as it goes essentially nowhere. It is a world beyond any ascriptions of good and evil

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Arthur Schopenhauer 1788-1860

Among the most frequently-identified principles that are introspectively brought forth — and one that was the standard for German Idealist philosophers such as Fichte, Schelling and Hegel who were philosophizing within the Cartesian tradition — is the principle of self-consciousness. With the belief that acts of self-consciousness exemplify a self-creative process akin to divine creation, and developing a logic that reflects the structure of self-consciousness, namely, the dialectical logic of position, opposition and reconciliation (sometimes described as the logic of thesis, antithesis and synthesis), the German Idealists maintained that dialectical logic mirrors the structure not only of human productions, both individual and social, but the structure of reality as a whole, conceived of as a thinking substance or conceptually-structured-and-constituted entity.


It is a perennial philosophical reflection that if one looks deeply enough into oneself, one will discover not only one’s own essence, but also the essence of the universe. For as one is a part of the universe as is everything else, the basic energies of the universe flow through oneself, as they flow through everything else. For that reason it is thought that one can come into contact with the nature of the universe if one comes into substantial contact with one’s ultimate inner being.


We can objectively perceive our hand as an external object, as a surgeon might perceive it during a medical operation, and we can also be subjectively aware of our hand as something we inhabit, as something we willfully move, and of which we can feel its inner muscular workings.


For Schopenhauer, this is not the principle of self-consciousness and rationally-infused will, but is rather what he simply calls “Will” — a mindless, aimless, non-rational impulse at the foundation of our instinctual drives, and at the foundational being of everything. Schopenhauer’s originality does not reside in his characterization of the world as Will, or as act — for we encounter this position in Fichte’s philosophy — but in the conception of Will as being devoid of rationality or intellect.
Despite its general precedents within the philosophical family of double-aspect theories, Schopenhauer’s particular characterization of the world as Will is nonetheless novel and daring. It is also frightening and pandemonic: he maintains that the world as it is in itself (again, sometimes adding “for us”) is an endless striving and blind impulse with no end in view, devoid of knowledge, lawless, absolutely free, entirely self-determining and almighty. Within Schopenhauer’s vision of the world as Will, there is no God to be comprehended, and the world is conceived of as being inherently meaningless. When anthropomorphically considered, the world is represented as being in a condition of eternal frustration, as it endlessly strives for nothing in particular, and as it goes essentially nowhere. It is a world beyond any ascriptions of good and evil.
Schopenhauer’s denial of meaning to the world differs radically from the views of Fichte, Schelling and Hegel, all of whom sustained a distinct hope that everything is moving towards a harmonious and just end. Like these German Idealists, however, Schopenhauer also tries to explain how the world that we experience daily is the result of the activity of the central principle of things. As the German Idealists tried to account for the great chain of being — the rocks, trees, animals, and human beings — as the increasingly complicated and detailed objectifications of self-consciousness, Schopenhauer attempts to do the same by explaining the world as objectifications of Will.

On the principle of sufficient reason The Principle of Sufficient Reason is a powerful and controversial philosophical principle stipulating that everything must have a reasoncause, or ground. This simple demand for thoroughgoing intelligibility yields some of the boldest and most challenging theses in the history of philosophy.

The principle of sufficient reason holds that for every state of affairs or true proposition, there is an explanation of why it is the way it is. … Relying on the principle of sufficient cause, the cosmological theory asserts that since the universe is an object, it must have an external explanation.

The Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason

Schopenhauer’s PhD dissertation of 1813, The Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, examines what many philosophers have recognized as an innate tendency to assume that in principle, the universe is a thoroughly understandable place. His dissertation, in effect, critically examines the disposition to assume that what is real is what is rational. A century earlier, G.W. Leibniz (1646–1716) had defined the principle of this assumption — the principle of sufficient reason — in his Monadology (1714) as that which requires us to acknowledge that there is no fact or truth that lacks a sufficient reason why it should be so, and not otherwise.

