Nietzche and Schopenhauer
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Last night I picked up a book that I bought over Spring Break called “The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzche”, an autobiography describing the philosophy of Nietzche. Early in the book, I came across a name I had never heard before, Arthur Schopenhauer, so I decided to look him up and this led to me discovering a philosphy that truly captivated me.
For Schopenhauer believed that humans were motivated only by their own basic desires, or their ‘Will to Live’. Now many people would chastise this statement, saying that it was egotistical and selfish to think only for oneself. But, personally, I disagree. I believe that, yes, Schopenhauer’s statement may be too extreme. Yet, even Lord Buddha in some ways advocated the same message as Schopenhauer.
Buddha talked about how life is a balance, and that balance includes one’s own selfish desires. Of course, this selfishness does not give one the right to kill or hurt someone or remain quiet and oblivious in such a situation, as both attitudes are sides of the extreme; instead, being true to oneself permits the right to expresses your emotions, feelings, and attitudes – which is the Middle Way.
We are not saints, we are merely human beings. We have the right to be a little bit selfish in this world. As the root of the word selfish is Self. It is equally important to note that the Self is a person with respect to a complete individuality. A complete individual includes not only one’s own identity, but one’s community, and the world around you.
Therefore, our true Self, in addition to taking care of our own Ego, requires us to give back to a world that has given us life, love, and the pursuit of happiness.
In truth, as the sages and philosophers have taught us, the highest form of Self is giving back to one’s community and world. The lowest form is mere Ego and only caring about oneself.
Thus, it is our responsibility to find the Middle Way between the highest form of Self and Schopenhauer’s lowest form of Ego. So I ask you, for the next minute to contemplate your very own life, the one life you have, and think how you define your Self, as selfish, selfless or somewhere in between?
Let Us be Silent.
Joshua S. Leslie
Class of 2009
Northfield Mount Hermon