Schopenhauer’s sense of humor

One of the major, major pessimists in history. I quoted him last week in the context of contemporary anti-humanism and those calling for human extinction. But lest we think of Arthur as always grim and cranky, here’s a delightful zinger.

kant-silhouette-75x134Schopenhauer, assessing Kant’s moral philosophy:

“I should liken Kant to a man at a ball, who all evening has been carrying on a love affair with a masked beauty in the vain hope of making a conquest, when at last she throws off her mask and reveals herself to be his wife” (On the Basis of Morality).

Although it is hard to imagine (even if one tries very hard, which I don’t recommend) Professor Immanuel Kant in pursuit of a love affair, Schopenhauer’s simile is on to something. Kant and his followers presents his project as new, modern, and revolutionary, but after doggedly reading through hundreds of pages of dense prose (sample here), one realizes it’s essentially the same old dowdy stuff (apologies to all wives).

Which is why Schiller could say, in a letter to Goethe, “There still remains something in Kant, as in Luther, that makes one think of a monk who has left his monastery, but been unable efface all traces of it.” Indeed.