Although the principle of sufficient reason might seem to be self-evident, it does yield surprising results. For example, we can appeal to this principle to argue that there can be no two individuals exactly alike, because there would otherwise be no sufficient reason why one of the individuals was in one place, while the other individual was in another. The principle also supports the argument that the physical world was not created at any point in time, since there is no sufficient reason why it would be created at one point in time rather than another, since all points in time are qualitatively the same. Moreover, if the principle of sufficient reason’s scope of applicability is assumed to be limitless, then there is a definite answer to the question, “Why is there something, rather than nothing?” Schopenhauer was keen to question the universal extension of the principle of sufficient reason, mainly owing to his advocacy of Kant’s view that human rationality lacks the power to answer metaphysical questions, since our knowledge is limited by our specific and narrowly-circumscribed capacities for organizing our field of sensation.

Schopenhauer observed as an elementary condition, that to employ the principle of sufficient reason, we must think about something specific that stands in need of explanation. This indicated to him that at the root of our epistemological situation, we must assume the presence of a subject that thinks about some object to be explained. From this, he concluded that the general root of the principle of sufficient reason is the distinction between subject and object that must be presupposed as a condition for the very enterprise of looking for explanations (The Fourfold Root, Section 16) and as a condition for knowledge in general.

Schopenhauer’s claim that the subject-object distinction is the most general condition for human knowledge has its theoretical source in Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, for Kant similarly grounded his own theory of knowledge upon a highly-abstracted, formalized, and universalized subject-object distinction. Kant characterized the subjective pole of the distinction as the contentless transcendental unity of self-consciousness and the objective pole as the contentless transcendental object, that corresponds to the concept of an object in general (CPR, A 109). The general root of the principle of sufficient reason, as Schopenhauer characterizes it, is at the root of Kant’s epistemology as well.

Following the demanding conceptions of knowledge typical of his time that had been inspired by René Descartes’s (1596–1650) quest for certainty (see Descartes’s “method of doubt” and his “cogito” [Latin, for “I think”]), Schopenhauer maintained that if any explanation is to be genuine, then whatever is explained cannot be thought to have arisen by accident, but must be regarded as having been necessary. Schopenhauer’s investigation into the principle of sufficient reason can thus be alternatively characterized as an inquiry into the nature of the various kinds of necessary connection that can arise between different kinds of objects.

Inspired by Aristotle’s doctrine of the four basic kinds of explanatory reason or four [be]causes (Physics, Book II, Chapter 3), Schopenhauer defines four kinds of necessary connection that arise within the context of seeking explanations, and he correspondingly identifies four independent kinds of objects in reference to which explanations can be given:

  1. material things
  2. abstract concepts
  3. mathematical and geometrical constructions
  4. psychologically-motivating forces

Corresponding to these four kinds of objects, Schopenhauer links in parallel, four different kinds of reasoning. He associates material things with reasoning in terms of cause and effect; abstract concepts with reasoning in terms of logic; mathematical and geometrical constructions with reasoning in reference to numbers and spaces; and motivating forces with reasoning in reference to intentions, or what he calls moral reasoning. In sum, he identifies the general root of the principle of sufficient reason as the subject-object distinction in conjunction with the thought of necessary connection, and the fourfold root of the principle of sufficient reason as the specification of four different kinds of objects for which we can seek explanations, in association with the four independent styles of necessary connection along which such explanations can be given, depending upon the different kinds of objects involved.

One of Schopenhauer’s most significant assertions is that the four different modes of explanation only run in parallel with each other, and cannot coherently be intermixed. If we begin by choosing a certain style of explanation, then we immediately choose the kinds of object to which we can refer. Conversely, if we begin by choosing a certain kind of object to explain, we are obliged to use the style of reasoning associated with that kind of object. It thus violates the rationality of explanation to confuse one kind of explanation with another kind of object. We cannot begin with a style of explanation that involves material objects and their associated cause-and-effect relationships, for example, and then argue to a conclusion that involves a different kind of object, such as an abstract concept. Likewise, we cannot begin with abstract conceptual definitions and accordingly employ logical reasoning for the purposes of concluding our argumentation with assertions about things that exist.

With this set of regulations about what counts as a legitimate way to conduct explanations, Schopenhauer ruled out the often-cited and (especially during his time) philosophically often-relied-upon cosmological and ontological arguments for God’s existence, and along with them, all philosophies that ground themselves upon such arguments. He was adamant that the German Idealist outlooks of Fichte, Schelling and Hegel rested upon explanatory errors of this kind, and he regarded those outlooks as fundamentally wrongheaded styles of thought, for he saw their philosophies as being specifically grounded upon versions of the ontological argument for God’s existence. His frequent condemnation of German Idealism was advanced in light of what he considered to be sound philosophical reasons, despite his ad hominem attacks on Fichte, Schelling and Hegel.

