Schadenfreude, pity, envy (Schopenhauer)

But it is Schadenfreude, a mischievous delight in the misfortunes of others, which remains the worst trait in human nature. It is a feeling which is closely akin to cruelty, and differs from it, to say the truth, only as theory from practice. In general, it may be said of it that it takes the place which pity ought to take—pity which is its opposite, and the true source of all real justice and charity.

Envy is also opposed to pity, but in another sense; envy, that is to say, is produced by a cause directly antagonistic to that which produces the delight in mischief. The opposition between pity and envy on the one hand, and pity and the delight in mischief on the other, rests, in the main, on the occasions which call them forth. In the case of envy it is only as a direct effect of the cause which excites it that we feel it at all. That is just the reason why envy, although it is a reprehensible feeling, still admits of some excuse, and is, in general, a very human quality; whereas the delight in mischief is diabolical, and its taunts are the laughter of hell.

From Arthur Schopenhauer’s “On Human Nature.” Translated by T. Bailey Saunders.

3 thoughts on “Schadenfreude, pity, envy (Schopenhauer)”

  1. ‘Schadenfreude’
    I recently commented this on another post:

    Being German, I understand ‘Schadenfreude’ as the joy you experience when someone, who has been or is rather mean to you (basically had no good intentions in their actions) gets ‘damaged’ him/herself (Damage is the word for ‘Schaden’) by doing so.
    You feel instant justice of some sort and that may make you experience a certain amount of joy or delight (rather than ‘pleasure’), which increases proportionally to the severity of the intended offense against you and perceived level of just punishment it brought onto the other.

    Pity (‘Mitleid’ in German; meaning empathy) is indeed what I feel for any person suffering mischief or misfortune and would not describe as Schadenfreude.

    I would not see the term Schadenfreude as an intrinsically or by definition diabolical concept- its inappropriate use or occurrence to a scenario that requests ‘pity’ makes that individual ‘diabolic’, but not the word ‘Schadenfreude’.

    But then again, who am I in comparison to Schopenhauer ??!


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