Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) was a German philosopher best known for his work The World as Will and Representation. He responded to and expanded upon Immanuel Kant's philosophy concerning the way in which we experience the world. His critique of Kant, his creative solutions to the problems of human experience and his explication of the limits of human knowledge are amonArthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) was a German philosopher best known for his work The World as Will and Representation. He responded to and expanded upon Immanuel Kant's philosophy concerning the way in which we experience the world. His critique of Kant, his creative solutions to the problems of human experience and his explication of the limits of human knowledge are among his most important achievements. His metaphysical theory is the foundation of his influential writings on psychology, aesthetics, ethics, and politics which influenced Friedrich Nietzsche, Wagner, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Sigmund Freud and others. He said he was influenced by the Upanishads, Immanuel Kant, and Plato. References to Eastern philosophy and religion appear frequently in his writing. He appreciated the teachings of the Buddha and even called himself a Buddhaist. He said that his philosophy could not have been conceived before these teachings were available. He called himself a Kantian. He formulated a pessimistic philosophy that gained importance and support after the failure of the German and Austrian revolutions of 1848....more
Paperback, 184 pages
Published February 22nd 2008 by Dodo Press (first published 1882)
For the sculpture, see Arthur Schopenhauer (sculpture).
"Schopenhauer" redirects here. For other uses, see Schopenhauer (disambiguation).
1855 painting of Schopenhauer by Jules Lunteschütz
|Born||(1788-02-22)22 February 1788|
|Died||21 September 1860(1860-09-21) (aged 72)|
Frankfurt, German Confederation
|Residence||Danzig, Hamburg, Frankfurt|
|Institutions||University of Berlin|
|Metaphysics, aesthetics, ethics, morality, psychology|
|Will, fourfold root of reason, hedgehog's dilemma, philosophical pessimism, anthropic principle|
Arthur Schopenhauer (; German:[ˈaɐ̯tʊɐ̯ ˈʃoːpm̩ˌhaʊ̯ɐ]; 22 February 1788 – 21 September 1860) was a German philosopher. He is best known for his 1818 work The World as Will and Representation (expanded in 1844), wherein he characterizes the phenomenal world as the product of a blind and insatiable metaphysical will. Proceeding from the transcendental idealism of Immanuel Kant, Schopenhauer developed an atheistic metaphysical and ethical system that has been described as an exemplary manifestation of philosophical pessimism, rejecting the contemporaneous post-Kantian philosophies of German idealism. Schopenhauer was among the first thinkers in Western philosophy to share and affirm significant tenets of Eastern philosophy (e.g., asceticism, the world-as-appearance), having initially arrived at similar conclusions as the result of his own philosophical work.
Though his work failed to garner substantial attention during his life, Schopenhauer has had a posthumous impact across various disciplines, including philosophy, literature, and science. His writing on aesthetics, morality, and psychology would exert important influence on thinkers and artists throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Those who have cited his influence include Friedrich Nietzsche,Richard Wagner, Leo Tolstoy, Ludwig Wittgenstein,Erwin Schrödinger, Otto Rank, Gustav Mahler, Joseph Campbell, Albert Einstein,Carl Jung, Thomas Mann, Emile Zola, George Bernard Shaw,Jorge Luis Borges and Samuel Beckett.
Schopenhauer was born on 22 February 1788, in the city of Danzig (then part of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth; present day Gdańsk, Poland) on Heiligegeistgasse (known in the present day as Św. Ducha 47), the son of Johanna Schopenhauer (née Trosiener) and Heinrich Floris Schopenhauer, both descendants of wealthy German patrician families. When Danzig became part of Prussia in 1793, Heinrich moved to Hamburg, although his firm continued trading in Danzig. As early as 1799, Arthur started playing the flute.:30 In 1805, Schopenhauer's father died, possibly by suicide. Arthur endured two long years of drudgery as a merchant in honor of his dead father, but his mother soon moved with his sister Adele to Weimar—then the centre of German literature—to pursue her writing career. He dedicated himself wholly to studies at the Gothagymnasium (Gymnasium illustre zu Gotha (de)) in Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg, but left in disgust after seeing one of the masters lampooned.