Or in other words.

Four classes of explanation fall under the principle’s rubric. Hence, four classes of objects occur always and already only in relation to a known subject, according to a correlative capacity within the subject. These classes are summarized as follows:

  • Becoming: Only with the combination of time and space does perceptual actuality become possible for a subject, allowing for ideas of interpretation, and this provides the ground of becoming judgment. This is the law of causality, which is, when considered subjectively, intellectual and a priori-linked understanding. All possible judgments that are inferences of a cause from an effect—a physical state any subject infers as caused by another physical state or vice versa—presumes this as primary ground for the expected potentials of such judgments. The natural sciences operate within this aspect of expanding principles. Schopenhauer proposed a proof of the a priori of causality (i.e. that the universe indeed operates, at least in general, as causal instead of just being perceived so a posteriori, due to the repeatability of sequences) that remains different from Kantian Theory. Proof relies on the intellectuality of perceived things (representations)—these are produced by “projecting causality backwards in time,” from physical excitations of cells and nerves (this is the afferent role of the intellect, or brain)—and is apparently influenced by the medieval philosopher Witelo and his work on optics and the psychology of seeing.[6]
  • Knowing: This class of objects subsumes all judgments, or abstract concepts, which a subject knows through conceptual, discursive reason rooted in the ground of knowing. The other three classes of objects are immediate representations, while this class is always and already composed of fixed representations of representations. Therefore, the truth-value of concepts abstracted from any of the other three classes of objects is grounded in referring to something outside the concept. Concepts are abstract judgments grounded in intuitions of time and space, ideas of perception (causality apparent in the outer world), or acts of direct will (causality experienced from within). That conceptions are easier to deal with than representations; they are, in fact, to these almost as the formula of higher arithmetic to the mental operations which give rise to them and which they represent, or as logarithm to its number (please researching scientific creativity for more understanding, i.e Simonton’s “chance configuration theory/ 1988”, Simontons random permutations have a strong relations with him in this class). This class makes language (in the form of abstract judgments that are then communicable) possible, and as a consequence, all the sciences become possible.
  • Being: Time and space comprise separate grounds of being. These a priori (prior to experience) forms respectively allow for an “inner,” temporal sense and an “outer,” spatial sense for the subject; subjectively, these are the forms of pure sensibility—they make sensations possible for a subject. The first makes arithmetic possible, and is presupposed for all other forms of the principle of sufficient reason; the other makes geometry possible. Time is one dimensional and purely successive; each moment determines the following moment; in space, any position is determined only in its relations to all other positions [fixed baselines] in a finite, hence, closed system. Thus, intuitions of time and space provide the grounds of being that make arithmetical and geometrical judgments possible, which are also valid for experience.
  • Willing: It is possible for a subject of knowing to know himself directly as ‘will.’ A subject knows his acts of will (efferent actions) only after the fact, in time. Action then, finds its root in the law of motivation, the ground of acting, which is causality, but seen from the inside (afferent perception). In other words, not only does a subject know his body as an object of outer sense (efferently), in space, but also in an inner sense (afferently), in time alone; a subject has self-consciousness in addition to knowing his body as an idea of perception (afferent-efferent processes/a priori-a posteriori correlations).

Why does a subject act the way he does? Where a sufficient motive appears in the form either of an intuition, perception, or extracted abstract conception, the subject will act (or react) according to his character, or ‘will.’ E.g., despite all plans to the contrary. When the actual moment comes to act, we do so within the constituents of the rhetorical situation (the various representations presented within subjective experiences) and may be often surprised by what we actually say and do. The human sciences find their ground in this aspect of the principle.

The World as Will
In detail.

