On Reading and Books
December 6, 2017 11:38 AM   Subscribe

On Reading and Books
Nineteenth-century philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer digs deeply into reading, writing, and publishing from his idiosyncratic perspective in this essay from his book Parerga and Paralipomena. (Alternate link)
posted by springo (9 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
First link redirects to https://liberalarts.utexas.edu/ (which is frustrating, 'cause this looks cool).
posted by golwengaud at 11:41 AM on December 6, 2017

Added an alternate link for anyone who has trouble getting to the pdf in the main link.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:25 PM on December 6, 2017

Thanks for posting this! Some of it reminds me of Foucault's comments on Seneca in "Self-Writing":
Seneca stresses the point: the practice of the self involves reading, for one could not draw everything from ones own stock or arm oneself by oneself with the principles of reason that are indispensable for self-conduct: guide or example, the help of others is necessary. But reading and writing must not be dissociated; one ought to “have alternate recourse” to those two pursuits and “blend one with the other.” If too much writing is exhausting (Seneca is thinking of the demands of style), excessive reading has a scattering effect: “In reading of many books is distraction.” By going constantly from book to book, without ever stopping, without returning to the hive now and then with one's supply of nectar —hence without taking notes or constituting a treasure store of reading— one is liable to retain nothing, to spread oneself across different thoughts, and to forget oneself. Writing, as a way of gathering in the reading that was done and of collecting one's thoughts about it, is an exercise of reason that counters the great deficiency of stultitia, which endless reading may favor. Stultitia is defined by mental agitation, distraction, change of opinions and wishes, and consequently weakness in the face of all the events that may occur; it is also characterized by the fact that it turns the mind toward the future, makes it interested in novel ideas, and prevents it from providing a fixed point for itself in the possession of an acquired truth.
posted by Wobbuffet at 1:14 PM on December 6, 2017 [14 favorites]

It is the same in literature as in life; wherever we turn, we at once encounter the incorrigible rabble of mankind, everywhere present in legions, filling and defiling everything, like flies in summer.

Mmmmmm, that guy knew how to misanthrope.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 1:31 PM on December 6, 2017 [5 favorites]

What's that you say? You want an experimental short film based on the work of Arthur Schopenhauer? Behold "On The Sufferings Of The World".
posted by vibrotronica at 2:43 PM on December 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

Mmmmmm, that guy knew how to misanthrope.

He was a pretty cold bastard, although he mellowed out some in old age. Here is an example. Schopenhauer could not tolerate noise; I think there's an essay about it. He thinks that the ability to tolerate any noise is only possible if you are an idiot. So one day, when the woman who cleaned the house he had rooms in was clanging her bucket or something, he flew out in a rage and more or less pushed her down the stairs. Or she fell fleeing from him, I don't know. Anyway, she won a judgement against him, and he had to pay her every month for the rest of her life. There is a Latin notation in his diary when she died: "Obit anum, abit onus", I think: "The old woman is dead and the debt departs". His misogyny is execrable too of course, as you can see in many of his writings.
posted by thelonius at 3:46 PM on December 6, 2017 [5 favorites]

Neil Peart had some comments about Schopenhauer...
posted by ovvl at 4:20 PM on December 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Personal note: After I sold a couple lists to the Original Book of Links people (for Vol. 2), they approached me and asked if I'd like to write for a new project "The Intimate Sex Lives of Famous People" (to avoid legal issues the book was limited to deceased famous people, some historically). I said 'why not' and was assigned to write up Schopenhauer, and provided with photocopies of various source content that had convinced the editors he was worth including. I struggled through making 1000-1200 words, still finding the subject matter rather dull, submitted it and got a phone call from an editor a week later asking: "why didn't you have anything about the fact that he died from complications of syphilis?" Apparently I had failed to 'read between the lines' of an official biography and I felt like had flunked at writing, history and sex education all at the same time. I was allowed to do a rewrite and inserted not only the facts but also a little snark about how "this world famous pessimist was, in his sex life, a little too optimistic".
posted by oneswellfoop at 5:10 PM on December 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

"this world famous pessimist was, in his sex life, a little too optimistic".

I think that the editor of this book may have gotten Schopenhauer and Nietzsche mixed up. IIRC, the original edition of this book had some interesting loose speculations about Nietzsche's personal life, including the theory that his suffering from the effects of syphilis affected his late writing, which has been often mentioned by various people, but not quite conclusively proven. (Personally, I find interesting the speculation that Nietzsche may have contracted syphilis from crude battlefield surgeries in the Franco-Prussian war. There's no proof of this, but he really does seem to have suffered PTSD from his war experiences).
posted by ovvl at 6:19 PM on December 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

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