The Essays here presented form a further selection from Schopenhauer’s Parerga, brought together under a title which is not to be found in the original, and does not claim to apply to every chapter in the volume. The first essay is, in the main, a rendering of the philosopher’s remarks under the heading of Nachtraege zur Lehre vom Leiden der Welt, together with certain parts of another section entitled Nachtraege zur Lehre von der Bejahung und Verneinung des Willens zum Leben. Such omissions as I have made are directed chiefly by the desire to avoid repeating arguments already familiar to readers of the other volumes in this series. The Dialogue on Immortality sums up views expressed at length in the philosopher’s chief work, and treated again in the Parerga. The Psychological Observations in this and the previous volume practically exhaust the chapter of the original which bears this title.
The essay on Women must not be taken in jest. It expresses Schopenhauer’s serious convictions; and, as a penetrating observer of the faults of humanity, he may be allowed a hearing on a question which is just now receiving a good deal of attention among us.
Unless suffering is the direct and immediate object of life, our existence must entirely fail of its aim. It is absurd to look upon the enormous amount of pain that abounds everywhere in the world, and originates in needs and necessities inseparable from life itself, as serving no purpose at all and the result of mere chance. Each separate misfortune, as it comes, seems, no doubt, to be something exceptional; but misfortune in general is the rule.
I know of no greater absurdity than that propounded by most systems of philosophy in declaring evil to be negative in its character. Evil is just what is positive; it makes its own existence felt. Leibnitz is particularly concerned to defend this absurdity; and he seeks to strengthen his position by using a palpable and paltry sophism. It is the good which is negative; in other words, happiness and satisfaction always imply some desire fulfilled, some state of pain brought to an end.
[Footnote 1: Translator’s Note, cf. Theod, sec. 153.—Leibnitz argued that evil is a negative quality—i.e., the absence of good; and that its active and seemingly positive character is an incidental and not an essential part of its nature. Cold, he said, is only the absence of the power of heat, and the active power of expansion in freezing water is an incidental and not an essential part of the nature of cold. The fact is, that the power of expansion in freezing water is really an increase of repulsion amongst its molecules; and Schopenhauer is quite right in calling the whole argument a sophism.]