As much as he opposes the traditional German Idealists in their metaphysical elevation of self-consciousness (which he regards as too intellectualistic), Schopenhauer philosophizes within the spirit of this tradition, for he believes that the supreme principle of the universe is likewise apprehensible through introspection, and that we can understand the world as various manifestations of this general principle. For Schopenhauer, this is not the principle of self-consciousness and rationally-infused will, but is rather what he simply calls “Will” — a mindless, aimless, non-rational impulse at the foundation of our instinctual drives, and at the foundational being of everything. Schopenhauer’s originality does not reside in his characterization of the world as Will, or as act — for we encounter this position in Fichte’s philosophy — but in the conception of Will as being devoid of rationality or intellect.
Having rejected the Kantian position that our sensations are caused by an unknowable object that exists independently of us, Schopenhauer notes importantly that our body — which is just one among the many objects in the world — is given to us in two different ways: we perceive our body as a physical object among other physical objects, subject to the natural laws that govern the movements of all physical objects, and we are aware of our body through our immediate awareness, as we each consciously inhabit our body, intentionally move it, and feel directly our pleasures, pains, and emotional states. We can objectively perceive our hand as an external object, as a surgeon might perceive it during a medical operation, and we can also be subjectively aware of our hand as something we inhabit, as something we willfully move, and of which we can feel its inner muscular workings.
From this observation, Schopenhauer asserts that among all the objects in the universe, there is only one object, relative to each of us — namely, our physical body — that is given in two entirely different ways. It is given as representation (i.e., objectively; externally) and as Will (i.e., subjectively; internally). One of his notable conclusions is that when we move our hand, this is not to be comprehended as a motivational act that first happens, and then causes the movement of our hand as an effect. He maintains that the movement of our hand is but a single act — again, like the two sides of a coin — that has a subjective feeling of willing as one of its aspects, and the movement of the hand as the other. More generally, he adds that the action of the body is nothing but the act of Will objectified, that is, translated into perception.
At this point in his argumentation, Schopenhauer has established only that among his many ideas, or representations, only one of them (viz., the [complex] representation of his body) has this special double-aspected quality. When he perceives the moon or a mountain, he does not under ordinary circumstances have any direct access to the metaphysical inside of such objects; they remain as representations that reveal to him only their objective side. Schopenhauer asks, though, how he might understand the world as an integrated whole, or how he might render his entire field of perception more comprehensible, for as things stand, he can directly experience the inside of one of his representations, but of no others. To answer this question, he uses the double-knowledge of his own body as the key to the inner being of every other natural phenomenon: he regards — as if he were trying to make the notion of universal empathy theoretically possible — every object in the world as being metaphysically double-aspected, and as having an inside or inner aspect of its own, just as his consciousness is the inner aspect of his own body. This is his rationale for rejecting Descartes’s causal interactionism, where thinking substance is said to cause changes in an independent material substance and vice-versa.
This precipitates a position that characterizes the inner aspect of things, as far as we can describe it, as Will. Hence, Schopenhauer regards the world as a whole as having two sides: the world is Will and the world is representation. The world as Will (“for us”, as he sometimes qualifies it) is the world as it is in itself, which is a unity, and the world as representation is the world of appearances, of our ideas, or of objects, which is a diversity. An alternative title for Schopenhauer’s main book, The World as Will and Representation, might well have been, The World as Reality and Appearance. Similarly, his book might have been entitled, The Inner and Outer Nature of Reality.
An inspiration for Schopenhauer’s view that ideas are like inert objects is George Berkeley (1685–1753), who describes ideas in this despiritualized way in his A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge (1710) [Section 25]. A primary inspiration for Schopenhauer’s double-aspect view of the universe is Baruch (Benedict) de Spinoza (1632–1677), who developed a similarly-structured metaphysics, and who Schopenhauer had studied in his early years before writing his dissertation. A subsequent, but often highlighted inspiration is from the Upanishads (c. 900–600 BCE) that also express the view that the universe is double-aspected, having objective and subjective dimensions that are referred to respectively as Brahman and Atman.
Only a few months after completing his dissertation, Schopenhauer was exposed to classical Indian thought in late 1813 by the orientalist Friedrich Majer (1771–1818), who visited Johanna Schopenhauer’s salon in Weimar. Schopenhauer also probably met at the time, Julius Klaproth (1783–1835), who was the editor of Das Asiatische Magazin. As the records of his library book withdrawals indicate, Schopenhauer began reading the Bhagavadgita in December 1813 or very soon thereafter, and the Upanishads in March 1814. This also marks the time when Schopenhauer’s thought assumed an explicitly atheistic quality. Only a year before this, he was referring to himself explicitly in his notebooks as an “illuminated theist”, i.e., a mystic, in an 1812 discussion of Schelling’s philosophy (Manuscript Remains, Vol. 2, p. 373).
Schopenhauer’s appreciation for Indian thought was augmented in Dresden during the writing of The World as Will and Representation by Karl Friedrich Christian Krause, Schopenhauer’s 1815–1817 neighbor. Krause was not only a metaphysical panentheist (see biographic segment above); he was also an enthusiast of South Asian thought. Familiar with the Sanskrit language, he introduced Schopenhauer to publications on India in the Asiatisches Magazin, and these enhanced Schopenhauer’s studies of the first European-language translation of the Upanishads: in 1801, a Persian version of the Upanishads (the Oupnekhat) was rendered into Latin by the French Orientalist, Abraham Hyacinthe Anquetil-Duperron (1731-1805) — a scholar who also introduced translations of Zoroastrian texts into Europe in 1771.
