Certainly one of the greatest philosophers of the 19th century, Schopenhauer
seems to have had more impact on literature (e.g. Thomas Mann) and on
people in general than on academic philosophy. Perhaps that is because,
first, he wrote very well, simply and intelligibly (unusual, we might
say, for a German philosopher, and unusual now for any philosopher),
second, he was the first Western philosopher to have access to translations
of philosophical material from India, both Vedic and Buddhist, by which
he was profoundly affected, to the great interest of many, and, third,
his concerns were with the dilemmas and tragedies, in a religious or
existential sense, of real life, not just with abstract philosophical
problems. As Jung said:
He was the first to speak of the suffering of the world, which visibly
and glaringly surrounds us, and of confusion, passion, evil -- all those
things which the [other philosophers] hardly seemed to notice and always
tried to resolve into all-embracing harmony and comprehensiblility.
Here at last was a philosopher who had the courage to see that all was
not for the best in the fundaments of the universe.
[Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Vintage Books, 1961, p. 69]
Philosophers upon whom Schopenhauer did have a strong effect, like Nietzsche
and even Wittgenstein, nevertheless could not put him to good use since
they did not accept his moral, aesthetic, and religious realism. Schopenhauer
is all but unique in intellectual history for being both an atheist
and sympathetic to Christianity. Schopenhauer's system, indeed, will
not make any sense except in the context of Kant's metaphysics. For
the purposes of the Proceedings of the Friesian School, Schopenhauer
may be said to have made three great contributions to the Kantian tradition,
which supplement the contemporary contributions of Fries:
1. He retained Kant's
notion of the thing-in-itself but recognized that it could not exist
as a separate order of "real" objects over and above the phenomenal
objects of experience. Hence Schopenhauer's careful use of the singular
rather than the plural when referring to the "thing-in-itself."
Kant left his "Copernican Revolution" incomplete by describing
the ordinary objects of experience as phenomena while leaving the impression
that in an absolute sense they were only subjective, with things-in-themselves
as the "real" objects. Schopenhauer favorably compares Kant
to Berkeley, even though both Kant and Schopenhauer reject a true "subjective
idealism" in which objects exist in no way apart from consciousness.
Schopenhauer's point was that, like Berkeley, phenomena are all there
are when it comes to objects as objects. What stands over and above
objects is something else. For Berkeley that was only God. For Schopenhauer
it was the Will as thing-in-itself.
abolished Kant's machinery of synthesis through the pure concepts of
the understanding, substituting his fourfold "Principle of Sufficient
Reason." This misses much of the point of Kant's argument in the
First Edition Transcendental Deduction and would not count as an advance
on Kant if it did not also abolish the mistaken idea in Kant that Reason,
as he conceived it, could produce out of the mere formalism of logic
a substantive content to morality, aesthetics, etc. Schopenhauer does
not have a very good substitute when it comes to morality (as do Fries
and Nelson), but he does in aesthetics, which leads to,
strong sense of aesthetic value, to which he gives an intuitive, perceptual,
and Platonic cast in his theory of Ideas. Schopenhauer gave aesthetics
and beauty a central place in his thought such as few other philosophers
have done. His aesthetic realism is a great advance over Kant's moralistic
denial of an objective foundation for aesthetic reality. Beyond that
lies a realistic appreciation of many religious phenomena that is superior
to Kant and conformable to insights that will later be found in Otto
and Jung. Schopenhauer could take religion seriously in ways that others
could not because of his pessimistic rejection of the value of life.
This, indeed, embodies its own distortions, but it is a welcome corrective,
as Jung noted, to the shallow optimism of most other philosophers. And
it does faithfully highlight the world-denying trend of important religions
like Christianity, Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism, which must be addressed
by any responsible philosophy of religion.
as stated in his classic The World as Will and Representation (Die Welt
als Wille und Vorstellung, 1818, 1844, 1859 -- E.F.J. Payne's English
translation, Dover Publications, 1966), is structured through a small
set of dichotomous divisions, displayed and color coded in the following
table. Schopenhauer prided himself on the simplicity of this in comparison
to Kant, whose system he compared to a Gothic cathedral. Hegel's metaphysics,
which produced a potentially infinite elaboration of Kant's threefold
structures, Schopenhauer regarded as, of course, nonsense.
