Nietzsche’s Schopenhauer (5/11/13)

I just finished Nietzsche’s excellent little essay, ‘Schopenhauer as Educator’—and while I found much to delight in there, I came away with one serious criticism. Nietzsche stresses his claim that unlike most so-called ‘philosophers’ (and virtually all ‘academic philosophers’—which is practically oxymoronic for Nietzsche), Schopenhauer was the genuine article, the real deal. Essential to his authenticity is Schopenhauer’s having lived his philosophy. This is Nietzsche’s claim, but I certainly would not be the first person to observe that for all his talk about the importance of ‘denying the will’ and about how genuinely important the introduction of Indian philosophy and Buddhist thought to European/Western scholarship was, Schopenhauer’s own life, mentality, temperament, and behavior were certainly not those of a world-renouncer! If anything, they were characteristic of a powerful—almost imperious—ego. One looks in vain for anything modest or self-effacing about him. What Nietzsche admired, obviously, was Schopenhauer’s truly impressive intellectual freedom—his philosophical heroics. As such, he served as an indispensable model and mentor for Nietzsche—just as Wagner, in his way, was to serve—and what Nietzsche took from Schopenhauer seems to have had little or nothing to do with Indian philosophy or Buddhism—or with Schopenhauer’s ‘resignationism.’ Initially, these were grudgingly tolerated; later they were aggressively and mercilessly attacked. We have here an excellent instance of a student selecting only that which is useful to him from his teacher—and neglecting or rejecting the rest. But, to be fair, Schopenhauer certainly leaves himself wide open to such selective exploitation precisely because of the rather glaring contradiction between his heroic egotism and the anti-heroism and anti-egotism of his professed doctrines (following Indian examples).

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