Date of Award

Fall 12-17-2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Jessica Berry

Second Advisor

Andrew Altman

Third Advisor

Eric Wilson


Schopenhauer argues, strikingly, that it would have been better if life had not come into existence. In this essay I consider this pessimistic judgment from a philosophical perspective. I take on the following three tasks. First, I consider whether such judgments, apparently products of temperament rather than reason, can be the subject of productive philosophical analysis. I argue that they can be, since, importantly, we can separate arguments for such judgments that establish them as plausible from those that do not. Second, I evaluate Schopenhauer’s arguments for pessimism. I argue that although we must reject Schopenhauer’s main argument for pessimism, he has another, more plausible argument for pessimism that hitherto has been neglected by scholars. Finally, I argue that although pessimism can be established as the correct judgment about life in some possible worlds, in our world the question of pessimism or optimism cannot be definitively answered.