By that time, Johanna Schopenhauer had already opened her famous salon, and Arthur was not compatible with what he considered its vain and ceremonious ways. He was also disgusted by the ease with which his mother had forgotten his father's memory. He left to become a student at the University of Göttingen in 1809. There he studied metaphysics and psychology under Gottlob Ernst Schulze, the author of Aenesidemus, who advised him to concentrate on Plato and Immanuel Kant. In Berlin, from 1811 to 1812, he had attended lectures by the prominent post-Kantian philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte and the theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher.
Schopenhauer had a notably strained relationship with his mother. He wrote his first book, On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, while at university. His mother informed him that the book was incomprehensible and it was unlikely that anyone would ever buy a copy. In a fit of temper Arthur Schopenhauer told her that his work would be read long after the "rubbish" she wrote would have been totally forgotten. In fact, although they considered her novels of dubious quality, the Brockhaus publishing firm held her in high esteem because they consistently sold well. Hans Brockhaus later recalled that, when she brought them some of her son's work, his predecessors "saw nothing in this manuscript, but wanted to please one of our best-selling authors by publishing her son's work. We published more and more of her son Arthur's work and today nobody remembers Johanna, but her son's works are in steady demand and contribute to Brockhaus'[s] reputation." He kept large portraits of the pair in his office in Leipzig for the edification of his new editors.
In 1814, Schopenhauer began his seminal work The World as Will and Representation (Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung). He finished it in 1818 and Brockhaus published it that December. In Dresden in 1819, Schopenhauer fathered, with a servant, an illegitimate daughter who was born and died the same year. In 1820, Schopenhauer became a lecturer at the University of Berlin. He scheduled his lectures to coincide with those of the famous philosopher G. W. F. Hegel, whom Schopenhauer described as a "clumsy charlatan". However, only five students turned up to Schopenhauer's lectures, and he dropped out of academia. A late essay, On University Philosophy, expressed his resentment towards the work conducted in academies.
In 1831, a cholera epidemic broke out in Berlin and Schopenhauer left the city. Schopenhauer settled permanently in Frankfurt in 1833, where he remained for the next twenty-seven years, living alone except for a succession of pet poodles named Atman and Butz. The numerous notes that he made during these years, amongst others on aging, were published posthumously under the title Senilia. Schopenhauer had a robust constitution, but in 1860 his health began to deteriorate. He died of pulmonary-respiratory failure, on 21 September 1860 while sitting at home on his couch. He was 72.
The world as representation
Schopenhauer saw his philosophy as a continuation of that of Kant, and used the results of his epistemological investigations, that is, transcendental idealism, as starting point for his own:
My philosophy is founded on that of Kant, and therefore presupposes a thorough knowledge of it. Kant's teaching produces in the mind of everyone who has comprehended it a fundamental change which is so great that it may be regarded as an intellectual new-birth. It alone is able really to remove the inborn realism which proceeds from the original character of the intellect, which neither Berkeley nor Malebranche succeed in doing, for they remain too much in the universal, while Kant goes into the particular, and indeed in a way that is quite unexampled both before and after him, and which has quite a peculiar, and, we might say, immediate effect upon the mind in consequence of which it undergoes a complete undeception, and forthwith looks at all things in another light. Only in this way can anyone become susceptible to the more positive expositions which I have to give.
Kant had argued the empirical world is merely a complex of appearances whose existence and connection occur only in our representations. Schopenhauer reiterates this in the first sentence of his main work: "The world is my representation." We do not draw empirical laws from nature, but prescribe them to it.
Schopenhauer praises Kant for his distinction between appearance and the things-in-themselves that appear, whereas the general consensus in German Idealism was that this was the weakest spot of Kant’s theory, since according to Kant causality can find application on objects of experience only, and consequently, things-in-themselves cannot be the cause of appearances, as Kant argued. The inadmissibility of this reasoning was also acknowledged by Schopenhauer. He insisted that this distinction was a true conclusion, drawn from false premises.
Theory of perception
In November 1813 Goethe invited Schopenhauer for research on his Theory of Colours. Although Schopenhauer considered colour theory to be a minor matter, he accepted the invitation out of admiration for Goethe. Nevertheless, these investigations led him to his most important discovery in epistemology: finding a demonstration for the a priori nature of causality.
Kant openly admitted that it was Hume's skeptical assault on causality that motivated the critical investigations of Critique of Pure Reason. In it, he gives an elaborate proof to show that causality is given a priori. After G.E. Schulze had made it plausible that Kant had not disproven Hume’s skepticism, it was up to those loyal to the project of Kant to prove this important matter.