The basic distinction
in Schopenhauer's metaphysics is between representation and the thing-in-itself.
The thing-in-itself turns out to be will. The will is introduced in
Book II of The World as Will and Representation, where its manifestations
in nature are also examined. That supplies, in effect, Schopenhauer's
philosophy of science, which has its embarrassing aspects: Schopenhauer
did not understand the new physics of light and electricity that had
been developed by Thomas Young (1773-1829) and Michael Faraday (1791-1867).
He disparaged the wave theory of light, which Young had definitively
established, as a "crude materialism," and "mechanical,
Democritean, ponderous, and truly clumsy" [Dover, p. 123]. Unfortunately,
Schopenhauer does not seem to have understood the evidence for Young's
discoveries about light, or even for Newton's -- he still clung to Goethe's
clever but clueless theory of colors. Schopenhauer also required that
there be a "vital force," though that would still be part
of respectable science for a while to come yet. Nevertheless, Schopenhauer
would have been happy to learn how his beloved qualitates occultae would
return in force with quantum mechanics: Things like strangeness, charm,
baryon number, lepton number, etc., are exactly the kinds of irreducible
types he demanded.
Book IV of The World
as Will and Representation is also about the will, but now in terms
of the denial of the will. The denial of will, self, and self-interest
produce for Schopenhauer a theory both of morality and of holiness,
the former by which self-interest is curtailed for the sake of others,
the latter by which all will-to-live ceases. Schopenhauer's greatest
eloquence about the evils, sufferings, and futility of life, and its
redemption through self-denial, occur there.
On the representation
side of his metaphysics, which occupies Books I and III of The World
as Will and Representation, Schopenhauer must deal with two areas that
exercise their own claims to be considered things-in-themselves. First,
at the beginning of Book I, comes the Subject of Knowledge. Schopenhauer's
thought there is refined by his reading of the Upanishads, where the
Br.hadâran.yaka Upanis.ad distinguishes the Subject of Knowledge,
the Unknown Knower, from all Objects of Knowledge, from everything Known.
Schopenhauer accepts that distinction, and also that the Subject is
free of the forms of the Principle of Sufficient Reason (space, time,
But the subject,
the knower never the known, does not lies within these forms [i.e. space,
time, plurality]; on the contrary, it is always presupposed by those
forms themselves, and hence neither plurality nor its opposite, namely
unity, belongs to it. We never know it, but it is precisely that which
knows wherever there is knowledge. [Dover, p. 5]
Since the Upanishads
themselves posit an identity of the Subject, the Âtman or Self,
with Brahman, the transcendent Supreme Reality, Being itself, one could
not confess surprise if Schopenhauer were to identify the Subject with
Kant's transcendent thing-in-itself. He does not, however -- deciding,
rather arbitrarily it must seem, to retain the Subject as an Unknowable
side of representation, distinct from all Objects.
In Book III of The
World as Will and Representation Schopenhauer turns to his theory of
Ideas, which he says are the same as Plato's Ideas, and which are also
free of the forms of space, time, and causality. For Schopenhauer, it
is through the Ideas that all beauty is manifest in art and nature.
Again, it would not be surprising if Schopenhauer took the Ideas to
be transcendent realities, especially when that is precisely what Plato
thought about his own Ideas; but, as with the Subject, Schopenhauer
keeps them in representation, as the nature of Objects in so far as
they are free of the Principle of Sufficient Reason. The bulk of Book
III is then occupied with the examination of individual forms of art,
culminating in music.
The final distinction,
although it is one of the earliest made, in Book I, is that between
the body and the other objects of representation in space and time.
