In this article, I will unify some thoughts via idle speculation, using Schopenhauer as the connecting thread.
For a long time, I found Schopenhauer’s philosophy fascinating. What he wrote about The Will as the source of our unhappiness and its denial as our “salvation” is compelling and under-appreciated. Therefore, it was no surprise I led The Neglected Philosophies series with his views. Then as I blogged on other Neglected Philosophies, I saw connections. Deeper thought revealed more connections with some of my other articles and other schools of thought.
What happens if I stay at the level of will, and assume that unhappiness is a function of willfulness? That is, I will not equate the will with anything else, but treat it as “atomic”. By will and willfulness, I mean the inner state of intentionality (which may be affected by outward acts).
NOTE: Willfulness is not all or nothing; we can be more or less willful, with a corresponding affect on happiness. This resolves the apparent paradox of being less willful by an act of will.
Looking at The Neglected Philosophies series… First, The Pyrrhonists claimed that suspending unnecessary judgments and taking appearances at face value led to tranquility. Next, Albert Camus claimed our misery was due to hope, and fully accepting our lot led to joy. Finally, Bertrand Russell said we should not try to fit philosophy into our worldview, but contemplate with an open mind and therein find greater happiness. Judgment, hope and fitting findings into a priori views are more willful than appearance, acceptance and open-mindedness.
Going beyond this series to my other blogs… First, clinging leads to pain, letting go to relief. Second, identifying leads to pain, while non-identification leads to relief. Finally, I associate my self with my will and feel my sense of self loosen on contemplating determinism. Clinging, identification and free will are more willful than letting go, non-identification and determinism.
Going beyond to other schools of thought… First, Spinoza held that rejecting free will and accepting determinism was the key to happiness. Second, action is often stressful while contemplation/meditation is often relaxing. Third, some religions tie joy to ignoring our plans and pursuing God’s. Finally, some paths tell us to be detached from the results of our action. Action, our plans and attachment to action are more willful than… You get the picture.
Is the will pain? Some willful acts brought me joy. However, they either involved my will winning out (eg: winning a game) or a less willful attitude (eg: enjoying something for its own sake). Maybe resistance to will or conflict of the will is pain? That explains why some of our greatest frustrations are powerlessness — the will is still strong, but it is completely impeded. So having our way or reducing willfulness would both reduce conflicts; as always, we have more control over ourselves than others…
Could it be as “easy” as being less willful — more inwardly passive? Could I choose the most inwardly passive route where practical? Could a new maxim of life be “Be (inwardly) Passive”?