The difference between the approach of Kant and Schopenhauer was this: Kant simply declared that the empirical content of perception is "given" to us from outside, an expression with which Schopenhauer often expressed his dissatisfaction. He, on the other hand, was occupied with: how do we get this empirical content of perception; how is it possible to comprehend subjective sensations limited to my skin as the objective perception of things that lie outside of me?
The sensations in the hand of a man born blind, on feeling an object of cubic shape, are quite uniform and the same on all sides and in every direction: the edges, it is true, press upon a smaller portion of his hand, still nothing at all like a cube is contained in these sensations. His Understanding, however, draws the immediate and intuitive conclusion from the resistance felt, that this resistance must have a cause, which then presents itself through that conclusion as a hard body; and through the movements of his arms in feeling the object, while the hand's sensation remains unaltered, he constructs the cubic shape in Space. If the representation of a cause and of Space, together with their laws, had not already existed within him, the image of a cube could never have proceeded from those successive sensations in his hand.
Causality is therefore not an empirical concept drawn from objective perceptions, but objective perception presupposes knowledge of causality. Hereby Hume's skepticism is disproven.
By this intellectual operation, comprehending every effect in our sensory organs as having an external cause, the external world arises. With vision, finding the cause is essentially simplified due light acting in straight lines. We are seldom conscious of the process, that interprets the double sensation in both eyes as coming from one object; that turns the upside down impression; and that adds depth to make from the planimetrical data stereometrical perception with distance between objects.
Schopenhauer stresses the importance of the intellectual nature of perception, the senses furnish the raw material by which the intellect produces the world as representation. He set out his theory of perception for the first time in On Vision and Colors, and in the subsequent editions of Fourfold Root an extensive exposition is given in § 21.
The world as will
Main article: The World as Will and Representation
Schopenhauer developed a system which is known as metaphysical voluntarism.
The kernel and chief point of my doctrine, its Metaphysic proper, is this, that what Kant opposed as thing-in-itself to mere appearance (called more decidedly by me "representation") and what he held to be absolutely unknowable, that this thing-in-itself, I say, this substratum of all appearances, and therefore of the whole of Nature, is nothing but what we know directly and intimately and find within ourselves as will; that accordingly, this will, far from being inseparable from, and even a mere result of, knowledge, differs radically and entirely from, and is quite independent of, knowledge, which is secondary and of later origin; and can consequently subsist and manifest itself without knowledge: that this will, being the one and only thing-in-itself, the sole truly real, primary, metaphysical thing in a world in which everything else is only appearance, i.e., mere representation, gives all things, whatever they may be, the power to exist and to act; ... is absolutely identical with the will we find within us and know as intimately as we can know any thing; that, on the other hand, knowledge with its substratum, the intellect, is a merely secondary phenomenon, differing completely from the will, only accompanying its higher degrees of objectification and not essential to it; ... that we are never able therefore to infer absence of will from absence of knowledge.
— On the Will in Nature, Introduction
For Schopenhauer, human desire was futile, illogical, directionless, and, by extension, so was all human action in the world. Einstein paraphrased his views as follows: "Man can indeed do what he wants, but he cannot will what he wants." In this sense, he adhered to the Fichtean principle of idealism: "The world is for a subject." This idealism so presented, immediately commits it to an ethical attitude, unlike the purely epistemological concerns of Descartes and Berkeley. To Schopenhauer, the Will is a blind force that controls not only the actions of individual, intelligent agents, but ultimately all observable phenomena—an evil to be terminated via mankind's duties: asceticism and chastity. He is credited with one of the most famous opening lines of philosophy: "The world is my representation." Friedrich Nietzsche was greatly influenced by this idea of Will, although he eventually rejected it.
