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date: 02 June 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Schopenhauer claims that his understanding of morality identifies and preserves its essential content as it is shared among various philosophical, religious, and cultural traditions. Indeed, he seems to argue that only by rooting moral value, virtue, and responsibility as he does in compassion and beneficence can a satisfactory account of morality be given. At the same time, however, Schopenhauer also insists that no prescriptive account of morality can be given: the very idea of a moral rule is spurious, and morality can only be approached from a theoretical perspective. In this chapter, the author argues that Schopenhauer reconciles this tension between conventional and revisionist strands by justifying morality as the appropriate form of responsiveness to the intrinsic senselessness of existence. Morality, then, is not a rational or strategic pursuit but an expression of the correct attitude toward the unavailability of any sensible pursuit; it is practical insofar as it needs to be sustained in order to express the appreciation of metaphysical truth. The author then addresses three sets of issues: why compassion is a superior form of responsiveness to indifference or arbitrariness, the extent to which this account preserves the content of morality as conventionally understood, and the extent to which this account enables Schopenhauer to address objections regarding the distinctness of persons, the importance of phenomenal concerns, and the possibility of agency.

Keywords: Schopenhauer, morality, meaninglessness, agency, virtue, responsibility

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