For Schopenhauer, the body is known immediately and the perception of
other objects is spontaneously projected, in a remaining fragment of
Kant's theory of synthesis and perception, from the sensations present
in the sense organs of the body onto the external objects understood
as the causes of those sensations. The body itself, in Book II, becomes
the most immediate manifestation of the will, a direct embodiment of
One might say that
the most interesting aspect of Schopenhauer's metaphysics consists of
the turns not taken. The reason why the Subject and the Ideas should
be held separate from the Will sometimes seems only to be that this
is necessary to produce the degree of pessimism that Schopenhauer requires:
The will must be blind and purposeless; but as the Subject it would
not be blind, and as the Ideas it would consist of all the meaning and
beauty of the Platonic World of Ideas. Indeed, Jung would later see
the process by which his Archetypes are instantiated, in the "individuation"
of the Self through the "transcendent function," as the means
by which consciousness is expanded and life made meaningful:
As far as we can
discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in
the darkness of mere being. [Memories, Dreams, Reflections, p. 326]
Although the theory
of art Schopenhauer presents in Book III, by which the Ideas are instantiated
much like Jung's Archetypes, might seem to describe meaning enough for
anyone's life, Schopenhauer just cannot imagine that it is good enough.
Probably it is not, since few enough people find meaning in life through
art. Where they have always found it is in religion, and Schopenhauer
passes on to that ground with his theory of holy self-denial. But not
all religion is the denial of self or of life; and Schopenhauer is conspicuously
unsympathetic with religions, like Judaism and Islâm (or, for
that matter, Confucianism and Taoism), that do not maintain the level
of world-denial that he thinks necessary for "true" holiness.
Thus his theory fails as phenomenology of religion. Only Otto can explain
holiness in both world-affirmation and world-denial. But no one would
ever accuse Schopenhauer of overlooking the evils of life or misunderstanding,
as is all too common among Western intellectuals today, the motivation
of world-denying religions.
An excellent bust
of Schopenhauer by the great German sculptress, Elisabet Ney, can still
be seen in her studio in Austin, Texas, where she and her husband had
immigrated from Germany. After his experience sitting for the bust,
Schopenhauer is said to have wondered if, desipte all his misogyny,
women could after all be great artists.
(February 22, 1788
– September 21, 1860) was a German philosopher. He is most famous
for his work The World as Will and Representation. He is commonly known
for having espoused a sort of philosophical pessimism that saw life
as being essentially evil, futile, and full of suffering. However, upon
closer inspection, in accordance with Eastern thought, especially that
of Buddhism, he saw salvation, deliverance, or escape from suffering
in aesthetic contemplation, sympathy for others, and ascetic living.
His ideas profoundly influenced the fields of philosophy, psychology,
born in Poland, Stutthof (Sztutowo) near Danzig (Gdansk). He was the
son of Heinrich Floris Schopenhauer and Johanna Schopenhauer, a middle
class mercantile family of Dutch heritage, although they had strong
feelings against any kind of nationalism. Indeed, the name Arthur was
selected by his father especially because it was the same in English,
German, and French. His parents were both from the city, and Johanna
was an author as well. After the city fell to Prussia during the second
partition of Poland in 1793 the Schopenhauer family fled to Hamburg;
in 1805 Schopenhauer's father died, possibly by suicide, and Johanna
moved to Weimar. Schopenhauer never got along with his mother; when
the writer Goethe, who was a friend of Johanna Schopenhauer, told her
that he thought her son was destined for great things, Johanna objected:
she had never heard there could be two geniuses in a single family.
at the University of Göttingen and was awarded a PhD from the University
of Jena. In 1820, Schopenhauer became a lecturer at the University of
Berlin; it was there that his opposition to Hegel began.
While in Berlin,
Schopenhauer became involved in a consuming lawsuit from a Caroline
Marquet. She asked for daimages from him, a man of independent means,
on the basis that she was injured when Schopenhauer allegedly pushed
her. Marquet had noisily attracted Schopenhauer's attention. Then, Marquet's
companion witnessed her as being prostrate outside of his apartment.
Marquet claimed that the philosopher had assaulted and battered her
after she refused to leave his doorway. In this manner, she succeeded
in gaining, through the court, a portion of Schopenhauer's limited wealth.