Art and aesthetics
Main article: Arthur Schopenhauer's aesthetics
For Schopenhauer, human desiring, "willing", and craving cause suffering or pain. A temporary way to escape this pain is through aesthetic contemplation (a method comparable to Zapffe's "Sublimation"). Aesthetic contemplation allows one to escape this pain—albeit temporarily—because it stops one perceiving the world as mere presentation. Instead, one no longer perceives the world as an object of perception (therefore as subject to the Principle of Sufficient Grounds; time, space and causality) from which one is separated; rather one becomes one with that perception: "one can thus no longer separate the perceiver from the perception" (The World as Will and Representation, section 34). From this immersion with the world one no longer views oneself as an individual who suffers in the world due to one's individual will but, rather, becomes a "subject of cognition" to a perception that is "Pure, will-less, timeless" (section 34) where the essence, "ideas", of the world are shown. Art is the practical consequence of this brief aesthetic contemplation as it attempts to depict one's immersion with the world, thus tries to depict the essence/pure ideas of the world. Music, for Schopenhauer, was the purest form of art because it was the one that depicted the will itself without it appearing as subject to the Principle of Sufficient Grounds, therefore as an individual object. According to Daniel Albright, "Schopenhauer thought that music was the only art that did not merely copy ideas, but actually embodied the will itself".
He deemed music a timeless, universal language comprehended everywhere, that can imbue global enthusiasm, if in possession of a significant melody.
Schopenhauer's realist views on mathematics are evident in his criticism of the contemporary attempts to prove the parallel postulate in Euclidean geometry. Writing shortly before the discovery of hyperbolic geometry demonstrated the logical independence of the axiom—and long before the general theory of relativity revealed that it does not necessarily express a property of physical space—Schopenhauer criticized mathematicians for trying to use indirect concepts to prove what he held to be directly evident from intuitive perception.
The Euclidean method of demonstration has brought forth from its own womb its most striking parody and caricature in the famous controversy over the theory of parallels, and in the attempts, repeated every year, to prove the eleventh axiom (also known as the fifth postulate). The axiom asserts, and that indeed through the indirect criterion of a third intersecting line, that two lines inclined to each other (for this is the precise meaning of "less than two right angles"), if produced far enough, must meet. Now this truth is supposed to be too complicated to pass as self-evident, and therefore needs a proof; but no such proof can be produced, just because there is nothing more immediate.
Throughout his writings, Schopenhauer criticized the logical derivation of philosophies and mathematics from mere concepts, instead of from intuitive perceptions.
In fact, it seems to me that the logical method is in this way reduced to an absurdity. But it is precisely through the controversies over this, together with the futile attempts to demonstrate the directly certain as merely indirectly certain, that the independence and clearness of intuitive evidence appear in contrast with the uselessness and difficulty of logical proof, a contrast as instructive as it is amusing. The direct certainty will not be admitted here, just because it is no merely logical certainty following from the concept, and thus resting solely on the relation of predicate to subject, according to the principle of contradiction. But that eleventh axiom regarding parallel lines is a synthetic propositiona priori, and as such has the guarantee of pure, not empirical, perception; this perception is just as immediate and certain as is the principle of contradiction itself, from which all proofs originally derive their certainty. At bottom this holds good of every geometrical theorem ...
Although Schopenhauer could see no justification for trying to prove Euclid's parallel postulate, he did see a reason for examining another of Euclid's axioms.
It surprises me that the eighth axiom, "Figures that coincide with one another are equal to one another", is not rather attacked. For "coinciding with one another" is either a mere tautology, or something quite empirical, belonging not to pure intuition or perception, but to external sensuous experience. Thus it presupposes mobility of the figures, but matter alone is movable in space. Consequently, this reference to coincidence with one another forsakes pure space, the sole element of geometry, in order to pass over to the material and empirical.
This follows Kant's reasoning.
Main article: On the Basis of Morality
The task of ethics is not to prescribe moral actions that ought to be done, but to investigate moral actions. Philosophy is always theoretical: its task to explain what is given.
According to Kant's teaching of transcendental idealism, space and time are forms of our sensibility due which the phenomena appear in multiplicity. Reality in itself is free from all multiplicity, not in the sense that an object is one, but that it is outside the possibility of multiplicity. From this follows that two individuals, though they appear as distinct, are in-themselves not distinct.
The appearances are entirely subordinated to the principle of sufficient reason. The egoistic individual who focuses his aims completely on his own interests has therefore to deal with empirical laws as good as he can.
What is relevant for ethics are individuals who can act against their own self-interest. If we take for example a man who suffers when he sees his fellow men living in poverty, and consequently uses a significant part of his income to support their needs instead his own pleasures, then the simplest way to describe this is that he makes less distinction between himself and others than is usually made.
Regarding how the things appear to us, the egoist is right to assert the gap between two individuals, but the altruist experiences the sufferings of others as his own. In the same way a compassionate man cannot hurt animals, though they appear as distinct from himself.
