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On the Basis of Morality by Arthur…

On the Basis of Morality (1903)

by Arthur Schopenhauer

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The Basis of Morality (1840) is Schopenhauer's convincing and highly perceptive treatment on ethics, expanding on his ethical philosophy as formulated in his masterwork The World as Will and Representation. Schopenhauer offers a descriptive ethics as a refutation of traditional prescriptive ethical accounts founded on reason, particularly Kant's ethical deontology. Compassion is Schopenhauer's only true source of pure moral action, a quality possessed by individuals to widely varying degrees. He closes by giving a metaphysical foundation of transcendental idealism to his ethics.
  AMD3075 | Feb 24, 2014 |
Schopenhauer's theme, well-argued, liberally illustrated, viciously defended is that
_compassion_ is the foundation of morality and that, even so, it's really not _much_ of a foundation and ultimately every beneficient act, the kind to which we would ascribe moral value, is an exercise in practical mysticism because it depends on the understanding the all living creatures are, at the core, the same.

This comes from a time, 1837, when philosophers, at least the brave ones, would take on huge issues and deliver a coherent, considered theory of the whole danged thing, a theory that was always flawed but who gives a crap. I just love the fearlessness with which they approached their project, attacked their critics and ridiculed those they considered the lesser lights.

Interestingly, I found two similarities in Schopenhauers explication of the foundation of morals with Amartya Sen's [The Idea of Justice], which I'm also reading and which doesn't even mention Schopenhauer in the index. First, both insist that an understanding or morality (justice, in Sen's case) must start wityh an appreciation of how life is actually lived; second, they both invoke the Bhagavad Gita as a source of their thought--and so of the truth, neither being shy about stating they're right and others are wrong.

Anyone interested in Schopenhauer, and anyone interested in Nietzche might profit from at least a mild interest in Schopenhauer, should first read his masterwork [The World As Will and Representation], but given time, don't neglect this little gem. ( )
  steve.clason | May 16, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0872204421, Paperback)

Interest in Schopenhauer has increased noticeably in recent years. Published here is one of his key works, which has been out of print for a long time, in the form of Payne's definitive translation. This work is one of the most significant nineteenth century treatises on ethics. It is also Schopenhauer's most extended discussion of traditional themes in ethics and presents a descriptive ethics radically at odds with rationally based, prescriptive ethical theories. Schopenhauer begins this book with a wide-ranging critique of Kant's ethics, one that anticipates the work of contemporary critics of modern moral philosophy like that of G E M Anscombe, Philippa Foot, and Richard Taylor. Schopenhauer argues that compassion is the basis of morality, and in so doing presents a virtue ethics in which passion and desire are viewed as the keys for explaining different moral characters, behaviours, and world views. In the concluding part of his essay, Schopenhauer sketches his metaphysics of morals, using Kant's transcendental idealism as a ground for stressing both the interconnectiveness of being and the affinity of his ethics to Eastern thought.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:56 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Persuasive and humane, this classic of philosophy represents one of the nineteenth century's most significant treatises on ethics. The Basis of Morality offers Schopenhauer's fullest examination of traditional ethical themes, and it articulates a descriptive form of ethics that contradicts the rationally based prescriptive theories. Starting with his polemic against Kant's ethics of duty, Schopenhauer anticipates the latter-day critics of moral philosophy. Arguing that compassion forms the basis of morality, he outlines a perspective on ethics in which passion and desire correspond to different moral characters, behaviors, and worldviews. In conclusion, Schopenhauer defines his metaphysics of morals, employing Kant's transcendental idealism to illustrate both the interconnectiveness of being and the affinity of his ethics to Eastern thought.… (more)

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