His reputation was permanently damaged by her legal machination.
health deteriorated during the year of 1860. He died of natural causes
on September 21 of the same year at the age of 72.
himself a Kantian and despised Hegel. He formulated a pessimistic philosophy
that gained importance and support after the failure of the German and
Austrian revolutions of 1848.
Schopenhauer's starting point was Kant's division of the universe into
phenomenon and noumenon, claiming that the noumenon was the same as
that in us which we call Will. It is the inner content and the driving
force of the world. For Schopenhauer, human will had ontological primacy
over the intellect; in other words, desire is understood to be prior
to thought, and, in a parallel sense, will is said to be prior to being.
In solving/alleviating the fundamental problems of life, Schopenhauer
was rare among philosophers in considering philosophy and logic less
important (or less effective) than art, certain types of charitable
practice ("loving kindness", in his terms), and certain forms
of religious discipline; Schopenhauer concluded that discursive thought
(such as philosophy and logic) could neither touch nor transcend the
nature of desire— i.e., the will. In The World as Will and Representation,
Schopenhauer posited that humans living in the realm of objects are
living in the realm of desire, and thus are eternally tormented by that
desire (his idea of the role of desire in life is similar to that of
Vedanta Hinduism and Buddhism, and Schopenhauer draws attention to these
philosophy may sound rather mystical in such a summary, his methodology
was resolutely empirical, rather than speculative or transcendental:
a science, and as such has no articles of faith; accordingly, in it
nothing can be assumed as existing except what is either positively
given empirically, or demonstrated through indubitable conclusions.
(Parerga & Paralipomena, vol. i, pg. 106., E.F.J. Payne Translation)
This actual world
of what is knowable, in which we are and which is in us, remains both
the material and the limit of our consideration. (World as Will and
Representation, vol. i, pg. 273, E.F.J. Payne Translation)
identification of the Kantian noumenon (i.e., the actually existing
entity) with what we call our will deserves some explanation. The noumenon
was what Kant called the Ding an Sich, the "Thing in Itself",
the reality that is the foundation of our sensory and mental representations
of an external world; in Kantian terms, those sensory and mental representations
are mere phenomena. Schopenhauer's assertion that what we call our will
is the same as this noumenon might at first instance strike some as
oddly as Heraclitus's revelation that everything is made out of fire.
But Kant's philosophy
was formulated as a response to the radical philosophical skepticism
of David Hume and his fellow British Empiricists, who claimed that as
far as we could tell there was no outside reality beyond our mental
representations of it. Schopenhauer begins by arguing that Kant's demarcation
between external objects, knowable only as phenomena, and the Thing
in Itself of noumenon, contains a significant omission. There is, in
fact, one physical object we know more intimately than we know any object
of sense perception. It is our own body.
We know our human
bodies have boundaries, and occupy space, the same way other objects
known only through our named senses do. Though we seldom think of our
bodies as physical objects, we know even before reflection that it shares
some of their properties. We understand that a watermelon cannot successfully
occupy the same space as an oncoming truck. We know that if we tried
to repeat the experiment with our own bodies, we would obtain similar
results. We know this even if we do not understand the physics involved.
We know that our
consciousness inhabits a physical body, similar to other physical objects
only known as phenomena. Yet, our consciousness is not commensurate
with our body. Most of us possess the power of voluntary motion. We
usually are not aware of our lungs' breath, or our heartbeat, unless
our attention is called to it. Our ability to control either is limited.
