So one of the questions that I frequently raise on The Existential Files, is whether life is worth living. I think it is important that this question is not about whether one should kill oneself or not (though I agree with Camus, that that is an important consideration unto itself). No, we find ourselves in the position of being given a gift that we did not ask for, and we open the box and lo, it’s not quite what we wanted. It is a judgement call. We’ve all been there. When you’re a child a pair of socks is no Christmas present. When you’re an adult, meh, what’s Christmas anyway?
I was reading through a book of aphorisms by Thomas Szasz and discovered these wise words:
Happiness: tranquil illusion that life is worth living.
Sadness: tranquil recognition that life is not worth living.
Granting the strong points in the pessimists’ claims, it is still
possible to detect certain confusions and dubious inferences in
their arguments. To begin with, there is a very obvious
inconsistency in the way writers like Darrow and Tolstoy arrive at
the conclusion that death is better than life. They begin by telling
us that death is something terrible because it terminates the
possibility of any of the experiences we value. From this they infer
that nothing is really worth doing and that death is better than
Ignoring for the moment the claim that in view of our inevitable
death nothing is “worth doing,” there very plainly seems to be an
inconsistency in first judging death to be such a horrible evil and
in asserting later on that death is better than life. Why was death
originally judged to be an evil? Surely because it is the
termination of …
A while back, I was browsing through the Encyclopedia of Philosophy,
when I happened upon a short section called 'Life, Meaning and Value
of'. Lo and behold, it is a detailed rebuttal to the position to which I seem
to have become entrenched—that is, it is a discussion and dismissal of
Over a number of parts I will present the main arguments, and where
appropriate chip in with my own comments. Enjoy. 😉
The most systematic and probably the most influential, though in
fact not the gloomiest, of the pessimists was Arthur Schopenhauer.
The world, he wrote, is something that ought not to exist: The truth
is that “we have not to rejoice but rather to mourn at the existence
of the world; that its nonexistence would be preferable to its
existence; that it is something which ought not to be.” It is absurd
to speak of …