In this section of his advice, Schopenhauer becomes both grumpy and arrogant. But his argument is very seductive at the same time:
All society necessarily involves, as the first condition of its existence, mutual accommodation and restraint upon the part of its members. This means that the larger it is, the more insipid will be its tone. A man can be himself only so long as he is alone; and if he does not love solitude, he will not love freedom; for it is only when he is alone that he is really free.
Further, if a man stands high in Nature’s lists, it is natural and inevitable that he should feel solitary. It will be an advantage to him if his surroundings do not interfere with this feeling; for if he has to see a great deal of other people who are not of like character with himself, they will exercise a disturbing influence upon him, adverse to his peace of mind; they will rob him, in fact, of himself, and give him nothing to compensate for the loss.
So-called good society recognizes every kind of claim but that of intellect, which is a contraband article;
No man can be in perfect accord with any one but himself–not even with a friend or the partner of his life; differences of individuality and temperament are always bringing in some degree of discord, though it may be a very slight one.
Let’s pick this argument apart. The argument begins with the truism, that no one is exactly the same in public that one is in private. We do monitor our behavior when we are around others.
From that he draws out a second move: since we monitor our behavior, we are not ourselves, we are not free.
There is a third move in his progression, and this is the seductive move, this is truly a burden for the great.
Conclusion: therefore, happiness can only take place when we are alone.
Let us consider this argument. Being absolutely alone is not known to be a means of happiness. In fact, we put the people we are most unhappy with into solitary confinement. It is an extraordinary punishment to force isolation.
Second, while introverts may like quieter settings than others, it does not mean no social contact at all.
Third, why does monitoring one’s behavior mean a lack of freedom or from that happiness? Part of maturing entails controlling and monitoring one’s behavior. Schopenhauer’s entire book is the result of extraordinary self-control. He has had to learn exceptional skills to be able to communicate by means of a complex book.
We can also think of self-monitoring as entailing courtesy and kindness. The very act of considering the good of another human being is a well-known means of obtaining happiness.
Put conversely, does anyone think that Scrooge is the happiest character in A Christmas Carol?
And what does this mean to be oneself? The way I am when I am alone is myself; the way I am in front of others is also myself – in that circumstance. And what sort of self does Schopenhauer mean?
Does he merely mean he likes to avoid boring conversation? That is the case for everyone. I am certain Arthur bored many people. Others found him fascinating.
Now if he wished to be “himself” everywhere, the Cynics gave a perfectly acceptable means of behaving. Their name comes from the Greek word for “dog”. These philosophers simply did whatever they felt like doing wherever they happened to be. You may not appreciate a person who was also “free” coming over to your home. It would sort of like a cross being an undiapered toddler and an ill-behaved dog.
But as we think this through, does not think that Schopenhauer was “happy” being this solitary “giant”? This sounds more like a self-justification for his misery.
He thinks that the reason all social contact is difficult (and I am writing this as person who tends toward introversion and who finds large parties painful) is because he is great.
Now everyone feels uncomfortable in some circumstances. Even the most vivacious often is trying to avoid their discomfort by sheer exuberance.
Thus, according to Arthur, we are all great – because we all feel discomfort in some circumstance.
It seems that he is painful awkward and seeking to solace himself. I tend to think that a friend would do him a great deal more good than nursing an enormous sense of self-worth.
These guys pretty much sum of Schopenhauer’s point: (1) I can’t be myself, and (2) my pain is because I’m special:
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