What motivates the altruist is compassion. The sufferings of others is for him not a cold matter to which he is indifferent, but he feels connected to all beings. Compassion is thus the basis of morality.
Schopenhauer calls the principle due which multiplicity appears the principium individuationis. When we behold nature we see that it is a cruel battle for existence, individual manifestations of the will can maintain themselves at expense of others only, the will, as only thing which exists, has no other option but devouring itself in order to experience pleasure. This is a fundamental characteristic of the will, which cannot be circumvented.
Tormenter and tormented are one. Suffering is the moral retribution of our attachment to pleasure. Schopenhauer deemed that this truth was expressed by Christian dogma of original sin and in Eastern religions with the dogma of rebirth.
He who sees through the principium individuationis and comprehends suffering in general as his own, will see suffering everywhere, and instead of using all his force to fight for the happiness of his individual manifestation, he will abhor life itself, of which he knows how inseparably it is connected with suffering. A happy individual life midst of a world of suffering is for him like beggar who dreams one night that he is a king.
Those who have experienced this intuitive knowledge can no longer affirm life, but will exhibit asceticism and quietism, meaning that they are no longer sensitive to motives, are not concerned about their individual welfare, and accept the evil others inflect on them without resisting. They welcome poverty, do not seek nor flee death.
Human life is a ceaseless struggle for satisfaction, and instead of renewing this contract, the ascetic breaks it. It matters little whether these ascetics adhered the dogmata of Christianity or Dharmic religions, since their way of living is the result of intuitive knowledge.
The Christian mystic and the teacher of the Vedanta philosophy agree in this respect also, they both regard all outward works and religious exercises as superfluous for him who has attained to perfection. So much agreement in the case of such different ages and nations is a practical proof that what is expressed here is not, as optimistic dullness likes to assert, an eccentricity and perversity of the mind, but an essential side of human nature, which only appears so rarely because of its excellence.
Schopenhauer referred to asceticism as the denial of the will to live.
Philosophers have not traditionally been impressed by the tribulations of sex, but Schopenhauer addressed it and related concepts forthrightly:
... one ought rather to be surprised that a thing [sex] which plays throughout so important a part in human life has hitherto practically been disregarded by philosophers altogether, and lies before us as raw and untreated material.
He named a force within man that he felt took invariable precedence over reason: the Will to Live or Will to Life (Wille zum Leben), defined as an inherent drive within human beings, and indeed all creatures, to stay alive; a force that inveigles us into reproducing.
Schopenhauer refused to conceive of love as either trifling or accidental, but rather understood it as an immensely powerful force that lay unseen within man's psyche, guaranteeing the quality of the human race:
The ultimate aim of all love affairs ... is more important than all other aims in man's life; and therefore it is quite worthy of the profound seriousness with which everyone pursues it. What is decided by it is nothing less than the composition of the next generation ...
It has often been argued that Schopenhauer's thoughts on sexuality foreshadowed the theory of evolution, a claim which seems to have been met with satisfaction by Darwin as he included a quote of the German philosopher in his Descent of Man after having read such a claim. This has also been noted about Freud's concepts of the libido and the unconscious mind, and evolutionary psychology in general.
Political and social thought
Schopenhauer's politics were, for the most part, an 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 quarter of his central work, The World as Will and Representation.
In occasional political comments in his Parerga and Paralipomena 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., by a monarch, rather than a democrat. Schopenhauer shared the view of Thomas Hobbes on the necessity of the state, and of state action, to check the destructive tendencies innate to our species. He also defended the independence of the legislative, judicial and executive branches of power, and a monarch as an impartial element able to practise justice (in a practical and everyday sense, not a cosmological one). He declared monarchy as "that which is natural to man" for "intelligence has always under a monarchical government a much better chance against its irreconcilable and ever-present foe, stupidity" and disparaged republicanism as "unnatural as it is unfavourable to the higher intellectual life and the arts and sciences".
Schopenhauer, by his own admission, did not give much thought to politics, and several times he writes proudly 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". He wrote many disparaging remarks about Germany and the Germans. A typical example is, "For a German it is even good to have somewhat lengthy words in his mouth, for he thinks slowly, and they give him time to reflect."
