Specialists in Perplexity

In 1877, James Sully wrote that the first fundamental objection to Arthur Schopenhauer’s world-principle is that it is inconceivable. “Will, in the abstract, is wholly unthinkable.”

The inexpressible is not the unthinkable. Is it necessary to be able to articulate our deepest thoughts?

We cannot explain the whence, the whither, or the wherefore. We can only try to explain what is, not why or how it is. Sully accused Schopenhauer’s position of being quite untenable.

“In the Idea which is at once both will and representation, the Ding en sich is said to know itself as object.”

Inconceivability. Schopenhauer was attempting to, not so much explain fundamental riddles and inpenetrable mysteries, but to contemplate them, to inspect and investigate the very problem of existence itself. The mere attempt to even just contemplate such phenomena does not have to be a frustrating endeavor. The striving to get to THE HEART OF THE MATTER… to be stirred by a longing that compels this strange ape to WONDER … this brings the deep thinker closer to all the ancestors who ever gazed up into the stars or suffered from hunger pangs, a tooth ache, love-sickness, or just a sense of the absurdity of there being a world rather than there not being anything at all…

Ligotti points to Peter Wessel Zapffe as the honest thinker to investigate, but Zapffe’s work is nearly impossible to track down. It is not translated into English. Zapffe’s thought, says Ligotti, is the most elementary in the history of philosophical pessimism. His thought shuns the profound and difficult to understand BRAIN TWISTERS (that are complicated and intricately involved) as something to be avoided.

Even though Ligotti has many praises for Schopenhauer, acknowledging that his two-volumed (1819 and 1844) The World as Will and Representation lays out “one of the most absorbingly intricate metaphysical systems ever contrived,” he does seem to warn us that ” … a quasi-mystical elaboration of a ‘Will-to-live’ as the hypostasis of reality, a mindless and uniting master of all being, a directionless force that makes everything do what it does …” proves to be nothing more than another intellectual labyrinth for specialists in perplexity.

Zapffe’s principles, by contrast, are non-technical, shunning theories and focusing more on the brute facts of our LIVED EXPERIENCE. Emile Cioran also rejects the compulsion to systematize thought, choosing instead, to break thought down to what can be whispered into the ear of a dying man, or spoken loudly to a drunkard.

In the end, Schopenhauer’s thought is an elaborate construct for THE END OF HUMAN EXISTENCE. Point blank. Bottom line: Stop reproducing and this absurd comedy will be no more.

Life itself is a cosmic accident, a great blunder. This makes sense of the conundrum that life itself makes no sense whatsoever. We can feel this in our bones. In a novel titled At the Mountains of Madness (1936), HP Lovecraft has one of his characters mention a PRIMAL MYTH about Great Old Ones who filtered down from the stars and CONCOCTED LIFE ON EARTH AS A JOKE OR A MISTAKE.

Once Schopenhauer had drafted his mythology that “everything in the universe is energized by a Will-to-live,” he shifted away from brain-twisting perplexity to the far more easily understood variety of pessimism we encounter today, i.e., “Life sucks.”

What is the ultimate aim of all this striving? I’m hungry so I eat, yes, that is why I eat, because I am hungry, but what is the ultimate aim? Existence is a state of demonic mania, with the WILL-TO-LIVE as the POSSESSING SPIRIT of tormented individual creatures. (Ligotti 2011)

Trying “not to know” these things may be the common-sense tendency since life depends upon us not knowing it very well. Is it a mere coincidence that, in the creation myth of the ancient Hebrews, knowledge is the forbidden fruit? If the individuated creature figures out the riddle of existence … then what? Nothingness? Non-being?

Isn’t it uncanny that some people say, “I’m not trying to know that shit!”?

They don’t want to know that life is an accident of cosmic proportions. They want to believe otherwise, that there is some kind of Grand Plan and Purpose.

What do you think? Better yet, what do you feel in your bones?


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