Despite its general precedents within the philosophical family of double-aspect theories, Schopenhauer’s particular characterization of the world as Will is nonetheless novel and daring. It is also frightening and pandemonic: he maintains that the world as it is in itself (again, sometimes adding “for us”) is an endless striving and blind impulse with no end in view, devoid of knowledge, lawless, absolutely free, entirely self-determining and almighty. Within Schopenhauer’s vision of the world as Will, there is no God to be comprehended, and the world is conceived of as being inherently meaningless. When anthropomorphically considered, the world is represented as being in a condition of eternal frustration, as it endlessly strives for nothing in particular, and as it goes essentially nowhere. It is a world beyond any ascriptions of good and evil.
Schopenhauer’s denial of meaning to the world differs radically from the views of Fichte, Schelling and Hegel, all of whom sustained a distinct hope that everything is moving towards a harmonious and just end. Like these German Idealists, however, Schopenhauer also tries to explain how the world that we experience daily is the result of the activity of the central principle of things. As the German Idealists tried to account for the great chain of being — the rocks, trees, animals, and human beings — as the increasingly complicated and detailed objectifications of self-consciousness, Schopenhauer attempts to do the same by explaining the world as objectifications of Will.
For Schopenhauer, the world we experience is constituted by objectifications of Will that correspond first, to the general root of the principle of sufficient reason, and second, to the more specific fourfold root of the principle of sufficient reason. This generates initially, a two-tiered outlook (viz., Will [= reality] vs. objects-in-general [= appearance]), that articulates into a three-tiered outlook (viz., Will [= reality] vs. universal, non-spatio-temporal objects vs. individual, spatio-temporal objects), by further distinguishing between universalistic and individualistic levels within the sphere of objects.
The general philosophical pattern of a single world-essence that initially manifests itself as a multiplicity of abstract essences, that, in turn, manifest themselves as a multiplicity of physical individuals is found throughout the world. It is characteristic of Neoplatonism (c. third century, C.E., as represented by Plotinus [204–270]), as well as the Buddhist Three Body Doctrine [trikaya] of the Buddha’s manifestation, that is developed in the Yogacara school of Mahayana Buddhism as represented by Maitreya (270–350), Asanga (375–430) and Vasubandu (400–480).
According to Schopenhauer, corresponding to the level of the universal subject-object distinction, Will is immediately objectified into a set of universal objects or Platonic Ideas. These constitute the timeless patterns for each of the individual things that we experience in space and time. There are different Platonic Ideas, and although this multiplicity of Ideas implies that some measure of individuation is present within this realm, each Idea nonetheless contains no plurality within itself and is said to be “one.” Since the Platonic Ideas are in neither space nor time, they lack the qualities of individuation that would follow from the introduction of spatial and temporal qualifications. In these respects, the Platonic Ideas are independent of the specific fourfold root of the principle of sufficient reason, even though it would be misleading to say that there is no individuation whatsoever at this universal level, for there are many different Platonic Ideas that are individuated from one another. Schopenhauer refers to the Platonic Ideas as the direct objectifications of Will, and as the immediate objectivity of Will.
Will’s indirect objectifications appear when our minds continue to apply the principle of sufficient reason beyond its general root such as to introduce the forms of time, space and causality, not to mention logic, mathematics, geometry and moral reasoning. When Will is objectified at this level of determination, the world of everyday life emerges, whose objects are, in effect, kaleidoscopically multiplied manifestations of the Platonic forms, endlessly dispersed throughout space and time.
Since the principle of sufficient reason is — given Schopenhauer’s inspiration from Kant — the epistemological form of the human mind, the spatio-temporal world is the world of our own reflection. To that extent, Schopenhauer says that life is like a dream. As a condition of our knowledge, Schopenhauer believes that the laws of nature, along with the sets of objects that we experience, we ourselves create in way that is not unlike the way the constitution of our tongues invokes the taste of sugar. As Galileo Galilei (1564–1642) states in “The Assayer” (1623), if ears tongues and noses were removed from the world, then odors, tastes, and sounds would be removed as well.
At this point, what Schopenhauer has developed philosophically is surely interesting, but we have not yet mentioned its more remarkable and memorable aspect. If we combine his claim that the world is Will with his Kantian view that we are responsible for the individuated world of appearances, we arrive at a novel outlook — an outlook that depends heavily upon Schopenhauer’s characterization of the thing-in-itself as Will, understood to be an aimless, blind striving.
Before the human being comes onto the scene with its principle of sufficient reason (or principle of individuation) there are no individuals. It is the human being that, in its very effort to know anything, objectifies an appearance for itself that involves the fragmentation of Will and its breakup into a comprehensible set of individuals. The result of this fragmentation, given the nature of Will, is terrible: it is a world of constant struggle, where each individual thing strives against every other individual thing. The result is a permanent “war of all against all” akin to what Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679) characterized as the state of nature.
Kant maintains in the Critique of Pure Reason that we create the laws of nature (CPR, A125). Adding to this, Schopenhauer maintains in The World as Will and Representation that we create the violent state of nature, for his view is that the individuation we impose upon things, is imposed upon a blind striving energy that, once it becomes individuated and objectified, turns against itself, consumes itself, and does violence to itself. His paradigm image is of the bulldog-ant of Australia, that when cut in half, struggles in a battle to the death between its head and tail. Our very quest for scientific and practical knowledge creates — for Schopenhauer sinfully and repulsively — a world that feasts nightmarishly upon itself.
This marks the origin of Schopenhauer’s renowned pessimism: he claims that as individuals, we are the anguished products of our own epistemological making, and that within the world of appearances that we structure, we are fated to fight with other individuals, and to want more than we can ever have. On Schopenhauer’s view, the world of daily life is essentially violent and frustrating; it is a world that, as long as our consciousness remains at that level where the principle of sufficient reason applies in its fourfold root, will never resolve itself into a condition of greater tranquillity. As he explicitly states, daily life “is suffering” (WWR, Section 56) and to express this, he employs images of frustration taken from classical Greek mythology, such as those of Tantalus and the Danaids, along with the suffering of Ixion on the ever-spinning wheel of fire. The image of Sisyphus expresses the same frustrated spirit.

