Schopenhauer’s Logically Self-Destructive Philosophy of Pessimism

Rereading Schopenhauer

When I learned that a family member of mine was likely struggling with the philosophical pessimism of Schopenhauer, I felt like it would be a good idea to revisit his work. I wanted to familiarize myself with his writing, just in case I was asked for my thoughts as a Christian who has spent some time thinking through philosophical systems and ideas. And upon rereading his work, I quickly remembered how effectively the man could make you sink to his level of despondency and depression. He does this, in part, by abusing his readers. What do I mean?

Well, he alternates between giving the reader hope and then snatching it away almost as quickly as he has given it. This results in the reader entertaining a hope that there is perhaps some light at the end of Schopenhauer’s morbidly bleak tunnel of ruminations, although there is none.

Thankfully, however, I also recognized just how logically self-destructive his philosophy is when scrutinized in light of itself. Below, I’ll give my reasons for thinking this to be the case.

1. Appearance vs. Reality

The first glaring problem is that Schopenhauer’s metaphysics differentiates between the world-in-itself and the world-for-us, that is to say between what is actually the case and what we perceive to be the case. The world-in-itself is a unity; the world-for-us, however, is diverse. What this means is that the suffering and the pleasure upon which Schopenhauer waxes for pages and pages and pages is, well, an illusion. Because suffering is part of the world-for-us, and is not the world-in-itself, it is merely a representation of the underlying unity of all experiences and objects. The world-in-itself is merely a pulsating will, as it were, that cannot be said to be good, bad, painful, or pleasurable.

It just is.

This means that the entire focus of Schopenhauer’s pessimism has no foundation in his beliefs about what reality is, namely a single unconscious, a-rational, a-logical Will. And this further de-fangs his pessimism, seeing as the unity of the world-in-itself lacks teleology (i.e. a goal toward which it is tending), moral value, emotion, and reason. It needs to be remembered that we are part of this world-in-itself. Consequently, whatever we think is teleological, moral or immoral, emotive or apathetic, and rational or irrational is illusory. If Schopenhauer is right about the world as Will and Representation, then he is wrong. This is self-contradictory and, therefore, false. His metaphysics destroys his pessimism, rendering all of his claims about the futility and pain and pointless of human existence false.

2. Observation as Epistemological Authority

Schopenhauer, moreover, cites his observations as the authority that justifies his claims about suffering and pain and futility and death. However, given that Schopenhauer makes universal claims about the nature of reality, the nature of pain, the nature of pleasure, human nature, animality, time, psychology, and many other subjects, his citation of observation only serves to show that his observations do not justify his claims as true. While he may talk about individual experiences that he has observed, he has no ground for asserting that because of his observations he can make universal claims about the subjects I mentioned. Why? Because universal claims can only be evidentially justified, i.e. proven to be true by evidence, if the evidence for them is total, lacking no other pieces of evidence. For example, if Schopenhauer says that upon the basis of his observations he has concluded that all of human existence is ultimately suffering, he is either claiming to have observed human existence at all times and in all places and under all conditions, or he is claiming to know something he could never observe, namely human existence at all times and in all places and under all conditions. Schopenhauer isn’t speaking the facts, as he claims, but his opinion based upon his limited observations. He is overextending the legitimate applicability of his observations to his system of philosophy.

3. Existence is Pure Goodness, According to Schopenhauer

For anyone whose read the old, disgruntled codger, it might be surprising to see that Schopenhauer identifies existence as pure goodness. This is because Schopenhauer harps on and on about human existence being a mistake, an accident, and ultimately purely comprised of suffering and evil. Yet his own metaphysics makes this impossible. If the nature of reality is one, an indivisible throbbing Will that has no emotions or morals or reasons – then it follows that it is just as true to say that all of human existence is Jell-O Pudding as it is to say that all of human existence is suffering.

But even if we ignore this glaring contradiction, for the sake of argument, and grant his irrational belief to him about reality being comprised of suffering and futility, what do we see? Well, in a word, we see that all of existence is tending toward death, which is the cessation of physical and conscious experience, including experiences of pain and suffering and futility. And this is precisely what goodness is, the absence of pain and suffering and futility, according to Schopenhauer. How, then, can he say that the universal movement toward death – and note that this is another universal claim he cannot justify by an appeal to his senses or observations – is a bad thing? If the end result of all of existence is death, then the end result of all of existence is a state of perfect goodness in which pain and suffering and futility have come to an absolute end.

