Thursday, August 20, 2009

"A thinker so prescient yet so blinded"

now finished: The Schopenhauer Cure by Irvin D. Yalom

I ended up liking my Y even more than I thought I would. Of course, I am always interested in philosophy, but I also really came to like the therapy group a lot, to want to know what each character would do next. Yalom definitely constructed a novel, and I like how he constructed it, weaving in Schopenhauer's story, Julius' story, and the stories of Julius' patients, making them intertwine more than the reader at first realizes.

I like how Yalom helps the reader to conclude that Schopenhauer was very smart about things, but that he needn't totally discount the world. I have felt some of the same disdain for people as Schopenhauer apparently did -- although I do envy him for being so certain so early of his own genius! -- so I thought it was interesting that he might possibly have become happy when he achieved a bit of fame and thereby met people who were interested in him.

I also totally relate to Schopenhauer's desire to leave his thoughts for the world and not have them misinterpreted or weakened by others. It is not that fame is important, but the thing whereby we merit fame: "A man's greatest happiness is not that posterity will know something about him but he himself will develop thoughts that deserve consideration and preservation for centuries." - p. 322 How different the fame of, say, Plato or Einstein, versus the "fame" of reality TV trash! Even the recent death of Michael Jackson, freak extraordinaire, revealed this theme; people were conflicted, I think, because his "fame" of the last half of his life had totally eclipsed the talent and works of art which had previously given him the real kind of fame, and made him "deserve consideration and preservation for centuries."

I ALSO like that Schopenhauer thought supernatural religion was a bunch of nonsense.

I recommend the book, especially to people who like to think and analyze, and definitely to anyone who's been in group therapy.

I've always liked Western Philosophy; same as many an undergrad, I took the obligatory Philosophy 101 and, as I recall, did pretty well. A or A-minus. The Western Philosophy section was one of those in which I would linger when I worked at Borders, formulating in my head plans to work my way through all of the books in it. I do like me a reading project! I might start up another project soon here of choosing twelve major philosophers to read, one per month for a year. The trick is narrowing all the biggies down to twelve -- I have a list I've whittled to 23. I will probably post it to ask for advice.

Because, speaking of projects, can you believe I've (finally!) almost finished this one! Today I will start reading 'Z'! (Zola, if I haven't mentioned that on here already.) I'm so excited about having completed this project that I have a little spring in my step as I cross the living room.

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