Matters of Life and Death


Here are some questions to help guide your reading of these selections.

  1. What sorts of arguments or evidence does Schopenhauer offer for his claims that life is full of suffering and misery and it would be better were life not to have been?
  2. Given the prevalence of misery in the world, how does Schopenhauer think I should view life?  How does he think I should view death?
  3. What is Schopenhauer's view of how good and evil should be defined?
  4. What is Schopenhauer's view of the will to live, and of the relation between will and knowledge?
  5. Why does Schopenhauer identify the will to live as my essence?  Do you agree with him?  Why or why not?
  6. What contradictory conclusions does Schopenhauer think we can draw from the observation that time is fleeting?  What are the contradictions supposed to tell us?
  7. What kind of life do we really want?  Individual existence or life, period?  (Does this shed any light on Ivan Ilyich's plight?)
  8. If Schopenhauer has such a dim view of the essence of human beings (the will to live), why does he think we ought to treat each other with regard?
  9. Isn't asking me to deny my will to live asking me to abandon my very essence?  Can I do that?  Would that be a good thing for me to do?  Why or why not?

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