Not only this, but part of our pain and suffering in this life comes from being consciously aware of our eventual and inevitable death, as Schopenhauer claims, and death is the end of pain and suffering and futility, then it follows that our conscious awareness of our eventual and inevitable death is not a cause of suffering and pain, but one of pleasure, seeing as by contemplating death and obsessing over it, as Schopenhauer does, we are actually contemplating and obsessing over an eternal state of goodness in which there is neither pain nor suffering nor futility. How is the contemplation of an never-ending goodness, a never-ending state of deathlessness and painlessness and futility-less-ness not pleasurable?

Even Schopenhauer recognizes that human being’s can derive a great deal of pleasure from hoping for a state of goodness that they have no experiential access to. Does it not, therefore, follow from Schopenhauer’s own philosophical assumptions that the contemplation of one’s own death is equivalent to the contemplation of the overarching goodness of the whole of reality, which is constantly striving toward eliminating pain and suffering and futility?

It does follow, and inexorably so.

Schopenhauer’s belief here reduce to absurdity. For if pessimism is true, then it is false.

Soli Deo Gloria
-h.

P.S. I may at some time in the future address Schopenhauer’s immensely ignorant comments about the Scriptures and the Christian faith.

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The AntiChristian Roots of Critical Race Theory

Critical Race Theory – Incompatible with Christianity

In the future, I hope to publish a more in-depth article dealing with the antiChristian foundations of Critical Race Theory at BiblicalTrinitarian.com. In this article, though, I want to give a basic explanation of why it is that Critical Race Theory (hereafter, CRT) is not only unChristian but antiChristian. This necessarily involves first defining CRT, establishing how its stated goals are distinct from the Christian’s duty to love one’s neighbor as oneself, disambiguating the discussion surrounding the “origin” of CRT, and then demonstrating the antiChristian philosophical underpinnings it cannot exist without.

The utilization of CRT in determining whether or not the sin of racism has occurred, as well as determining the best means of combatting racism, is becoming more and more prominent in professing evangelical churches, sadly. This is in part, I believe, due to the way it is being sold to philosophically naive Christians, be they ministers or parishioners. I pray this helps clear up why it is that I and many others oppose the use of CRT, as well as reject the CRT-birthed calls for Christians to engage in so-called “Social Justice.”

Defining CRT

If you haven’t come across Critical Race Theory in evangelical conversations, either being promoted as the means of church unity between Christians with differing ethnicities or being rejected as the source of much unnecessary church division and conflict, you may not be aware of Critical Race Theory at all. So, let’s define it. According to Brittanica.com, CRT is

…the view that race, instead of being biologically grounded and natural, is socially constructed and that race, as a socially constructed concept, functions as a means to maintain the interests of the white population that constructed it. According to CRT, racial inequality emerges from the social, economic, and legal differences that white people create between “races” to maintain elite white interest in labour markets and politics and as such create the circumstances that give rise to poverty and criminality in many minority communities.
[Source]

This is CRT, in a nutshell. What is the purpose of CRT?

Establishing the Difference Between God’s Law & CRT

CRT proponents see the world as comprised of those who privilege white interests either by creating institutions, laws, etc that are geared toward that end, or by implicitly privileging white interests by not opposing institutions, laws, etc that are explicitly geared toward that end, on the one hand, and those who are neither white nor benefit from those white-oriented institutions, laws, etc, on the other hand. The goal of CRT in action, therefore, is to fix social injustices that come through white supremacist institutions, laws, etc. Proponents of CRT seek to bring about “social justice,” which is defined as “justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society.” [Source]

At times, CRT’s stated goal of bringing about justice within a society and the Christian’s duty to love one’s neighbor seem to overlap. This has led some evangelical proponents of CRT to argue that CRT is simply a means to the end of loving one’s non-white, marginalized, minority class neighbor. But this is not the case. Let me explain.