Schopenhauer attributed civilizational primacy to the northern "white races" due to their sensitivity and creativity (except for the ancient Egyptians and Hindus, whom he saw as equal):
The highest civilization and culture, apart from the ancient Hindus and Egyptians, are found exclusively among the white races; and even with many dark peoples, the ruling caste or race is fairer in colour than the rest and has, therefore, evidently immigrated, for example, the Brahmans, the Incas, and the rulers of the South Sea Islands. All this is due to the fact that necessity is the mother of invention because those tribes that emigrated early to the north, and there gradually became white, had to develop all their intellectual powers and invent and perfect all the arts in their struggle with need, want and misery, which in their many forms were brought about by the climate. This they had to do in order to make up for the parsimony of nature and out of it all came their high civilization.
Despite this, he was adamantly against differing treatment of races, was fervently anti-slavery, and supported the abolitionist movement in the United States. He describes the treatment of "[our] innocent black brothers whom force and injustice have delivered into [the slave-master's] devilish clutches" as "belonging to the blackest pages of mankind's criminal record".
Schopenhauer additionally maintained a marked metaphysical and political anti-Judaism. Schopenhauer argued that Christianity constituted a revolt against what he styled the materialistic basis of Judaism, exhibiting an Indian-influenced ethics reflecting the Aryan-Vedic theme of spiritual "self-conquest". This he saw as opposed to what he held to be the ignorant drive toward earthly utopianism and superficiality of a worldly "Jewish" spirit:
While all other religions endeavor to explain to the people by symbols the metaphysical significance of life, the religion of the Jews is entirely immanent and furnishes nothing but a mere war-cry in the struggle with other nations.
The State, Schopenhauer claimed, punishes criminals to prevent future crimes. It does so by placing "beside every possible motive for committing a wrong a more powerful motive for leaving it undone, in the inescapable punishment. Accordingly, the criminal code is as complete a register as possible of counter-motives to all criminal actions that can possibly be imagined ..." He claimed this doctrine was not original to him. Previously, it appeared in the writings of Plato,Seneca, Hobbes, Pufendorf, and Anselm Feuerbach.
Views on women
In Schopenhauer's 1851 essay On Women, he expressed his opposition to what he called "Teutonico-Christian stupidity" of reflexive unexamined reverence ("abgeschmackten Weiberveneration") for the female. Schopenhauer wrote that "Women 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." He opined that women are deficient in artistic faculties and sense of justice, and expressed opposition to monogamy. Indeed, Rodgers and Thompson in Philosophers Behaving Badly call Schopenhauer "a misogynist without rival in ... Western philosophy". He claimed that "woman is by nature meant to obey". The essay does give some compliments, however: that "women are decidedly more sober in their judgment than [men] are", and are more sympathetic to the suffering of others.
Schopenhauer's controversial writings have influenced many, from Friedrich Nietzsche to nineteenth-century feminists. Schopenhauer's 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.
When the elderly Schopenhauer sat for a sculpture portrait by the Prussian sculptor Elisabet Ney in 1859, he was much impressed by the young woman's wit and independence, as well as by her skill as a visual artist. After his time with Ney, he told Richard Wagner's friend Malwida von Meysenbug, "I have not yet spoken my last word about women. I believe that if a woman succeeds in withdrawing from the mass, or rather raising herself above the mass, she grows ceaselessly and more than a man."
Heredity and eugenics
Schopenhauer viewed personality and intellect as being inherited. He quotes Horace's saying, "From the brave and good are the brave descended" (Odes, iv, 4, 29) and Shakespeare's line from Cymbeline, "Cowards father cowards, and base things sire base" (IV, 2) to reinforce his hereditarian argument. Mechanistically, Schopenhauer believed that a person inherits his level of intellect through his mother, and personal character through one's father. This belief in heritability of traits informed Schopenhauer's view of love – placing it at the highest level of importance. For Schopenhauer the "final aim of all love intrigues, be they comic or tragic, is really of more importance than all other ends in human life. What it all turns upon is nothing less than the composition of the next generation. ... It is not the weal or woe of any one individual, but that of the human race to come, which is here at stake." This view of the importance for the species of whom we choose to love was reflected in his views on eugenics or good breeding. Here Schopenhauer wrote:
With our knowledge of the complete unalterability both of character and of mental faculties, we are led to the view that a real and thorough improvement of the human race might be reached not so much from outside as from within, not so much by theory and instruction as rather by the path of generation. Plato had something of the kind in mind when, in the fifth book of his Republic, he explained his plan for increasing and improving his warrior caste. If we could castrate all scoundrels and stick all stupid geese in a convent, and give men of noble character a whole harem, and procure men, and indeed thorough men, for all girls of intellect and understanding, then a generation would soon arise which would produce a better age than that of Pericles.
