If the ultimate goal of the 'will-to-life,' as outlined by Arthur Schopenhauer, is for the benefit of the next generation, then how can homosexuality be understood?

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  • Schopenhauer's argument is misunderstood. "although they (gay people) have sexual urges and can procreate, it is undesirable that they should do so, and therefore the urge is diverted." Ask yourself Mauro why do gay people find it undesirable to procreate? Because they do not fall in love with those who they can procreate with. Furthermore, many gay people marry and have very happy families, but when you ask the gay spouse if they have ever really 'loved' their partner, they ought to say 'no.' And so they had a family from societal urging and rationality, rather than from love. Jan 13, 2020 at 16:17
  • I understand what you mean now, marry a straight person. Of course a gay man could marry a gay woman. I have seen it happen. They have kids perhaps, then they both throw off the denial.
    – Gordon
    Jan 13, 2020 at 17:26
  • And Gordon, I bet you all my estate that a gay man marring a gay woman or heterosexual couples marring without either being in love with each other make the best and happiest families. Jan 13, 2020 at 17:32
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    Honestly I don’t spend much time thinking about these things but I have seen all kinds of pairings work and not work.
    – Gordon
    Jan 13, 2020 at 19:55

4 Answers 4


Arthur Schopenhauer offered two solution to the problems caused in us by the 'will-to-life;' one is art and philosophy, but the better choice is becoming a sage. But Schopenhauer does not say who becomes these sages. Since gay people do not fall in love with members of the opposite sex, they do not lose their minds and then have children in the process. This frees them up to do the things that sages do. Being gay is actually an advantage.

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    is falling in love not losing ones mind straight or gay?
    – user38026
    Jan 13, 2020 at 20:57
  • I don't quite understand your question another_name. Whenever someone falls in love with someone else, the former is said to have "lost their mind" because the needs and desires of the individual according to the person's intellect no longer matters. All that matters now to that victim of "Cupid's arrow" is satisfying the needs and desires of their will-to-life. Jan 13, 2020 at 21:25
  • do you mean casual dating? i don't think these work great in n the long term, but each to their own
    – user38026
    Jan 13, 2020 at 21:32
  • No, another_name, I did not mean casual dating or anything of the sort. Now I must ask you a question because without an answer, I cannot help you to understand. The question is simple, "what happens to you when you fall in love?" Jan 14, 2020 at 1:31
  • i don't think there's one universal response
    – user38026
    Jan 14, 2020 at 19:13

It's suprising that in the proliferation of philosophical reflection on homosexuality or gayness, Schopenhauer has been left in the cupboard or, as some might say, the closet.

The following extract might throw light on your question. Briefly, while there is a 'will to life as it presents itself in the entire species', this will has both a general and an individual component. The individual component is the source of the paradoxical phenomenon, as Schopenhauer sees it, of homosexuality.

Although Schopenhauer clearly has vestiges of an "ethical" approach to homosexuality [He calls it time and again a "vice" (Laster)], he actually abandons completely any view of a divine order against which man sins either willfully or by immoral weakness of will. Rather, all sexuality is nothing but "the will to life as it presents itself in the entire species (627)." This drive becomes split into a general and individual component (the survival of the species demands my partner selection which I merely interpret, illusorily, as my choice or love) as well as into a variety of vicissitudes (as when it gets "diverted" [irregeleitet] into "perverse" forms). This fundamental splitting of the will accounts for the "unheard-of paradox" (unerhörtes Paradoxon) (659) or "paradoxical idea" (paradoxen Gedanken) (664) of sexual and in particular homosexual love - a paradox that is no longer moral but "scientific" in nature.

(John H. Smith, 'Queering the Will', Symplokē, Vol. 3, No. 1, special issue: The Next Generation (Winter 1995), pp. 7-28: 10-11; A. Schopenhauer, Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung II. Zurich: Diogenes, 1977: 627, 659, 664.)

On one reading, Schopenhauer regards a general or species-wide drive towards procreation or 'partner selection' as simply a feature of the will to life. Sexual love is no part of this drive but the individual misperceives the nature of the drive and believes her- or himself freely to choose a loved one as if the drive weren't in control. One thinks one chooses to fall in love, and might not have fallen in love at all, but the impression is illusory. These are features of the individual component.

Schopenhauer acknowledges but doesn't really explain, or even attempt to explain, how the individual component may also express itself, not in the choice of woman for man or man for woman but of woman for woman and man for man in the 'perverse' form of homosexuality. Homosexualty is merely located among a 'variety of vicissitudes' with which sexual life is beset.

Yet this is not to criticise Schopenhauer's omission of explanation. After all, the 'paradox' of homosexuality is, he holds, a question 'scientific' in nature. He hands the question over to science; and as Smith points out, not immediately but in the second half of the nineteenth-century, both in Europe and the United States 'science' took it up. The names of Freud, Havelock Ellis, Richard von Krafft-Ebing, and Magnus Hirschfeld are familiar to us all.


