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The Paideia Archive: Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 12, 1998

Moral Psychology

David Conway
Pages 11-16

Nietzsche’s Revaluation of Schopenhauer as Educator

On the basis of his metaphysics, Schopenhauer was led to advocate quietism and resignation as attitudes toward life. In the course of his career, Nietzsche reversed his estimation of Schopenhauer from initial agreement to final excoriation. In what follows, I examine and assess the grounds on which Nietzsche revised his opinion of Schopenhauer as educator of humanity. I argue that three fundamental issues divide Nietzsche and Schopenhauer. The first concerns the eliminability of human suffering. The second regards the value of sympathy to those who feel rather than are recipients of this sentiment. The third is the value of cultivating indifference to the suffering of others. Schopenhauer considers suffering as inextricably bound up with human existence, whereas Nietzsche views suffering as a sign of weakness that is ultimately eliminable from human existence. Schopenhauer assumed that sympathy and compassion have a benign effect upon those who experience these emotions; Nietzsche maintains they have the opposite effect. Contra Nietzsche, Schopenhauer deplores the cultivation of indifference towards the suffering of others. I defend Schopenhauer against Nietzsche on all three issues, though I argue that Schopenhauer exaggerates the ubiquity of human suffering and hence the need and desirability of the cultivation of self-denial.

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