Our kidneys command our attention on their schedule rather than one
we choose. Few of us have any idea what our livers are doing right now,
though this organ is as needful as lungs, heart, or kidneys. The conscious
mind is the servant, not the master, of these and other organs. These
organs have an agenda which the conscious mind did not choose, and has
limited power over.
identifies the noumenon with the desires, needs, and impulses in us
that we name "will," what he is saying is that we participate
in the reality of an otherwise unachievable world outside the mind through
will. We cannot prove that our mental picture of an outside world corresponds
with a reality by reasoning. Through will, we know—without thinking—
that the world can stimulate us. We suffer fear, or desire. These states
arise involuntarily. They arise prior to reflection. They arise even
when the conscious mind would prefer to hold them at bay. The rational
mind is for Schopenhauer a leaf borne along in a stream of pre-reflective
and largely unconscious emotion. That stream is will; and through will,
if not through logic, we can participate in the underlying reality that
lies beyond mere phenomena. It is for this reason that Schopenhauer
identifies the noumenon with what we call our will.
perhaps even more influential in his treatment of man's mind than he
was in the realm of philosophy.
not traditionally been impressed by the tribulations of love. But Schopenhauer
addressed it, and related concepts, forthrightly.
be surprised that a matter that generally plays such an important part
in the life of man [love] has hitherto been almost entirely disregarded
by philosophers, and lies before us as raw and untreated material."
He gave a name to
a force within man which he felt invariably had precedence over reason:
the Will to Live (Wille zum Leben), defined as an inherent drive within
human beings, and indeed all creatures, to stay alive and to reproduce.
to conceive of love as either trifling or accidental, but rather understood
it to be an immensely powerful force lying unseen within man's psyche
and dramatically shaping the world:
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..."
These ideas foreshadowed
and laid the groundwork for Darwin's theory of evolution, Nietzsche's
Will to Power and Freud's concepts of the libido and the unconscious
This wild and powerful
drive to reproduce, however, caused suffering and pain in the world.
For Schopenhauer, one way to escape the suffering inherent in a world
of Will was through art.
Through art, Schopenhauer
thought, the thinking subject could be jarred out of their limited,
individual perspective to feel a sense of the universal (metaphysics)
directly — the "universal" in question, of course, was
the will. The contest of personal desire with a world that was, by nature,
inimical to its satisfaction is inevitably tragical; therefore, the
highest place in art was given to tragedy. Music was also given a special
status in Schopenhauer's aesthetics as it did not rely upon the medium
of representation to communicate a sense of the universal. Schopenhauer
believed the function of art to be a meditation on the unity of human
nature, and an attempt to either demonstrate or directly communicate
to the audience a certain existential angst for which most forms of
entertainment — including bad art — only provided a distraction.
A wide range of authors (from Thomas Hardy to Woody Allen) and artists
have been influenced by this system of aesthetics, and in the 20th century
this area of Schopenhauer's work garnered more attention and praise
than any other.
According to Daniel Albright (2005), "Schopenhauer thought that
music was the only art that did not merely copy ideas, but actually
embodied the will itself."
Schopenhauer's politics were, for the most part, a much-diminished echo
of his system of ethics (the latter being expressed in Die beiden Grundprobleme
der Ethik, available in English as two separate books, On the Basis
of Morality and On the Freedom of the Will; ethics also occupies about
one fourth of his central work, The World as Will and Representation).
In occasional political comments in his Parerga and Paralimpomena and
Manuscript Remains, Schopenhauer described himself as a proponent of
limited government. What was essential, he thought, was that the state
should "leave each man free to work out his own salvation",
and so long as government was thus limited, he would "prefer to
be ruled by a lion than one of [his] fellow rats" — i.e.,
a monarch. Schopenhauer did, however, share the view of Thomas Hobbes
on the necessity of the state, and of state violence, to check the destructive
tendencies innate to our species. Schopenhauer, by his own admission,
did not give much thought to politics, and several times he writes prideful
boasts of how little attention he had paid "to political affairs
of [his] day". In a life that spanned several revolutions in French
and German government, and a few continent-shaking wars, he did indeed
maintain his aloof position of "minding not the times but the eternities".
Schopenhauer is also famous for his essay "On Women" (Über
die Weiber), in which he expressed his opposition to what he called
"Teutonico-Christian stupidity" on female affairs. He claimed
that "woman is by nature meant to obey", and opposed Schiller's
poem in honor of women, Würde der Frauen. The essay does give two
compliments however: that "women are decidedly more sober in their
judgment than [men] are" and are more sympathetic to the suffering
of others. However, the latter was discounted as weakness rather than
view of women contrasts with Schopenhauer's generally liberal views
on other social issues: he was strongly against taboos on issues like
suicide and masochism and condemned the treatment of African slaves.
