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The World as Will and Idea by Arthur Schopenhauer, Everyman (J.M. Dent), 1995, 336 ff. Eng. trans. by Jill Berman.
Schopenhauer's greatest work By Howard A. Jones
Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung (WWR) was published in 1819. Immanuel Kant, whose work greatly influenced Schopenhauer, had died in 1804. The other most influential philosopher in his life was Plato. The German word "Vorstellung" can be translated as "idea" or "notion", which highlights the development of the philosophy of Schopenhauer out of Plato's world of Ideas or Forms. But "Vorstellung" can also be rendered as "representation", and this meaning emphasises the inspiration Schopenhauer found in the eastern mystical concept of "maya".
Schopenhauer's home life was not a happy one. His mother was a romantic novelist and social butterfly; his father was a depressive who committed suicide when Schopenhauer was in his late teens. This background greatly influenced Schopenhauer whose major work is imbued with a spirit of deep pessimism. Readers would benefit from reading, or reading about, Schopenhauer's doctoral thesis "On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason" before tackling WWR as the thesis work is referred to several times and informs Schopenhauer's interpretation of the work of other philosophers.
WWR is written in four Books. Book 1 deals with the world as representation, that is, all we can know of the world is what we glean from the images or representations presented to the senses, and the work opens with the statement `The world is my idea'. Book 2 is really the core of the work - the world as will. It is here that Kant's influence is most keenly felt since Schopenhauer himself, at least in Volume 1 of his work, regarded der Wille as the equivalent of Kant's Ding an sich - the thing-in-itself - the unknowable noumenal aspect of objects in the material world.
Book 3 gives us Schopenhauer's views on art and `the Idea independent of the principle of sufficient reason'. This is quite an extended discussion, though it is not all self-consistent. The final Book is probably the most pessimistic of them all. Although it describes der Wille as the "will to life", Wille zum Leben, a concept that had a profound effect on the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche, it is essentially an evil or demonic force that drives us on continually without our ever gaining satisfaction. The only possibility for release for Schopenhauer is through art and music (he was a great opera lover and played the flute himself).
This is not an easy book to read or interpret but if you are strong enough to rise above its over-riding pessimism it contains many interesting and challenging ideas. Just as Schopenhauer was a great admirer of Plato and Kant, so he despised the philosophies of Fichte and Hegel: this work is the antithesis of Hegel's developing Geist, inspiration of the world.
Dr Howard A. Jones is the author of The Thoughtful Guide to God (2006) and The Tao of Holism (2008), both published by O Books of Winchester, UK.
Schopenhauer: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
Amazing copy of the book. Some parts are abridged though so beware. However i think you should seriously consider if you want to read this book before buying because for me it completely disintegrated my confidence in perception and the confidence we can have in our ideas about reality. In other words it can get dark, and its a little bit of a hard read that can get boring at times.
Excellent value. Glad I found it on the book description by Amazon. Hard back, will outlast my lifetime, and easily transferable to my families libraries. When seeking reality, personal interpretations, are determined by your past conditioning. But by reading and applying the concepts illuminated in this volume, you can challenge the value instilled by your so called peers, and gradually lift the veil of illusion, and concealment. RDR
This is a great and rare book by a great and rare man. It’s a shame Schopenhauer died when he did, at the age of 72, in 1860, and just a year after an equally great and rare man, Charles Darwin, published another great and rare book, his “On the Origin of Species”. Schopenhauer undoubtedly would have revised some or maybe much of what he had written had he been familiar with Darwin’s book on evolution. Both men have been much praised and ridiculed over the years as it usually is when truth is praised above all else no matter how disturbing or disconcerting that truth might be. I praise Schopenhauer’s and Darwin’s honest and gutsy efforts to face the truth about life. Schopenhauer did so by way of philosophy and Darwin by way of science. Darwin’s contribution to human knowledge must be either accepted or rejected and it is generally accepted by lovers of science and rejected by fundamentalist Christians, and no matter how much evidence there is to support it. Schopenhauer’s pessimistic philosophy was rejected by just as great a philosopher and genius, Friedrich Nietzsche, who was just 16 when Schopenhauer died. I don’t know just when Nietzsche read Schopenhauer but I suspect he was much impressed by the essential truth Schopenhauer said about life. And there’s much about life to be pessimistic about. I imagine Nietzsche agreed with much of Schopenhauer’s views but could not quite accept it all in toto. The pronounced pessimist will always say there’s a cloud behind every silver lining while the “incurable” optimist, who cannot wholly and truthfully disagree with the pessimist, will add something just as truthful and profound and this is that behind that “cloud” there’s always another silver lining. So since it makes just as much sense when all is said and done to be an optimist as it does to be a pessimist, why not take the happier road and be an optimist? Even Schopenhauer says of happiness on page 200 of his “The World as Will and Idea”, “If the intervals between desire and its gratification are neither too short nor too long, the suffering caused by each are reduced to a minimum, and this makes for the happiest life.” This from Schopenhauer! I sometimes suspect even Schopenhauer in his heart of hearts was not the total pessimist so many people make him out to be, and not just because he spoke of a “happiest life”. After all he loved music and loved to play the flute and loved all the arts. In his own special way he found his own special happiness in what he called thIs, “the worst of all possible worlds”. Schopenhauer was a lover of the truth no matter how unpleasant that truth might seem to be, as was Darwin and Nietzsche as well. This is why I have such great respect and even love for these three great men and others like them, and even great women also, who seek the truth or something at least approaching the truth, above all else.