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date: 02 June 2020

Abstract and Keywords

The focus of this chapter is Schopenhauer’s On The Basis of Morality (1841). His distinctive views are that compassion marks one’s being as spontaneously motivated to relieve another’s suffering as one’s own and that this requires a metaphysical explanation for how one identifies with another. The author defends these views and shows in some detail how they mirror the Mahayana account of compassion in Shantideva’s The Way of the Bodhisattva. Next, the author outlines Schopenhauer’s case for compassion being the sole basis of moral value and defends this claim against the Kantian view that acting beneficently cannot (rationally) override so-called perfect duties to others. Finally, the author explores how Buddha Shakyamuni’s teachings cohere with Schopenhauer’s account of suffering and how mystical consciousness, as represented in Mahayana Buddhism’s “Middle Way,” coheres with Schopenhauer’s asceticism—the “denial of the will”—as the path to overcoming suffering.

Keywords: Schopenhauer, compassion, Mahayana Buddhism, bodhisattva, suffering, moral value, Shantideva, mystical consciousness, asceticism

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