Arthur Schopenhauer

German philosopher

WRITTEN BY Arthur Hübscher Director, Schopenhauer Archives, Frankfurt. Senior President, International Schopenhauer Society, Frankfurt, 1936–82. Britannica.

Arthur Schopenhauer, (born February 22, 1788, Danzig, Prussia [now Gdańsk, Poland]—died September 21, 1860, Frankfurt am Main [Germany]), German philosopher, often called the “philosopher of pessimism,” who was primarily important as the exponent of a metaphysical doctrine of the will in immediate reaction against Hegelian idealism. His writings influenced later existential philosophy and Freudian psychology.

Early Life And Education

Schopenhauer was the son of a wealthy merchant, Heinrich Floris Schopenhauer, and his wife, Johanna, who later became famous for her novels, essays, and travelogues. In 1793, when Danzig came under Prussian sovereignty, they moved to the free city of Hamburg. Arthur enjoyed a gentlemanly private education. He then attended a private business school, where he became acquainted with the spirit of the Enlightenment and was exposed to a Pietistic attitude sensitive to the plight of man. In 1803 he accompanied his parents for a year on an extensive journey through Belgium, England, France, Switzerland, and Austria.

The sudden death of his father in April 1805 precipitated a decisive change in his life. His mother and his young sister Adele moved to Weimar, where his mother succeeded in joining the social circle of the poets J.W. von Goethe and Christoph Martin Wieland (often called the German Voltaire). Arthur himself had to remain in Hamburg for more than a year, yet with more freedom to engage in the arts and sciences. In May 1807 he was finally able to leave Hamburg. During the next two years, spent in Gotha and Weimar, he acquired the necessary academic preparation for attendance at a university.

