Schopenhauer and James

Another fundamental error of Christianity is that it has in an unnatural fashion sundered mankind from the animal world to which it essentially belongs and now considers mankind alone as of any account, regarding the animals as no more than things. This error is a consequence of creation out of nothing, after which the Creator, in the first and second chapters of Genesis, takes all the animals as if they were just things, and without so much as the recommendation to kind treatment which even a dog-seller usually adds when he parts with his dogs, hands them over to man for man to rule, that is to do with them as he likes; subsequently, in the second chapter, the Creator goes on to appoint him the first professor of zoology by commissioning him to give the animals the names they shall thenceforth bear, which is once more only a symbol of their total dependence on him, i.e. their total lack of rights.

Arthur Schopenhauer, in The Horrors and Absurdities of Religion

Another in the Penguin Great Thoughts series, and I think Schopenhauer nails the way in which contemporary strong humanists (most of whom are vociferous atheists) owe more to Christian theology than they might like to think (see my post on Lewis Wolpert).

I'm also reading the William James collection, On a Certain Blindness in Human Beings, and apart from the shared concern for animals, they couldn't be more different. Schopenhauer negative about life (he adopted the worst interpretation of the Buddhist preoccupation with suffering, a "life will always be shitty" fatalism), James positive (you could interpret parts of his philosophy as an early form of cognitive behavioural therapy to treat his own depression). Schopenhauer bracingly right about religion ("The Rationalists say to the supranaturalists: 'Your doctrine isn't true.' The latter retort: 'Your doctrine isn't Christianity.' Both are right."), James still wanting to make the leap of faith in the absence of proof, and remain a Christian while abandoning historical Christianity. James wants to believe, but I'm never quite sure what he left himself to believe in.

Old fashioned theism was bad enough, with its notion of God as an exalted monarch, made up of a lot of unintelligible or preposterous 'attributes'; but, so long as it held strongly by the argument from design, it kept some touch with concrete realities. Since, however, Darwinism has once for all displaced design from the minds of the 'scientific,' theism has lost that foothold...

William James, from Pragmatism

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