Arthur Schopenhauer, when he wrote The World as Will and Representation
There is a revival of interest in 19th century philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, thanks to Bernardo Kastrup. Sometimes it takes a century or two for a philosopher scribbling in solitude to be fully heard and absorbed. But today, I would like to remind everyone that a philosopher’s life has all the marks of every creative artist. I am thinking of philosophers outside the Academy: Lao-Tzu, Giordano Bruno, Spinoza, Nietzsche, Rousseau…even Bertrand Russell.
Do they suffer in their solitude? What constitutes the mystery of the philosopher’s life?
In an answer to that question, Gilles Deleuze writes movingly of Spinoza’s life: I
The philosopher appropriates the ascetic virtues–humility, poverty, chastity–and makes them serve ends completely his own, extraordinary ends that are not ascetic at all, in fact. He makes them the expression of his singularity. They are not moral ends in his case, or religious means to another life, but rather the “effects” of philosophy itself. For there is absolutely no other life for the philosopher. Humility, poverty, and chastity become the effects of an especially rich and superabundant life, sufficiently powerful to have conquered thought and subordinated every other instinct to itself…the full meaning of the philosopher’s solitude becomes apparent. For he cannot integrate into any milieu; he is not suitable to any of them…the best society will be one that exempts the power of thinking from the obligation to obey, and takes care, in its own interest, not to subject thought to the rule of the state…The philosopher can reside in various states, he can frequent various milieus, but he does so in the manner of a hermit, a shadow, a traveler or boarding house lodger.Gilles Deleuze, Spinoza: Practical Philosophy, pages 3-4
Most of us have sacrificed for others in our own ways. And most of have compromised along the way for the same reasons. Yet one can’t help but admire the heroic nature of those who have toiled in obscurity and ridicule, persecution, exile, and execution, for the sake of what? Truth?