In another context, Schopenhauer reiterated his eugenic thesis: "If you want Utopian plans, I would say: the only solution to the problem is the despotism of the wise and noble members of a genuine aristocracy, a genuine nobility, achieved by mating the most magnanimous men with the cleverest and most gifted women. This proposal constitutes my Utopia and my Platonic Republic." Analysts (e.g., Keith Ansell-Pearson) have suggested that Schopenhauer's anti-egalitarianist sentiment and his support for eugenics influenced the neo-aristocratic philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche, who initially considered Schopenhauer his mentor.
As a consequence of his monistic philosophy, Schopenhauer was very concerned about the welfare of animals. For him, all individual animals, including humans, are essentially the same, being phenomenal manifestations of the one underlying Will. The word "will" designated, for him, force, power, impulse, energy, and desire; it is the closest word we have that can signify both the real essence of all external things and also our own direct, inner experience. Since every living thing possesses will, then humans and animals are fundamentally the same and can recognize themselves in each other. For this reason, he claimed that a good person would have sympathy for animals, who are our fellow sufferers.
Compassion for animals is intimately associated with goodness of character, and it may be confidently asserted that he who is cruel to living creatures cannot be a good man.
— On the basis of morality, § 19</ref>
Nothing leads more definitely to a recognition of the identity of the essential nature in animal and human phenomena than a study of zoology and anatomy.
— On the basis of morality, chapter 8
The assumption that animals are without rights and the illusion that our treatment of them has no moral significance is a positively outrageous example of Western crudity and barbarity. Universal compassion is the only guarantee of morality.
— On the basis of morality, chapter 8
In 1841, he praised the establishment, in London, of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and also the Animals' Friends Society in Philadelphia. Schopenhauer even went so far as to protest against the use of the pronoun "it" in reference to animals because it led to the treatment of them as though they were inanimate things. To reinforce his points, Schopenhauer referred to anecdotal reports of the look in the eyes of a monkey who had been shot and also the grief of a baby elephant whose mother had been killed by a hunter.
He was very attached to his succession of pet poodles. Schopenhauer criticized Spinoza's belief that animals are to be used as a mere means for the satisfaction of humans.
Views on pederasty
In the third, expanded edition of The World as Will and Representation (1859), Schopenhauer added an appendix to his chapter on the Metaphysics of Sexual Love. He wrote that pederasty did have the benefit of preventing ill-begotten children. Concerning this, he stated that "the vice we are considering appears to work directly against the aims and ends of nature, and that in a matter that is all important and of the greatest concern to her it must in fact serve these very aims, although only indirectly, as a means for preventing greater evils". Schopenhauer ends the appendix with the statement that "by expounding these paradoxical ideas, I wanted to grant to the professors of philosophy a small favour. I have done so by giving them the opportunity of slandering me by saying that I defend and commend pederasty."
Intellectual interests and affinities
Schopenhauer read the Latin translation of the ancient Hindu texts, The Upanishads, which French writer Anquetil du Perron had translated from the Persian translation of Prince Dara Shikoh entitled Sirre-Akbar ("The Great Secret"). He was so impressed by their philosophy that he called them "the production of the highest human wisdom", and believed they contained superhuman concepts. The Upanishads was a great source of inspiration to Schopenhauer. Writing about them, he said:
It is the most satisfying and elevating reading (with the exception of the original text) which is possible in the world; it has been the solace of my life and will be the solace of my death.
It is well known that the book Oupnekhat (Upanishad) always lay open on his table, and he invariably studied it before sleeping at night. He called the opening up of Sanskrit literature "the greatest gift of our century" and predicted that the philosophy and knowledge of the Upanishads would become the cherished faith of the West.