Firstly, while the outward actions may at times seem to be identical (e.g. opposing overt acts of racism, providing the poor with things they need, and so on), these actions are not an end in and of themselves for the Christian. Rather, they are a means to an end. Christians are to love our neighbors as ourselves so that we may demonstrate to the world that we are God’s children (cf. Matt 5:44-45), lights in this dark world (cf. Matt 5:14), and hopefully, if God so wills, see our fellow neighbors come to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. As Christ explains –

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
[Matt 5:14-16]

The end goal of our acting in accordance with God’s Law is God’s glorification, not the rectification of social ills. This is not to say that we shouldn’t desire to see social ills rectified. Rather, it is to say that the Christian’s goal is the glory of God in the salvation of sinners (for how else can one give glory to God other than by first becoming one who glories in God by faith in the redemptive work of his Son?), whereas the goal of CRT is to fix social problems.

Secondly, because CRT originates from an antiChristian worldview, the ethical actions which it legitimizes are often at odds with Christianity altogether. For instance, CRT allows its proponents to believe that white people occupy powerful positions, ultimately, for the sake of benefiting from “white supremacy.” CRT proponents, thus, engage in “social justice” that is rooted in this assumption. However, unless one can evidentially justify the claim that one’s white neighbor has sinned by tipping the scales, as it were, in favor of white people, one’s vocal and public identification of one’s white neighbor as being guilty of sin is slander and bearing false witness, both of which are actual sins. CRT’s view of white supremacy allows for large-scale slander and false witness bearing, and cannot be reconciled with the Law of God which forbids not only the perversion of justice, but slander and false witness.

The stated goals of CRT, then, and those of the Christian are not at all the same, though they may seem to share an identical external appearance.

Disambiguating the “origins” of CRT

When we talk about the origins of a particular movement, we could be referring to either the historical genealogy of the movement, or to the academic roots from which the movement has sprung. This needs to be done when considering a movement that is being presented as one that doesn’t owe its origins to academics but the pressing needs of a society’s marginalized people.

The reality of the situation is that,

The launch of the CRT movement in 1989 marked its separation from critical legal studies (CLS; the theory established at a conference in 1977 that rethinks and overturns accepted norms and standards in legal practice and theory).[Source]

And proponents of CLS were themselves influenced by the post-structuralist philosophers Jacques Derrida (see this paper for more information on this subject) and Michel Foucault (see here for more info), academics who made a career out of opposing absolutes and universals in the fields of philosophy, history, psychology, and literature.

So it is misleading to claim that

Instead of drawing theories of social organization and individual behaviour from continental European thinkers such as G.W.F. Hegel and Karl Marx or psychoanalytic figures like Sigmund Freud as its theoretical predecessors, as CLS and feminist jurisprudence had done, CRT inspired by the American civil rights tradition through figures such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and W.E.B. Du Bois, and from nationalist thinkers such as Malcolm X, the Black Panthers, and Frantz Fanon” [Source].

It is misleading because not only is CRT the offspring of CLS (itself largely influenced by post-structuralist philosophers), Martin Luther King Jr.’s own understanding of human psychology and relationships was greatly influenced by G.W.F. Hegel, as this article explains.

Moreover, W.E.B. Du Bois was likewise greatly influenced by G.W.F. Hegel’s philosophical psychology (see here), in addition to being influenced, to some degree, by Sigmund Freud’s concept of double-consciousness [See here for detailed info, specifically section 4.2.5.]

CRT did not spring from a pure desire to help others in need, but from a way of looking at the world that is in direct opposition to the teaching of Christianity. It’s philosophical roots poison its “social justice” fruits.

The AntiChristian Philosophical Underpinnings
of Critical Race Theory

1. AntiChristian Anthropology

Common to Freud, Marx, and Hegel is the idea that human psyche is not a stable, fixed, and sealed reality. Rather, the human psyche is in a process of becoming ideally human. For Freud, the psyche is moving from animality to sociality. This means that outward behavior and verbal expressions conceal the real, inner primal urges of the person acting and speaking. Freudian slips, dreams, involuntary bodily movements – these all point to an underlying reality that is pre-social, in fact anti-social, violent, and purely self-interested. For Freud, humans are animals whose true intentions have been covered by a thin veneer of socialization. These true feelings and desires only come to forefront when one’s guard is down, making the tasks of speech and dream analysis necessary to understanding what is truly occurring in a person’s mind.

