A thousand pleasures are not worth a single pain: The compensation argument for Schopenhauer's pessimism

European Journal of Philosophy 29 (1):120-136 (2021)
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Pessimism is, roughly, the view that life is not worth living. In chapter 46 of the second volume of The World as Will and Representation, Arthur Schopenhauer provides an oft-neglected argument for this view. The argument is that a life is worth living only if it does not contain any uncompensated evils; but since all our lives happen to contain such evils, none of them are worth living. The now standard interpretation of this argument (endorsed by Kuno Fischer and Christopher Janaway) proceeds from the claim that the value—or rather valuelessness—of life’s goods makes compensation impossible. But this interpretation is neither philosophically attractive nor faithful to the text. In this paper, I develop and defend an alternative interpretation (suggested by Wilhelm Windelband and Mark Migotti) according to which it is instead the actual temporal arrangement of life’s goods and evils that makes compensation impossible.
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Archival date: 2020-12-27
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