Shopenhauer: the grandfather of incel blackpill ideology?

Did incels get their philosophy from Schopenhauer?

“The ultimate aim of all love affairs … is more important than all other aims in man’s life; and therefore it is quite worthy of the profound seriousness with which everyone pursues it. What is decided by it is nothing less than the composition of the next generation …”

Arthur Schopenhauer

“Incel life is plagued by an unending attempt to cope with one’s sexual frustration. People seem to be quick to judge who should not reproduce, often seemingly based on superficial judgements. There are expectations to have sexual success that seems to be biological.”

Incel wiki

Incels are knocking at the door of the mainstream. The once marginal philosophy is gaining recognition, largely due to its most infamous members—men like Elliot Rodgers and Alek Minassian, who went on mass murder sprees motivated by vengfulness, rage and despair.

No matter how repugnant we find the incel blackpill philosophy*, there’s no denying its members’ sense of hopelessness. While few incels go on murder sprees, the blackpill philosophy is undeniably grim—blackpilled incels believe themselves to be genetic rejects, men so repugant physically that no woman will have them. They view themselves as doomed to lonely, sexless lives. Further, they elevate the one aspect of life in which they are supposedly most deficient—biology—to an all-encompassing ultimate good.

A lonely man, possibly Schopenhauer, possibly an incel

While the blackpill philosophy may seem bizarre, it’s nothing new. It’s almost identical to the philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer, a 19th century philosopher who didn’t have Reddit, and so recorded his dark thoughts in literary, philosophical essays.

Like blackpillers, Schopenhauer believed biology was king. Coming fresh off the heels of Darwin, he believed life was defined by the “will to live.” All else—religion, philosophy, literature and whatnot—are the human equivalent to the cawing of crows or the lowing of cows—noises which pass the time and meet his wants, sexual and otherwise (yes, every philosophy we’ll be discussing takes the perspective of a heterosexual male).

Schopenhauer believed that the struggle for life was ultimately meaningless, so we might as well LDAR (lay down and rot) as the incels would say. Schopenhauer is famous for being the sole prominent philosopher to permit suicide as the solution to the absurdity of life. He believed life was oriented towards death as its culmination, and often wasn’t worth the suffering along the way:

“It is an extravagant demand that a man who no longer cares to live for himself, should still go on living as a mere machine for the benefit of others.” 

It’s worth noting that in spite of this, he lived a life of hedonism, conducting the 19th century equivalent of living in his mom’s basement, playing video games and eating Cheetos.

The blackpill philosophy is slightly different. Schopenhauer believed that the biological struggle for life was meaningless, and only appeared to give life meaning. Whether one excelled or failed was meaningless—either way you’re a rat in a cosmic cage, spinning on a wheel to nowhere. If anything, failures see the game more clearly.

The blackpill philosophy is ambiguous as to whether the biological struggle for life has meaning. Many incels seem to view this struggle as meaningful, and indeed, the only meaningful element of life. They’re miserable because they’re losing, leaving them alienated from all purpose.

Some incels take things to a Schopenhauerian extreme. We see echoes of this in incels’ contempt for Chad, their archetype of the sexually successful man—in a sense, they seem themselves as smarter than Chad, realizing something he misses.

Incels tend to think of themselves as intellectually courageous, seeing dark truths about reality that the mainstream misses. This echoes Schopenhauers’ praise of “thinking for yourself,” and suspicion of being influenced by bromides of mass media, disseminated in his time through religion and reading.

It’s worth noting that Schopenhauer himself wasn’t an incel. He had sexual success with women, though his contempt for the “childish, silly and short-sighted” gender who lives “merely in the present, [ ] as the animal does,” parallels that of incels, who describe women as “flaky creatures and herd animals.” (Schopenhauer quote from Essays and Aphorisms, page 83)

Could noting the similarities between Schopenhauer and the blackpill suggest a way out for Incels?

It does indeed. Incels’ mistake isn’t their appreciation of Schopenhauer; it’s their choice to hunker down and build a home with him. The way out is onwards to the next train station in line: Frederick Nietzsche.

A lonely man, definitely Nietzsche, probably an incel

Unlike Schopenhauer, Nietzsche was an incel. He proposed to three women in his life, and they all found his proposals weird and premature. He went insane at the age of 50, probably after having contracted syphilis from a prostitute.

Nietzsche was not someone who easily attracted women. So what did he do? Did he LDAR? Did he tell others to LDAR while playing video games and eating Cheetos in his mom’s basement? Did he drive a van through Yonge and Finch killing a bunch of elderly women? Did he curse women, biology, and existence itself for making him so unattractive no woman would have him?

A thousand times no! 

Instead Nietzsche wrote. Every day, he wrote for hours, and when he was sick he dictated, hunched over and in terrible pain but determined to get the words out. He travelled to the tops of the Alps and screamed out to existence and wrote possibly the greatest philosophy in human history.

Nietzsche despised his physical shortcomings and limitations, but he never let them stop him. He honed his every gift to its furthest extreme, determined to become the greatest version of himself: An Übermensch, a man who creates his own destiny.

And he succeeded. A century on, Nietzsche’s considered one of the greatest philosophers of all time. In a thousand years we’ll probably still be reading him. Nietzsche may not have reproduced biologically, but in his work and life he demonstrated a greater ideal: that of reproducing creatively, morally and intellectually. Nietzsche lived a life of his own making, and developed a morality of his own creation. He showed that sex and companionship and reproduction are not the be-all and end-all of life: greater heights exist, and they can be found within the self.

Nietzsche is the king of the redpill philosophy, which holds that the world is a harsh place, but we can still make something of ourselves within it. And like redpillers, Nietzsche holds a dim view of women, which should help ease Blackpillers in.

Philosophy doesn’t end with Nietzsche. If Incels tire of the struggle to be an Übermensch, they can follow the train to one of the many stations which branched out from Nietzsche. For instance: 

  • They can go on a Hero’s Journey with Jung.
  • They can deconstruct all meaning with Derrida.
  • They can become industrialists with Ayn Rand.

The possibilities are endless. As long as one doesn’t get caught on Schopenhauer’s depressing cul-de-sac.

*Incels distinguish between the identity of “Incel,” which they believe is an involuntary state of being, and the term “Blackpiller,” which refers to someone who’s bought into the incel philosophy. According to Incels, someone can be an incel without buying into the blackpill philosophy, though such people might not refer to themselves as incels.

Click here for an in-depth interview with an incel.