For Marx, the human psyche also develops over time, i.e. historically. Personhood is bound to one’s place in society, his ability to produce and possess capital (e.g. property, land, agricultural goods, etc). Those who do not possess capital (i.e. the proletariat), but who engage in the production of objects for the possessors of capital (i.e. the bourgeoisie), experience alienation from their work. This hinders them from acquiring what they desire beyond their basic animal needs, and results in what Marx identified as false consciousness. This is a way of thinking that blinds a person from seeing their true plight in a society, i.e. socio-economically. As with Freud, Marx’s idea here is that what is consciously voiced by a proletariat/oppressed individual is the expression of a situationally frustrated person who is, at root, an animal seeking to best satisfy its basic needs, as well as exercise social and political power via means of production that allow for his acquiring and possessing capital.

W.E.B. Du Bois famously taught a theory of racial double consciousness that very closely follows Freud’s theory of dual-consciousness. Whereas Freud saw the unexpressed real desires of man as consisting of base animal instincts, and Marx saw the unexpressed real desires of man as being socio-economic frustration, Du Bois believed that black Americans experienced a divided/double consciousness. He describes it as

…sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness— an  American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose  dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.
[Source]

The philosophical anthropology taught by the above thinkers can be summarized as follows –

1. Man is an animal.

2. Man’s needs are ultimately related to the preservation of physical life.

3. Man’s needs are inextricably related to a primal desire to obtain power.

4. The conscious expressions of others are only part of the story, they may in fact be concealing attitudes, beliefs, and desires that completely contradict what they consciously express.

5.
Man’s soul/psyche is dependent upon his material conditions.

6. The psyche/soul is wholly naturalistic, i.e. a product of brain chemistry and nothing more.

The human psyche, in other words, is not the imago dei but the product of naturalistic causes. The internal conflict of man due to his (a.)being the image of God and (b.)being fallen in Adam, and (c.)corrupt by his own actual sins is not properly accounted for by the founding philosophical anthropologists of CRT. Rather than identifying man, individually, as the primary cause of man’s psychological and, therefore, social woes, the founding CRT thinkers viewed man as being the made by his circumstances.

These two views of man are completely at odds with one another. You see, while Scripture does not deny that others may influence one, to some extent, to sin (cf. Matt 18:6), it places the responsibility for one’s sins of the mind and body on the individual himself. James 1:14-15 clearly teaches us that “each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” Our environment may reveal our desire to sin, but we are ultimately the ones who bear the guilt for our transgressions of mind and body.

And while Scripture teaches that we are capable of having animals as companions, which implies a very basic level of reciprocal interaction that only sometimes involves the reciprocal exchange of emotions (e.g. between dogs and humans, or between horses and humans, etc) (cf. Gen 2:18-20 & 2nd Sam 12:1-6), it does not identify humans as animals. In Genesis 1 & 2, in fact, man is created on the same day as the land animals (cf. Gen 1:24-29 & 2:18-20) but is twice excluded from the category of “animals” (cf. Gen 1:25-26 & 1:29-30).

2. AntiChristian Valuation of Material and Spiritual Needs

In contradiction to the ideas of man held by the above mentioned thinkers and their CRT progeny, the primary need of man is righteousness, not food or shelter or clothing or equal opportunities to accumulate capital and thereby become a fully realized individual self. This was the case before the Fall, since Adam’s life was not perpetuated by his consumption of food, or by his employment (cf. Gen 2:15), or by his shelter from harm (since there was no other harm in the universe but that which the serpent was capable of producing via temptation), but by his obedience to God’s Law (cf. Gen 2:16-17 & Rom 5:12-14 et al.).

This was also the case after the Fall, since “life is more than food, and the body more than clothing” (Matt 6:25). Christ actually identifies anxiety over food and clothing as sinful behavior by which the lost are characterized. The Christian’s concern is to be the kingdom of God and his righteousness (cf. Matt 6:33) – the Christian’s concern is to be the preaching of Christ as Lord, who died for our sins, was buried, was raised on the third day, and is coming back to judge the living and the dead. This concern for the declaration of the truth of God’s Word concerning his King and the nature of his Kingdom is to be definitive of the Christian’s life, not “social justice.”

