In Patrick Hassan (ed.), Schopenhauer’s Moral Philosophy. Routledge (2022)

Authors
Michael Cholbi
University of Edinburgh
Abstract
Among contemporary philosophers, David Benatar espouses a form of pessimism most closely aligned with Schopenhauer’s. Both maintain that human existence is a misfortune, such that each of us would have been better off having never existed at all. Here my concerns are twofold: First, I investigate why, despite these similarities, Schopenhauer and Benatar arrive at divergent positions regarding suicide. For whereas Benatar concludes that suicide is sometimes a moral wrong to others but is prudentially rational in a wider array of circumstances than we ordinarily expect, Schopenhauer largely sets aside questions of both interpersonal morality and prudence to argue that suicide is self-contradictory or futile because it does not undermine the metaphysical facts concerning the place of will in human life, facts ultimately responsible for our unfortunate condition. Second, I consider Schopenhauer’s attempt to show that suicide is a mistaken response to human suffering. Under any of several plausible interpretations of Schopenhauer’s argument that suicide is a futile exercise, his reasoning is unconvincing. Drawing upon Schopenhauer’s admiration for ‘ascetic’ suicide, I then propose an alternative expressive route for Schopenhauer: that suicide is usually mistaken because it fails to manifest integrity in light of the unfortunate truth about the human condition.
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