In the fall of 1809 he matriculated as a student of medicine at the University of Göttingen and mainly attended lectures on the natural sciences. As early as his second semester, however, he transferred to the humanities, concentrating first on the study of Plato and Immanuel Kant. From 1811 to 1813 he attended the University of Berlin (where he heard such philosophers as J.G. Fichte and Friedrich Schleiermacher, with little appreciation); and in Rudolstadt, during the summer of 1813, he finished his dissertation, Über die vierfache Wurzel des Satzes vom zureichenden Grunde (On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason), which earned him the doctor of philosophy degree from the University of Jena.

Active Maturity

The following winter (1813–14) he spent in Weimar, in intimate association with Goethe, with whom he discussed various philosophical topics. In that same winter the Orientalist Friedrich Majer, a disciple of Johann Gottfried Herder, introduced him to the teachings of Indian antiquity—the philosophy of Vedānta and the mysticism of the Vedas (Hindu scriptures). Later, Schopenhauer considered that the Upaniṣads (philosophic Vedas), together with Plato and Kant, constituted the foundation on which he erected his own philosophical system.

In May 1814 he left his beloved Weimar after a quarrel with his mother over her frivolous way of life, of which he disapproved. He then lived in Dresden until 1818, associating occasionally with a group of writers for the Dresdener Abendzeitung (“Dresden Evening Newspaper”). Schopenhauer finished his treatise Über das Sehn und die Farben (1816; “On Vision and Colours”), supporting Goethe against Isaac Newton.

His next three years were dedicated exclusively to the preparation and composition of his main work, Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung (1819; The World as Will and Idea). The fundamental idea of this work—which is condensed into a short formula in the title itself—is developed in four books composed of two comprehensive series of reflections that include successively the theory of knowledge and the philosophy of natureaesthetics, and ethics.

The first book begins with Kant. The world is my representation, says Schopenhauer. It is only comprehensible with the aid of the constructs of man’s intellect—space, time, and causality. But these constructs show the world only as appearance, as a multiplicity of things next to and following one another—not as the thing in itself, which Kant considered to be unknowable. The second book advances to a consideration of the essences of the concepts presented. Of all the things in the world, only one is presented to a person in two ways: he knows himself externally as body or as appearance, and he knows himself internally as part of the primary essence of all things, as will. The will is the thing in itself; it is unitary, unfathomable, unchangeable, beyond space and time, without causes and purposes. In the world of appearances, it is reflected in an ascending series of realizations. From the blind impulses in the forces of inorganic nature, through organic nature (plants and animals) to the rationally guided actions of men, an enormous chain of restless desires, agitations, and drives stretch forth—a continual struggle of the higher forms against the lower, an eternally aimless and insatiable striving, inseparably united with misery and misfortune. At the end, however, stands death, the great reproof that the will-to-live receives, posing the question to each single person: Have you had enough?

Whereas the first two books present the will in an affirmative mode, the last two, dealing with aesthetics and ethics, surpass them by pointing to the negation of the will as a possible liberation. Evoking as their leading figures the genius and the saint, who illustrate this negation, these books present the “pessimistic” world view that values nonbeing more highly than being. The arts summon man to a will-less way of viewing things, in which the play of the passions ceases. To the succession of levels achieved by the realizations of the will corresponds a gradation of levels in the arts, from the lowest—the art of building (architecture)—through the art of poetry to the highest of arts—music. But the arts liberate a person only momentarily from the service of the will. A genuine liberation results only from breaking through the bounds of individuality imposed by the ego. Whoever feels acts of compassion, selflessness, and human kindness and feels the suffering of other beings as his own is on the way to the abnegation of the will to life, achieved by the saints of all peoples and times in asceticism. Schopenhauer’s anthropology and sociology do not, in the manner of Hegel, commence with the state or with the community; they focus upon man—patient, suffering man who toils by himself—and show him certain possibilities of standing his ground and of living together with others.

The book marked the summit of Schopenhauer’s thought. In the many years thereafter, no further development of his philosophy occurred, no inner struggles or changes, no critical reorganization of basic thoughts. From then onward, his work consisted merely of more detailed exposition, clarification, and affirmation.