Old Arthur is plain wrong. The goal is not human procreation. It’s the genes that want to procreate, or multiply. On the level of Dawkins’s Selfish Gene, homosexuality fits perfectly. Read his book. Or have a look at https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn13674-evolution-myths-natural-selection-cannot-explain-homosexuality/

  • Arthur Schopenhauer is colourfully right and it seems highly unlikely that genes possess any kind of consciousness to 'want' anything at all. They just reproduce as they do because that is their nature. If gene's want something, then I could argue 'trees want to grow' or 'mountains want to erode' and we all know that's nonsense. I have never heard of "Dawkin's Selfish Gene" and I'm laughing hysterically at the title of it. Jan 14, 2020 at 1:40
  • @MichaelLee - While genes do not "want" things themselves, they are presumably responsible for a lot of the brain circuitry that gives us our more innate desires. The reason Dawkins called his book "The Selfish Gene" (not 'Dawkin's Selfish Gene') was that it can be intuitively helpful to think of genes acting as if they "want" to propagate themselves, even though they don't literally have conscious desires and the real explanation is that those genes whose code gives them a higher chance of propagating themselves tend to displace those with a lower chance under natural selection.
    – Hypnosifl
    Jan 14, 2020 at 18:13
  • @Hypnosifl I don't think it's intuitively helpful to think of genes wanting anything anymore than we think rocks want to fall to the Earth; that's terrible reasoning! Furthermore, "those genes whose code gives them a higher chance of propagating themselves tend to displace those with a lower chance" is very true but only trivially so because you need to tell me what kinds of genes increase the likelihood of propagation given the environment they are in. Dawkin's argues that beings will help those who possess genes similar to their own and shun others away. Is that what you mean? Jan 17, 2020 at 3:48
  • @MichaelLee "that's terrible reasoning" Terrible in what sense? Do you think it leads people to specific incorrect conclusions, even if they understand it's a metaphor? "Dawkin's argues that beings will help those who possess genes similar to their own and shun others away. Is that what you mean?" -- I wasn't thinking specifically about that, but yes, the "selfish gene" metaphor seems to mainly be used to help students think about altruism in sociobiology, that some behavior which is self-sacrificing at the level of the organism may be determined by genes which the behavior helps propagate.
    – Hypnosifl
    Jan 17, 2020 at 4:34
  • @Hypnosifl. It's terrible reasoning because metaphor is appropriate in arts and literature, but not in science because it opens the door to all kinds of misunderstandings. Dawkins claim is there are genes that make us want to help those who have genes similar to our own and thus make them more likely to be reproduced. That's true to some extent, but it does not explain why some people help those with very dissimilar genes. A sibling, for example, is genetically more similar to that individual than even his own children, but the parent will always help out their children over the sibling. Jan 17, 2020 at 15:49

"If the ultimate goal of the 'will-to-life,' as outlined by Arthur Schopenhauer, is for the benefit of the next generation, then how can homosexuality be understood"?

Fact: There is homosexuality. Plenty of it. It exists. Therefore any philosophy that claims homosexuality cannot exist is obviously wrong. So you have two choices: Either you demonstrate how Schopenhauer can be right when homosexuality exists, or accept that he is wrong.

Some genes lead to the carrier of the genes duplicating in increasing numbers and the population of carriers to grow. Other genes lead to the population of carriers to shrink. The second kind of genes usually die out quickly. The genes themselves have no will, but genes that don't lead to population growth die out.

This is until we have carriers of the genes that have their own will as far as population growth is concerned, like humans. Humans can decide that it is more fun to enjoy their life than to raise children. Humans can decide that it is a good idea to kill lots of other humans for whatever reasons. Humans can decide to financially support humans who have children. And homosexual humans can decide to have children. It's not difficult actually. A gay man may think that having a child with a woman is not quite optimal, but better than no child. But that is in modern times, what about older times?

Quite simple. For genes to lead to population growth, it's not necessary that an individual has offspring, it's only necessary that a group of people has more surviving offspring. And in past times, when live could be a lot harder than today, and food was harder to come by, in bad times children with an uncle or auntie who wasn't interested in procreation themselves had better chances to survive. That has been investigated by mathematicians and biologists, and the optimal survival rate in seriously difficult times happened with a population of around 5% gay people. Which unsurprisingly matches what we actually have.

Gay men often have no sons and daughters, but their nephews and nieces have better chances to survive. An additional confirmation of this theory is that second children are gay more often than first children. Simple biological explanation; the gay person in a more supporting role for survival is not very effective if they are the only son in the family but much more effective as the second or third son.

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