Wotton’s Society Mr Ralph Oliphant-Callum on Schopenhauer

On Thursday 1 December the Wotton’s Society welcomed Mr Ralph Olipant-Callum, House Master, to talk on the subject of Schopenhauer. He began with a brief exposition of Schopenhauer’s life, inviting the audience to consider the influence of Schopenhauer in the operas of Richard Wagner. At this point it was mentioned that Schopenhauer had a particularly strong dislike for Hegel, and at one point scheduled lectures at the same time as Hegel’s; when the students showed a marked preference for Hegel, he was so offended that he left Berlin. Turning to his philosophy, RDO-C spoke about Schopenhauer’s gloomy Weltanschauung (Schopenhauer asserts that we live in the worst possible world because if the world were any worse it would destroy itself) and the ideas of ‘the World as Will and Representation’. We perceive the world as representation, but through self-contemplation can come to realise that the world is in fact an expression of a single fundamental thing: the Will. The impact of such a philosophy on morality results in an intensely compassionate ethics, since we are of the same substance as everything, meaning that we should have care in how we treat even inanimate objects. Schopenhauer is also strongly in favour of the arts, since they allow a better expression of Will than the representative physical world. Music especially allows us to move beyond representation as it is a pure expression of Will, bringing the talk back to the music of Richard Wagner. The assembled students and adults felt the talk was very good indeed, particularly in expressing a vast amount remarkably clearly. The questions demonstrated the engagement of most, if not all, of those present, covering Pantheism, suicide, human nature, and Schopenhauer’s sex life. The society is greatly indebted to Mr. Oliphant- Callum for his highly interesting and amusing talk.

John Clark-Maxwell ma OS MS (GRP)