This polemic on female nature has since been fiercely attacked as misogynistic.
In any case, the controversial writing has influenced many, from Nietzsche
to 19th century feminists. While Schopenhauer's hostility to women may
tell us more about his biography than about philosophy, his biological
analysis of the difference between the sexes, and their separate roles
in the struggle for survival and reproduction, anticipates some of the
claims that were later ventured by sociobiologists and evolutionary
psychologists in the twentieth century.
Schopenhauer was also one of the first philosophers since the days of
Greek philosophy to address the subject of male homosexuality. In the
third, expanded edition of The World as Will and Representation (1856),
Schopenhauer added an appendix to his chapter on the "Metaphysics
of Sexual Love." In it, he develops the idea since only mature
men and fully adult but pre-menopausal women are capable of bearing
healthy children, in early adolescence and in late middle age the sexual
appetite is susceptible of being turned towards another channel.
While there may
again be more autobiography than analysis in this hypothesis, it is
consistent with the general tenor of Schopenhauer's thought, which gives
the Will in nature the position of setting an agenda for individual
lives. It is also one of the first attempts at portraying homosexuality
as a natural phenomenon, acknowledging its existence in every culture,
and seeking to explain its appearance even in those cultures whose moralities
sharply condemn homosexual behaviour.
Schopenhauer seems to have disliked just about everything concerning
his contemporary Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. The following quotation
from On the Basis of Morality (page 15-16) is quite famous:
If I were to say
that the so-called philosophy of this fellow Hegel is a colossal piece
of mystification which will yet provide posterity with an inexhaustible
theme for laughter at our times, that it is a pseudo-philosophy paralyzing
all mental powers, stifling all real thinking, and, by the most outrageous
misuse of language, putting in its place the hollowest, most senseless,
thoughtless, and, as is confirmed by its success, most stupefying verbiage,
I should be quite right.
Further, if I were
to say that this summus philosophus [...] scribbled nonsense quite unlike
any mortal before him, so that whoever could read his most eulogized
work, the so-called Phenomenology of the Mind, without feeling as if
he were in a madhouse, would qualify as an inmate for Bedlam, I should
be no less right.
of Hegel is directed at his perception that Hegel's works use deliberately
impressive but ultimately vacuous jargon and neologisms, and that they
contained castles of abstraction that sounded impressive but ultimately
contained no verifiable content. He also thought that his glorification
of church and state were designed for personal advantage and had little
to do with search for philosophical truth. Although Schopenhauer may
have appeared vain in his constant attacks on Hegel, they were not necessarily
devoid of merit: the Right Hegelians interpreted Hegel as seeing the
Prussian state of his day as perfect and the goal of all history up
Many are put off Schopenhauer by descriptions of him as an obstinate
and arrogant man, who did not lead the ascetic life that he glorified
in his work. The idea that he made resignation into a command to virtue
is inaccurate, as he was merely trying to explain asceticism in terms
of metaphysics. He does refer to the asceticism as a state of "inner
peace and cheerfulness", but he also clearly states that he was
not trying to recommend the denial of the will above the affirmation
of the will. Furthermore, the call to asceticism was supposed to come
to select individuals as knowledge all of a sudden, rather than being
a virtue that can be taught. "In general," he wrote, "it
is a strange demand on a moralist that he should commend no other virtue
than that which he himself possesses." (The World as Will and Representation,
Vol.I, § 68)
to have made this misinterpretation, leading some people to a distorted
view of Schopenhauer. The following sentence from The Twilight of the
Idols is often quoted:
He has interpreted
art, heroism, genius, beauty, great sympathy, knowledge, the will to
truth, and tragedy, in turn, as consequences of "negation"
or of the "will's" need to negate.
see all these things as means to a more peaceful and enlightened way
of life, but none of them were "denial of the will-to-live".
