Thursday, September 2, 2010

Schopenhauer being, well, Schopenhauer, Part II

There is a remarkable, long, searing passage in On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason (E.J.F. Payne tr., LaSalle, IL: Open Court, 1974) in which Schopenhauer pretends to record the reassuring words German professors say to the besieged cosmological argument, about how they will save it simply by assuming an air of superiority, invoking the "Absolute," and banging their fists on tables. I can't quote the section in full, because it goes on for about three pages, but here are some of the highlights:
The Germans are accustomed to accept words instead of ideas. Are they not trained by us for this purpose from early youth? Just look at Hegelry; what is it but empty, hollow, and even nauseous verbiage? And yet how brilliant was the career of this philosophical creature of the ministry! It needed only a few mercenary fellows to sing the praises of the bad, and their voices found an echo in the hollow emptiness of a thousand numbskulls, an echo resounding and spreading even at the present time. See how soon a great philosopher was made from a common head, indeed from a common charlatan!

[...]

If you feel nervous, always bear in mind that we are in Germany where man have been able to do what would have been impossible elsewhere. I refer to the fact that in Germany men procalim as a great mind and profound thinker a dull, ignorant philosophaster, a scribbler of nonsense, who by his ineffably hollow verbiage thoroughly and permanently disorganizes their brains; I refer to our dearly beloved Hegel. Not only have they been able to so this with impunity and without incurring ridicule, but they have believed it for the last thirty years, and believe it to this day! (60-61)

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