According to a blog post This is what another universe looks like, "in Arthur Schopenhauer's 1844 work "Von der Nichtigkeit und dem Leiden des Lebens", he argues that our world must be the worst of all possible worlds, because if it were significantly worse in any respect it could not continue to exist".

But if we live in the worst possible world, then better worlds are able to continue to exist which means worse worlds than possibly-existing worlds can exist which means worse worlds than currently-existing worlds can exist.

Which argument is wrong?

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    English translation of Schopenhauer's argument can be found in Bennett's Schopenhauer and the Geometry of Evil:"this world is so arranged as to be able to maintain itself with great difficulty; but if it were a little worse, it could no longer maintain itself. Consequently a worse world, since it could not continue to exist, is absolutely impossible: thus this world itself is the worst of all possible worlds." This only works if one assumes that all worlds are comparable by "worseness", which is doubtful.
    – Conifold
    Dec 6, 2018 at 21:00
  • I agree with @conifold, moreover that "this world is so arranged as to be able to maintain itself with great difficulty" has to be proven somehow: we can imagine a lot of worse worlds able to maintain themselves Dec 6, 2018 at 21:27
  • Is that even an argument? Looks more like an opinion. Like "nothing worse can exist".
    – rus9384
    Dec 6, 2018 at 21:28
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    @Conifold I'm not questioning his concept of worse, I'm questioning his follows from his concept of worse. He simultaneously argues that better worlds than ours do exist, and worse worlds than one of those existing worlds cannot exist! So no, you're wrong in thinking that that argument works if one assumes that all worlds are comparable by worseness. Dec 7, 2018 at 2:18
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    Your argument is wrong and Shope's is right, logic-wise at least,, but I wouldn't be able to fruitfully address that in an answer because I can't even really parse what you wrote because of the very loose language of your paragraph. Maybe consider revising it.
    – Chelonian
    Dec 7, 2018 at 18:58

1 Answer 1


Schopenhauer's logic is impeccable. I don't agree with his premises as stated. I don't know if he has any arguments in support of the premises, and would almost certainly disagree with them. I can imagine a worse world, and so have many science fiction and alternate history authors, so it appears to me that a worse world would be capable of holding together as a world.

If there is only one possible world, then indeed it is the worst of all possible worlds and the best of all possible worlds, and no world could be worse, and no world could be better. Your second argument fails on that point.

Also, it's conceivable that there are multiple possible worlds, that there is at least a partial ordering on better-worse, and we're in the worst possible world. In that case, there would be possible worlds that had at least one other possible world worse than it, and it happens that we would not be in one of the better ones. Your second argument fails in that eventuality. Schopenhauer did not claim that no world could be worse than another, only that we were in the worst.


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