What’s in it for me? Get a surprisingly modern perspective on what it takes to be happy.
The Wisdom of Life Arthur Schopenhauer pdf- The question of what happiness actually is has puzzled humankind since time immemorial. After all, it was one of the first issues that the early Greek philosophers turned to. They called it eudaimonia, a term that encompasses prosperity and good fortune as well as happiness.
The question troubled Arthur Schopenhauer, too, and in this essay, he presents his own thoughts on the matter. He attempts both to define what happiness is and to ascertain how life should be lived so as to achieve it. According to him, that is the only way to gain the wisdom of life.
In addition to explaining how to build a foundation for happiness, this article also reveals
- why you shouldn’t worry what others think;
- just where pursuing fame will get you; and
- how one Frenchman wanted to look on the day of his execution
Life’s blessings can be divided into three categories.
Ruminating on the qualities and nature of human life is nothing new. But after the rumination comes the practical part. How, exactly, are you supposed to live your life for maximum benefit and happiness?
Of course, the Greek philosophers got there first. Aristotle thought human blessings could be classified into three categories: blessings that are external to the self, blessings of the soul and blessings of the body.
Aristotle was on the right track. There are three categories of blessings, but they don’t align with his conception of them.
First and foremost, there’s personality, or “what a man is.”
Personality isn’t just your character; it also covers your health, strength, beauty, temperament, moral outlook, intelligence and education.
These attributes are generally determined by nature, and as such they’re very significant in governing human happiness.
Most importantly, a person’s inner constitution, or “what he is made of,” plays the biggest role in shaping his well-being. Just think of health: it’s axiomatic that a healthy beggar is happier than a sick prince.
Needless to say, for Schopenhauer, the greatest pleasures are those of the mind. As he puts it, “An intellectual man in complete solitude has excellent entertainment in his own thoughts and fancies, whilst no amount or diversity of social pleasure […] can ward off boredom from the dullard.”
The second category is property, or “what a man has.”
Material wealth can satisfy real and basic needs, but it won’t get you any further than that. It’s never going to truly satiate you or compensate for a lack of inner wealth. Happiness comes from elsewhere. That’s why rich people, though materially well off, aren’t particularly happy.
Finally, there’s position. In other words, how you’re thought of by others.
An inwardly rich person, unlike a fool, will pay little heed to others’ opinions. She’ll just live her life.
That’s the basics covered. Now let’s look at each blessing in more detail.
Human happiness depends on physical health and the gifts and pleasures of the mind.
Let’s begin with the first of the three distinct categories that make up the blessings of life; personality. You’re always going to carry it with you, no matter where you go or what you do. Therefore, who you reallyare matters a great deal.
A critical part of personality is health and it accounts for nine tenths of happiness. If you’re healthy, you’re more likely to find pleasure in things. If you’re unhealthy, nothing is enjoyable.
Aristotle put it very well indeed when he said, “Life is movement.” That’s to say, if you want to stay healthy, a little bit of exercise each day will go a long way.
What’s more, a mind engaged in constant introspection needs an external counterpart. Consider a tree. Every now and again, the wind needs to shake it up a bit, so it can thrive.
In addition to health, the gifts of the mind are significant in determining human happiness.
A famous phrase from the Old Testament – “The life of a fool is worse than death” – sums this up well.
If you’re lucky enough to have been gifted with intellectual abilities, then you should lead an intellectual life. That way, your mind will be kept busy and you needn’t ever worry about boredom.
A rich and fertile mind will see beauty in the commonplace, while a fool is stuck with what’s in front of him. Cast your consideration upon Goethe or Lord Byron – the fertility of their minds provided them with inner wealth and happy self-sufficiency.
Conversely, if your mind is empty, then you’re more likely to search for entertainment, diversion and luxury to stave off boredom. Schopenhauer is pretty damning. For him, “a man is sociable just in the degree in which he is intellectually poor and generally vulgar.”
Your wealth will determine what you expect in life, and maybe it’ll bring freedom too.
It’s time to examine the second category, property, or “what a man has.”
Once again, the Greeks got there first. Epicurus divided human needs into three parts. Specifically, these are possessions that satiate or quell certain feelings.
First off, there are natural and necessary needs. These include food, shelter and clothing. Without them, we’d be in pain.
Second, there are the natural but unnecessary needs – that is, all things that gratify the senses. These can be tough to satisfy.
Finally, there are outright luxuries, which are neither natural nor necessary. And as they aren’t actually needs per se, they’re the hardest to fulfill.
Naturally, there’s a bit of overlap among the three categories, because we’re all different. What one person considers a luxury, for instance, might be considered a natural but unnecessary need by someone else.
Once we’re fed and clothed and safe from the elements, we all have different ideas of what is and isn’t “necessary.”Moreover, we tend not to expect more than we think it possible to obtain. For instance, you’re not going to notice the loss of a fine coat if you never had one in first place. But if you’re accustomed to finery, then you may be pained by the lack of it.
This explains why someone born with a great fortune usually takes better care of it than someone who happens into wealth. If you’re wealthy from birth, you’ll see riches as a necessity that you can’t afford to lose. But if you’ve lived your life without it, you won’t worry about losing it.
If you’re lucky enough to have been born into wealth – what the author calls a “favorable fate” – then you’ll probably be freer and feel more in charge of your time. Ultimately, it’ll result in you having a more independent mind-set, too.