Proponents of CRT mock those who say the church’s primary focus is to be the preaching of the Word to God’s people for their sanctification, and for equipping them to go into the world with the Gospel and make disciples of all nations. However, they are standing in opposition to Christ’s clear teaching in his Sermon on the Mount. They are likewise opposing Paul who in Eph 4:11-14 writes –

…he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

The leaders Paul mentions have been given for the sake of building Christ’s body up with respect to sound doctrine. That sound doctrine forms the basis upon which a Christ-like life lived in response to the grace of God is founded.

CRT proponents invert the Scriptures’ valuation of material and spiritual needs. Scripture says that spiritual needs are of primary concern, CRT proponents say that material needs are of primary concern – vice versa. Either material needs are primary or they are not – these two ways of valuing spiritual and material needs are mutually exclusive.

3. AntiChristian Epistemology

CRT’s foundations imply a form of epistemological relativism. This is because the anthropology & psychology it is ultimately founded upon views man’s consciousness, and the content of his consciousness, as being inseparably tied to his social experience. Freud, Marx, and Hegel all embrace an epistemology that limits what is knowable to the knower in his particular social and historical contexts. This kind of subjectivism as regards what is knowable contradicts what the Scriptures teach regarding knowledge. Scriptural epistemology is an involved subject that requires a lot more space to flesh out the particulars as regards physical sensation and its relationship to the acquisition of knowledge, but it can summarized as follows –

God’s knowledge is unchanging, indefeasible (i.e. not capable of being augmented or entirely rejected by further study or research or correction from another rational being), and is not dependent upon creation. This knowledge is given to us by God as he sees fit. Because we are creatures, we necessarily receive that knowledge in a creaturely way (e.g. in time, alongside of our physical experiences (some argue that it is through those experiences), and in particular contexts (though these contexts aren’t always related to the knowledge we receive alongside our being historically located in them). So while we learn as creatures, because we will always be creatures who receive from God any knowledge we possess, it follows that knowledge of anything is not dependent upon our experiences, socio-economic or otherwise.

The Christian understanding of the nature of knowledge, how knowledge is acquired, and from whom it is acquired is, in other words, diametrically opposed to the views espoused by Freud, Marx, Hegel and their CRT successors, at the presuppositional level.

Lastly, while many want to speak of truth that only certain persons and groups can know, their stated belief contradicts what we can learn from the incarnation of our Lord Christ. For he was, is, and always will be omniscient. Therefore, according to Scripture it is the case that a straight, heterosexual, Jewish man knows all truths that are knowable. Christ is God, of course, and knows all things by virtue of his being omniscient. Nevertheless, what we see in the hypostatic union is that a heterosexual, Jewish, 2nd cent. man knew and knows all truths. If only some truths can be known by particular persons or people groups, then this would imply that Christ lacks knowledge that is peculiar to each and every female, non-Jewish, 2nd cent. and post-2nd cent. person. But Christ is omniscient. Therefore, it is not the case that there are some truths that are only knowable to a given person or group of people.

4. Conclusion

Someone familiar with logical fallacies might read through my breakdown of the philosophical origins of CRT and think that what I have presented is a form of the genealogical fallacy. That’s not the case.

When I say that the reason why CRT is antiChristian is because it is derived antiChristian philosophical presuppositions, I am not saying that the conclusions of CRT and social justice warriors are false for that reason alone. I am saying that their philosophical underpinnings provide the necessary basis for their sociological, ethical, and spiritual beliefs. And given that they have a wrong sociology, ethics, and spirituality, it follows that their concerns in those three areas are also wrong to that degree.

The anthropology, ethics, and spirituality of CRT and social justice proponents are counterfeits of what we find in Scripture. They are superficially similar to what we find in the Scripture, but upon closer examination reveal that they are not identical.

CRT is not Christian because it has no basis in the Christian faith. Rather, it is rooted in a rabidly antiChristian academic and academically-influenced culture which inverted and inverts the biblical doctrines of man, ethics, knowledge, and religion. It must be rejected for what it is, a political ideology rooted in the antiChristian worldview of post-structuralist and postmodernist philosophy.

The Scriptures are clear –

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

[2nd Tim 3:16-17]

We don’t need to supplement the Scriptures with any external source of information about anthropology, ethics, and spirituality/religion. Scripture alone is necessary, and it is completely sufficient.

Soli Deo Gloria

-h.

[P.S. I will answer another argument made by CRT proponents in an upcoming blog article, if the Lord wills.]