pessimistic metaphysics is misleading.

The pessimistic theories of modern times are in part a commendable protest against the common compromises which slur over the antithesis between the moral and the natural. They show tolerably conclusively that the world is not a f elicific institution, and that he who makes happi-ness the aim of his life is on the wrong tack. But, when they proceed to dogmatize that existence has a root of bitterness and life is a burden of pain, they fall into the common error of exaggerating a statement relatively true into an absolute principle. You cannot tell if life is worth living, so long as life is held to be the sum or difference of pains and pleasures. If pains and pleasures were only and always such, the argument might be admitted; if they were permanent real entities, not liable to be transformed into each other, not constantly associated in the same act, it might be possible to treat them as ultimate and irreversible standards for our estimate of life and the guidance of our conduct. If pleasure and pain are unequally and unfairly distributed, it is probable that this is a fault which human agency can cure to an unspeakable degree, quite without the desperate remedy of self-torture or cosmic suicide. If pessimism can teach the world that the highest reward of virtue is self-respect, and that there is no pleasure available anywhere to bribe us to be good, it has done well. It has also done well if it points out the barriers to hajypiness in this world, so long as these barriers prevent true life and can be removed by wise methods. But in the meanwhile, till the burden of existence has become universally unbear-able, it may be well to remember that we shall be as likely to benefit the Absolute by doing our work well as by macerating ourselves, and that the sum of existence is a big thing, of which it were rash to predicate either that it is altogether and supremely good or altogether and supremely bad.

The works on pessimism have been numerous lately. Most of them, however, deal with it mainly in connexion with the two German philosophers, and of these several treat exclusively of the special metaphysical and psychological theories. For Buddhism, see BUDDHISM, vol. iv. p. 424, sq., and also Oldenberg's Buddha (1881), since translated into English. An account of Schopenhauer was given by R. Adamson in Mind for 1876, and in Miss-Zimmern's Life of Schopenhauer (1876); the first account of Hartmann to English readers was given in an article by E. Wallace in the Westminster Review (1876). In 1877 there was published a full discussion of the subject by J. Sully, Pessimism; a History and a Criticism. There are chapters on the question in many recent works ; among the latest Tnlloch, Modern Theories in Philosophy and Religion (1884). In France we have Ribot, Schopenhauer (1874) ; Oaro, Le Pessimisme au XlXe. Siecle (1878), who gives an account of Leopardi, Schopenhauer, Hartmann. In Italian may be mentioned Barzelotti, Il pessimismo dello Schopenhauer (1878).

The books published in Germany are countless, e.g., Dühring, Der Werth des Lebens (1865); Bahnsen, Zur Philosophie der Geschichte (1872) and Pessimisten-Brevier (1879); Hartmann, Philosophische Abhandlungen (1872); Meyer, Weltelend u. Weltschmerz (1872);
Taubert, Der Pessimismus und seine Gegner (1873) ; Volkelt, Das TJnbevmsste u. der Pessimismus (1873); E. Pfleiderer, Der Moderne Pessimismus (1875); Gass, Optimismus u. Pessimismus (1876) ; Huber, Der Pessimismus (1876); Rehmke, Die Philosophie des Weltschmerzes (1876); Sommer, Der Pessimismus und die Sittenlehre (1883); Plümacher, Jter Pessimismus in Vergangenheit u. Gegenwart, gesch. u, kritisch. (1884). There is a list of books on the subject up to 1880 in Laban's Schopenhauer Litteratur. For LEOPARDI, see vol. xiv. p. 464 sq. Schopenhauer's Welt als Wille und Vorstellung is in course of translation by Haldane and Kemp (vol. i, 1883) ; and Hartmann's Philosophie des Unbewussten has been translated by W. Coupland, 3 vols. (1883). (W. W.)




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