Life experience has taught me that nothing of value comes easily. So I agree with Nietzsche on that one. He is a complex philosopher with many strands to his philosophy. In our U3A groups yesterday the majority felt their opinion of him has improved after considering Alain de Botton’s description of him and his life work. I wasn’t so sure!
The three things that stood out for me were:
- His thorough advice on how to write a novel (over the top!)
- His views on Christianity – he was strong (ruthless) in his opposition – I wondered how his views would be received today
- His ‘Slave Morality’ and ‘Master Morality’
On the third point we read an article written for Psychology Today that considered those views from the point of view of US politics (Democrats and Republicans) but I could see how they could reflect most left and right views of politics today. Here is a LINK for that article. It made for good and lively discussion.
Friedrich Nietzsche was born in October 1844 in Rocken, located near Leipzig in Germany. He is the subject for next week’s two discussion groups in my local U3A Group. In preparing my research I came across the following advice from Nietzsche on how to write a novel! Was he serious? I will fill you in on our discussions after the classes next Wednesday!
This is how hard one should try to write a novel: The recipe for becoming a good novelist … is easy to give, but to carry it out presupposes qualities one is accustomed to overlook when one says ‘I do not have enough talent.’ One has only to make a hundred or so sketches for novels, none longer than two pages but of such distinctness that every word in them is necessary; one should write down anecdotes every day until one has learnt how to give them the most pregnant and effective form; one should be tireless in collecting and describing human types and characters; one should above all relate things to others and listen to others relate, keeping one’s eyes and ears open for the effect produced on those present, one should travel like a landscape painter or costume designer … one should, finally, reflect on the motives of human actions, disdain no signpost for instruction about them and be a collector of these things by day and night. One should continue in this many-sided exercise for some ten years; what is then created in the workshop … will be fit to go out into the world.
de Botton, Alain. The Consolations of Philosophy (pp. 216-217). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.
Arthur Schopenhauer was born in 1788 in Danzig, Germany. He was the topic of two philosophy discussion groups that met today. We have been reading a book called The Consolations of Philosophy, written by Alain de Botton and published by Penguin.
Group members were on the whole of the view that he was a miserable man who had nothing to offer for us in consolation of any kind. A few of us (me included) disagreed. It is difficult to get to the core of the man in a two hour session. His thesis, The World as Will and Representation was hailed as a masterpiece (not at first but later in his lifetime).
He certainly paints a dark view of life full of pessimism however I felt a sense of fellowship with him. I have known some dark times in my life and it is as though he could put my experience into words. He also emphasised the strength of our will to live in that the survival of our species depends upon it.
I can’t do justice to the complexity of the man but I do know that he certainly got our group members fired up about some of the things he said and his attitude toward women (not good)!
One of the female members of the group suggested he may have had more success with women if he had a better hair cut.
The two discussions on philosophy on Wednesday were very interesting and enjoyable.
The quote below provoked a lot of debate. It wasn’t difficult to see that the impact of humans on nature has often been detrimental. But then nature can be fierce and destructive too. We agreed that the advances in knowledge and application of science can enable us to have a more positive impact on our environment.
A lot of our discussion was about how ‘down to earth’ Montaigne seemed and that made him likeable. Even though he was rich, educated and talented (and wise) he wrote about life in a way that anyone can relate to what he said. His references to bodily functions surprised and amused us – we still sometimes feel uncomfortable with subjects such as flatulence and sexual anxieties today but he didn’t hold back!
Montaigne had travelled quite a bit and put a good case about withholding judgement on the differences we encounter in different countries and their customs. That had us talking about ‘culture shock’ and the fear that can arise when suddenly faced with a culture we don’t understand. He made us realise that what is normal for us may be very strange to someone in another setting.
Tomorrow our two U3A Philosophy Groups will be exploring Montaigne. I must say it has been challenging trying to pin him down as to what he is about. A little more reading led me to see that he is a Sceptic (Skeptic) and so that explains things a little.
Another interesting aspect about him is that even though he is rich and of noble birth he speaks plainly about everyday things. One can almost feel like he is a friend.
In one of the articles I read they suggested that he could be the world’s first blogger! Now that got my attention! I can understand why though. He, in his Essays, writes about whatever is on his mind in an interesting and entertaining style. Incidentally, I checked on Amazon and was able to purchase The Complete Essays on Kindle for $1.03!
Anyway, I will write some more about Montaigne after our two classes tomorrow!
Today our U3A Group looked at Lucius Annaeus Seneca. He was born in 4BC and died in 65AD. He was a Roman Philosopher known for his Stoic philosophy. He was also a Statesman and Magistrate. Stoics get their name from Stoa (below) where they met and discussed their ideas. The dictionary definition of Stoicism is ‘An Ancient Greek School of Philosophy which taught that it is wise to remain indifferent to changes of fortune and to pleasure and pain.’ Seneca wrote his philosophy in Latin and therefore it was more accessible to the Romans as up to that point it was all recorded in Greek.
Seneca suggests that we best endure those frustrations we can anticipate and also for the frustrations in life that we weren’t expecting and cannot understand. We noted that much of his philosophy is similar to what we know of as the Serenity Prayer (God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference).
We looked at some of his quotes and discussed what we thought he meant. We speculated about the last part of the quote below as perhaps an early reference to euthanasia. We didn’t come to any great conclusions but we enjoyed the mental stimulation and each others’ company!