The subject of Arthur Schopenhauer's Essays
is, in his words, the wisdom of life. This he defines as the art of ordering our lives so as to obtain the greatest possible amount of pleasure and success. The theory of this art he calls eudæmonology
. Eudæmonology, he says, teaches us how to lead a happy existence.
I'm all for that, so I find myself reading the essays of Schopenhauer with great interest. Unfortunately, my knowledge of German is limited to words and phrases useful in the cataloging of books, so I'm reduced to reading him in translation. Worse, I have one of those early-twentieth-century editions that doesn't even bother to record the name of the translator. But that's not enough to dissuade me.
Schopenhauer begins with the Aristotelian division of the blessings of life into three categories: what a man is, what a man has, and how a man is viewed by others. The latter two he promptly dispenses with as being minor and mutable. If a man is by nature cheerful, he feels, he will make the best of what little he has; whereas, if he is by nature melancholy or a "dull blockhead," he will never be happy no matter how much he possesses or how famous he becomes.
I personally could be happy watching a caterpillar cross the road for three hours. Maybe that makes me a "dull blockhead"...but I prefer to think that I have a rich inner life, an extremely sensitive nature, and the ability to wring the last drop of sweetness from life. A veritable "A" student of eudæmonology, although until just this week I never knew it.
Labels: books, Schopenhauer