Selflessness: The Struggle with Schopenhauer
This chapter summarizes the aspects of Schopenhauer's theory of value and metaphysics that make selflessness a central point of contention, and Nietzsche's response to them. For Schopenhauer, compassion is the basis of ethics. But he takes selflessness into the metaphysical realm by arguing that the individual is an illusion: the good person sees through the principle of individuation, and conscience is an intimation of identity with one's victim. Ultimately total self-abnegation (‘saying no’ to life and oneself, as Nietzsche puts it) is the route to salvation. Nietzsche regards this metaphysics as an embarrassment, but has other arguments against Schopenhauer: that compassion is a complex phenomenon often driven by self-interest, that it detracts from one's life-purpose and capacity to be happy, that it is mistaken to think all human beings matter equally, to consider suffering something to eliminate from existence, and to take a life-denying attitude because of it.
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