Schopenhauer was first introduced to the 1802 Latin Upanishad translation through Friedrich Majer. They met during the winter of 1813–1814 in Weimar at the home of Schopenhauer's mother according to the biographer Safranski. Majer was a follower of Herder, and an early Indologist. Schopenhauer did not begin a serious study of the Indic texts, however, until the summer of 1814. Sansfranski maintains that between 1815 and 1817, Schopenhauer had another important cross-pollination with Indian thought in Dresden. This was through his neighbor of two years, Karl Christian Friedrich Krause. Krause was then a minor and rather unorthodox philosopher who attempted to mix his own ideas with that of ancient Indian wisdom. Krause had also mastered Sanskrit, unlike Schopenhauer, and the two developed a professional relationship. It was from Krause that Schopenhauer learned meditation and received the closest thing to expert advice concerning Indian thought.
Most noticeable, in the case of Schopenhauer’s work, was the significance of the Chandogya Upanishad, whose Mahavakya, Tat Tvam Asi is mentioned throughout The World as Will and Representation.
Schopenhauer noted a correspondence between his doctrines and the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism. Similarities centered on the principles that life involves suffering, that suffering is caused by desire (taṇhā), and that the extinction of desire leads to liberation. Thus three of the four "truths of the Buddha" correspond to Schopenhauer's doctrine of the will. In Buddhism, however, while greed and lust are always unskillful, desire is ethically variable – it can be skillful, unskillful, or neutral.
For Schopenhauer, Will had ontological primacy over the intellect; in other words, desire is understood to be prior to thought. Schopenhauer felt this was similar to notions of puruṣārtha or goals of life in VedāntaHinduism.
In Schopenhauer's philosophy, denial of the will is attained by either:
- personal experience of an extremely great suffering that leads to loss of the will to live; or
- knowledge of the essential nature of life in the world through observation of the suffering of other people.
However, Buddhist nirvāṇa is not equivalent to the condition that Schopenhauer described as denial of the will. Nirvāṇa is not the extinguishing of the person as some Western scholars have thought, but only the "extinguishing" (the literal meaning of nirvana) of the flames of greed, hatred, and delusion that assail a person's character. Occult historian Joscelyn Godwin (born 1945) stated, "It was Buddhism that inspired the philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer, and, through him, attracted Richard Wagner." This Orientalism reflected the struggle of the German Romantics, in the words of Leon Poliakov, to "free themselves from Judeo-Christian fetters". In contradistinction to Godwin's claim that Buddhism inspired Schopenhauer, the philosopher himself made the following statement in his discussion of religions:
If I wished to take the results of my philosophy as the standard of truth, I should have to concede to Buddhism pre-eminence over the others. In any case, it must be a pleasure to me to see my doctrine in such close agreement with a religion that the majority of men on earth hold as their own, for this numbers far more followers than any other. And this agreement must be yet the more pleasing to me, inasmuch as in my philosophizing I have certainly not been under its influence [emphasis added]. For up till 1818, when my work appeared, there was to be found in Europe only a very few accounts of Buddhism.
Buddhist philosopher Nishitani Keiji, however, sought to distance Buddhism from Schopenhauer. While Schopenhauer's philosophy may sound rather mystical in such a summary, his methodology was resolutely empirical, rather than speculative or transcendental:
Philosophy ... is 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.
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.
The argument that Buddhism affected Schopenhauer's philosophy more than any other Dharmic faith loses more credence when viewed in light of the fact that Schopenhauer did not begin a serious study of Buddhism until after the publication of The World as Will and Representation in 1818. Scholars have started to revise earlier views about Schopenhauer's discovery of Buddhism. Proof of early interest and influence, however, appears in Schopenhauer's 1815/16 notes (transcribed and translated by Urs App) about Buddhism. They are included in a recent case study that traces Schopenhauer's interest in Buddhism and documents its influence. Other scholarly work questions how similar Schopenhauer's philosophy actually is to Buddhism.
Schopenhauer had a wide range of interests, from science and opera to occultism and literature.
In his student years Schopenhauer went more often to lectures in the sciences than philosophy. He kept a strong interest as his personal library contained near to 200 books of scientific literature at his death, and his works refer to scientific titles not found in the library.:170
Many evenings were spent in the theatre, opera and ballet; the operas of Mozart, Rossini and Bellini were especially esteemed. Schopenhauer considered music to be the highest art and played the flute during his whole life.:30
As a polyglot, the philosopher knew German, Italian, Spanish, French, English, Latin and ancient Greek, and he was an avid reader of poetry and literature. He particularly revered Goethe, Petrarch, Calderón and Shakespeare.