Only asceticism is referred to in that way. Nietzsche also claimed that
Schopenhauer did not recognise that suffering had a redemptive quality,
yet his recognition of this seems blatantly clear in part 4 of The World
as Will and Representation.
Also, his identification
of the will with the Kantian "thing-in-itself" has been misunderstood.
Kant defined things-in-themselves as being beyond comprehension and
that no-one could know the inner nature of a material thing. It is sometimes
thought that Schopenhauer denied this, but he did not. What he did assert
was that one could know things about the thing-in-itself. For example,
you can know that the will is a striving force, that it is endless,
that it causes suffering, that it will produce boredom if unoccupied,
etc. However, he did not say that you could directly know the will.
In addition, it has sometimes been criticised that he never defined
the will, but he explained that it could not be fully defined.
Schopenhauer is thought to have influenced the following intellectual
figures and schools of thought: Richard Wagner, Sigmund Freud, Charles
Darwin, Theodule Ribot, Max Horkheimer, C. G. Jung, Ludwig Wittgenstein,
Jorge Luis Borges, Dylan Thomas, Emil Cioran, Phenomenalism, and Recursionism.
as a philosopher, a pessimist; he was a follower of Kant's Idealist
Born in Danzig,
Schopenhauer, because of a large inheritance from his father, was able
to retire early, and, as a private scholar, was able to devote his life
to the study of philosophy. By the age of thirty his major work, The
World as Will and Idea, was published. The work, though sales were very
disappointing, was, at least to Schopenhauer, a very important work.
Bertrand Russell reports that Schopenhauer told people that certain
of the paragraphs were written by the "Holy Ghost."
of philosophy, as previously mentioned, was based on that of Kant's.
Schopenhauer did not believe that people had individual wills but were
rather simply part of a vast and single will that pervades the universe:
that the feeling of separateness that each of has is but an illusion.
So far this sounds much like the Spinozistic view or the Naturalistic
School of philosophy. The problem with Schopenhauer, and certainly unlike
Spinoza, is that, in his view, "the cosmic will is wicked ... and
the source of all endless suffering."1
the worst in life and as a result he was dour and glum. Believing that
he had no individual will, man was therefore at the complete mercy of
all that which is about him. Now, whether his pessimism turned him into
an ugly person, or whether its just a case of an ugly person adopting
the philosophy of pessimism; -- I have no idea. But what I do know is
that Schopenhauer had nobody he could call family. "His pessimism
so affected his mother's social guests, who would disperse after his
lengthy discourse on the uselessness of everything, that she finally
forbade him her home. He parted from her, never to see her again."
He never married, mainly because, I suppose, because any self-respecting
woman would withdraw in horror, upon finding out Schopenhauer's view
of women: they "are directly fitted for acting as the nurses and
teachers of our early childhood by the fact that they are themselves
childish, frivolous and short-sighted; in a word, they are big children
all their life long." They are an "undersized, narrow-shouldered,
broad-hipped and short legged race ... they have no proper knowledge
of any; and they have no genius." As great a problem as Schopenhauer
was to himself, he was a brilliant conversationalist; "his audience,
consisting of a small circle of friends, would often listen to him until
midnight. He never seemed to tire of talking, even during his last days."2
life was a painful process, relief for which, might to achieved through
art or through denial. "The good man will practise complete chastity,
voluntary poverty, fasting, and self-torture." (Russell.) It was
Schopenhauer's view that through the contemplation of art, one "might
lose contact with the turbulent stream of detailed existence around
us"; and that permanent relief came through "the denial of
the will to live, by the eradication of our desires, of our instincts,
by the renunciation of all we consider worth while in practical life."3
Presumably any little bits of happiness we might snatch would only make
us that more miserable, such real and full happiness was not possible,
"a Utopian Ideal which we must not entertain even in our dreams."
It is not difficult to understand that this "ascetic mysticism"
of Schopenhauer's is one that appeals to the starving artist.
"a lonely, violent and unbefriended man, who shared his bachelor's
existence with a poodle. ... [He was of the view that the world was
simply an idea in his head] a mere phantasmagoria of my brain, that
therefore in itself is nothing."4