Tuesday, 8 November 2011

schopenhauer and the human condition



Alongside our weekly meet up hour (11-12 on Tuesdays) and the Song Making workshop on Wednesdays, (11.30-12.45),  we're launching a weekly learning circle at the if:book cafe in Hornsey Library, hosted by David Barry, suitable for anyone interested in the meaning of everything. 

Contact David dot Barry at Mac dot com if you'd like to join, 

The starting point is A VERY SHORT INTRODUCTION TO SCHOPENHAUER by Christopher Janaway which will soon be for sale in the if:bookshop. 
Participants will be expected to read set texts and contribute constructively to the discussion.   

David Barry writes: 
 
A learning circle, is a group of people who come together regularly to explore a topic. (see note) While the group is facilitated and conducted by a person with some expert knowledge of the area it is called a "circle" rather than a seminar or lecture. So  everyone in the group is encouraged and expected to contribute. The Philosophy of Schopenhauer is especially suited to this treatment. This is because despite the scope of  his ambitious work - he tries to explain EVERYTHING - and it being firmly situated in the tradition of Western Philosophy, his concerns focus on our experience of being human. His unremitting analysis of how we actually experience life (he contends), as being full of endless strife has earned him the  reputation of  being the great pessimist. But its not all a grim diagnosis. (Although he did go on a bit. It is no surprise to discover he influenced Beckett) As the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy points out :-

"Schopenhauer in fact advocated ways — via artistic, moral and ascetic forms of awareness — to overcome a frustration-filled and fundamentally painful human condition. Since his death in 1860, his philosophy has had a special attraction for those who wonder about life's meaning, along with those engaged in music, literature, and the visual arts."

An extraordinarily  well read man in a number of languagesSchopenhauer applies his insights across the whole range of the arts. (He concludes, incidentally, that music is the highest of the arts.) In effect, in one person, he combined expertise in a number of subjects.  A learning circle is therefore a good way to study him, as such is the range of the application of his work, and its reliance on personal insights we gain through the mere process of being alive, that everyone can have something to contribute.

Format of the Group

The Group will meet every Thursday morning  at 11 am, for an hour,  in Hornsey Library. There will be a short introduction by the facilitator, and discussion will then commence around a topic. After the first couple of sessions the direction the group takes will depend on the interests of the members. For the first two sessions the topic will be introduction to Schopenhauer. There will be a reading list with three or four books on it. I have just learnt that a "Very Short Introduction" to Schopenhauer is now available and I will see if I can get a copy quickly, as that may turn out to be a really good basic text -I have seen others in that series - which one could reasonably expect everyone to obtain, and read. The other three texts are "The World as Will and Representation" (Vol 1) Arthur Schopenhauer, Kant's prolegomena in an e edition I have just found, and Bryan Magee's excellent book on Schopenhauer.

The Facilitator

David Barry has a degree in Philosophy from Trinity College, University of Dublin, where he first studied Schopenhauer. He has experience as a teacher of adults having taught Organisational Psychology at Birkbeck College, London, and  Management for the Open Business School. He has never taught philosophy before so this will be an new experience. When he first encountered Schopenhauer he was fascinated by the philosopher's vision, ambition, and his metaphysics, and the way his thought threw light on the crucially important Kant. (Kant being both important and hugely obscure whereSchopenhauer is clear.)  Some decades later, he has begun to suspect, that Schopenhauer in his discussion of the human condition was on to something.

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