Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong.
Do not be quick with your mouth,
do not be hasty in your heart
to utter anything before God.
God is in heaven
and you are on earth,
so let your words be few.
A dream comes when there are many cares,
and many words mark the speech of a fool.
- Ecclesiastes 5:1-3
“Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) was one of [Georg Wilhelm Friedrich] Hegel’s sharpest critics. He was a younger contemporary of his who refused to be intimidated by Hegel’s immense fame. As a beginning philosophy teacher at the University of Berlin, Schopenhauer had scheduled classes at the same time as Hegel’s, knowing full well that thereby he was guaranteeing for himself few, if any, students. This arrogant young philosopher’s opinion of Hegel was one of undisguised contempt, as can be seen in the following unflattering portrait he drew of him.
“’Hegel, installed from above by the powers that be as the certified Great Philosopher, was a flat-headed, insipid, nauseating, illiterate charlatan, who reached the pinnacle of audacity in scribbling together and dishing up the craziest mystifying nonsense.’
“Schopenhauer, in fact, showed deep respect for only two Western philosophers: Plato and Kant. He also admired the philosophical traditions of India. To Schopenhauer, the rest of the philosophers throughout history had been merely ‘windbags.’ Schopenhauer began his work demanding a return to Kant …”
- Donald Palmer, Looking at Philosophy, The Unbearable Heaviness of Philosophy Made Lighter
The last sentence of the quote reminds me, in an absurd way, of a joke that I was told by someone from New Hampshire was the “State Joke of New Hampshire.” But that claim may have been part of the joke.
The Joke: Someone with New York license plates drives up to a farmer who is leaning against his pitchfork by the road, chewing on a long stem of kind of a bit of hay. The New Yorker rolls down the window and asks how he can get back to the main highway that goes to Boston. The farmer removes his straw hat and scratches his head. Then, he says, pointing to the right, “You go dahn this way to the faud in the crick.”
Okay, that means, “You go down this way to the ford in the creek.” I will avoid writing like someone from New Hampshire speaks, just imagine it in your mind, a slow delivery of a non-rhotic dialect of something similar to English.
Back to the Joke: “You go down this way to the ford in the creek. … No, that won’t work. The creek’s over its banks.” Then he points straight ahead. “Okay, go down this way, when you come to the fork in the road, take the right fork. … No, that won’t work. The bridge is out. Well, you come back to the fork and take the left fork. … No, since farmer Brown’s barn burned down, they closed the road due to burned timbers falling all over the road. Well, you can go back the way you came. … No, that won’t work either. … Well, I don’t know how to say this, but You Can’t get there from here.”
Or in New Hampshire-ese, “Ya Kant git the-ah fum he-ah.”
And the reason for telling this joke is that I would love to tell Schopenhauer, “You Kant git to Kant from He-ah!”
I know, a big build up for a bad joke…
My true feeling of Schopenhauer’s thought on other philosophers is that he was almost right in his assessment. He would have done a better assessment if he had included himself as a mere windbag.
No, I finished this “light hearted” philosophy book recently, and I won’t quote much from it (but I hope to have a little fun with some of what the author mentioned). I don’t want to say too much, in fear of being considered a mere windbag, and please don’t consider me a “flat-headed, insipid, nauseating, illiterate charlatan.”
On one hand, it is fascinating looking at the early philosophers as they try to make sense out of our existence, without a belief in God until the Christian philosophers enter the picture and theology becomes a branch of the study. These early philosophers did not have the benefit of the science of today. Thus Thales of Miletus could conclude that all things are composed of water, but even with the science of today, many go down philosophical rabbit holes and come up with a variety of ”the craziest mystifying nonsense.” Their present nonsense, piggy backing on Darwin and such, ignores real modern science, just to avoid facing God.
It is utterly mystifying. But then in reading the Scripture above, is it really mystifying? God is in Heaven. We are on earth, a creation of the God who is in Heaven. We can wonder and ponder and philosophize all we want, but we must return to the Scriptures and learn from whence all things come.
Otherwise, without understanding that we are a mere creation of Almighty God, keep your words few, lest you be considered ”a flat-headed, insipid, nauseating, illiterate charlatan, who reached the pinnacle of audacity in scribbling together and dishing up the craziest mystifying nonsense.”
Oh, how I loved the summer between my sophomore and junior years of college when I did nothing but study philosophy. I look back on it with fond memories, but then came Autumn, and the real work had to be done.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.