In March 1820, after a lengthy first tour of Italy and a triumphant dispute with Hegel, he qualified to lecture at the University of Berlin. Though he remained a member of the university for 24 semesters, only his first lecture was actually held; for he had scheduled (and continued to schedule) his lectures at the same hour when Hegel lectured to a large and ever-growing audience. Clearly, he could not successfully challenge a persistently advancing philosophy. Even his book received scant attention. For a second time Schopenhauer went on a year-long trip to Italy, and this was followed by a year of illness in Munich. In May 1825 he made one last attempt in Berlin, but in vain. He now occupied himself with secondary works, primarily translations.

Arthur Schopenhauer

BORN February 22, 1788
GdańskPoland
DIED September 21, 1860 (aged 72)
Frankfurt am MainGermany
SUBJECTS OF STUDY

Scholarly Retirement In Frankfurt

During his remaining 28 years, he lived in Frankfurt, which he felt to be free from the threat of cholera, and left the city only for brief interludes. He had finally renounced his career as a university professor and lived henceforth as a recluse, totally absorbed in his studies (especially in the natural sciences) and his writings. His life now took on the shape that posterity first came to know: the measured uniformity of the days; the strict, ascetic lifestyle modeled after Kant; the old-fashioned attire; the tendency to gesticulative soliloquy.

His leisure, though, was not idle. In 1836, after 19 years of “silent indignation,” he published his short treatise Über den Willen in der Natur (On the Will in Nature), which skillfully employed the queries and findings of the rapidly expanding natural sciences in support of his theory of the will. The preface for the first time openly expressed his devastating verdict on the “charlatan” Hegel and his clique. He also published essays.

The second edition of The World as Will and Idea (1844) included an additional volume but failed to break what he called “the resistance of a dull world.” The little weight that Schopenhauer’s name carried became evident when three publishers rejected his latest work. Finally, a rather obscure Berlin bookseller accepted the manuscript without remuneration. In this book, which brought the beginning of worldwide recognition, Schopenhauer turned to significant topics hitherto not treated individually within the framework of his writings: the work of six years yielded the essays and comments compiled in two volumes under the title Parerga und Paralipomena (1851). The Parerga (“Minor Works”) include fragments concerning the history of philosophy; the famous treatise “Über die Universitäts-Philosophie”; the enigmatically profound “Transzendente Spekulation über die anscheinende Absichtlichkeit im Schicksale des Einzelnen” (“Transcendent Speculation on the Apparent Premeditation in Personal Fate”); the “Versuch über das Geistersehn und was damit zusammenhängt” (“Essay on Ghost-seeing and Its Related Aspects”)—the first investigation, classification, and critical reflection concerning parapsychology; and the “Aphorismen zur Lebensweisheit” (“Aphorisms on Practical Wisdom”), a serene and brilliant account garnered from his long life. The Paralipomena (“Remnants”), or as Schopenhauer called them “separate, yet systematically ordered thoughts on various subjects,” included essays on writing and style, on women, on education, on noise and sound, and on numerous other topics.

During the last years of his life, he added the finishing touches to most of his works. Even a third edition of The World as Will and Idea, containing an exultant preface, appeared in 1859 and, in 1860, a second edition of his Ethics. Soon after Schopenhauer’s sudden and painless death, Julius Frauenstädt published new and enlarged editions, with many handwritten additions, of the Parerga and Paralipomena (1862), On the Fourfold Root (1864), the essay On the Will in Nature (1867), the treatise on colours (1870), and finally even a fourth edition of his main work (1873). Later that same year Frauenstädt published the first complete edition of his works in six volumes.

Influence

During this time, the actual impact and influence of Schopenhauer began to spread. By turning away from spirit and reason to the powers of intuitioncreativity, and the irrational, his thought has affected—partly via Nietzsche—the ideas and methods of vitalism, of life philosophy, of existential philosophy, and of anthropology. Through his disciple Julius Bahnsen and through Eduard von Hartmann’s philosophy of the unconscious, the connection to modern psychology and to Sigmund Freud and his school can be established. The philosophy of history of Jacob Burckhardt, a Swiss cultural historian, also proceeds from Schopenhauer. Within the German cultural realm, Schopenhauer’s influence on music and literature brings to mind such diverse names as Richard WagnerHans PfitznerWilhelm BuschGerhart HauptmannFrank Wedekind, and Thomas Mann. Since 1911 the Schopenhauer Society in Frankfurt am Main has been dedicated to the study, exposition, and dissemination of Schopenhauer’s philosophy.

WE&P by: EZorrilla

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/schopenhauer/

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Arthur-Schopenhauer

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