Arthur Schopenhauer (22 February 1788 – 21 September 1860) was
a German philosopher known for his atheisticpessimism and philosophical clarity. At age 25,
he published his doctoral dissertation, On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, which examined the fundamental question of whether reason alone can unlock answers about the world.
Schopenhauer's most influential work, The World as Will and Representation, emphasized the
role of man's basic motivation, which Schopenhauer called will. His analysis of will led him to
the conclusion that emotional, physical, and sexual desires can never be fulfilled. Consequently, he favored a lifestyle of negating human desires, similar to the teachings of ancient Greek Stoic philosophers, Buddhism, and Vedanta.
Schopenhauer's metaphysical analysis of will, his views on human motivation and desire, and
his aphoristic writing style influenced many well-known thinkers including Friedrich Nietzsche,
 Richard Wagner, Ludwig Wittgenstein,Erwin Schrödinger, Albert Einstein, Sigmund
Freud, Otto Rank, Carl Gustav Jung, Leo Tolstoy, and Jorge Luis Borges.
Arthur Schopenhauer was born in the city of Danzig (Gdańsk) as the son of Heinrich Floris
Schopenhauer and Johanna Schopenhauer, both descendants of wealthy
German Patrician families. When the Kingdom of Prussia acquired the Polish-Lithuanian
Commonwealth city of Danzig in 1793, Schopenhauer's family moved to Hamburg. In 1805,
Schopenhauer's father might have committed suicide. Schopenhauer's mother Johanna
shortly after moved to Weimar, then the centre of German literature, to pursue her writing
career. After one year, Schopenhauer left the family business in Hamburg to join her.Schopenhauer became 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 Kant. In Berlin, from 1811 to
1812, he had attended lectures by the prominent post-Kantian philosopher J. G. Fichte and
the theologian Schleiermacher.
In 1814, Schopenhauer began his seminal work The World as Will and Representation (Die
Welt als Wille und Vorstellung). He would finish it in 1818 and publish it the following year. In Dresden in 1819, Schopenhauer fathered an illegitimate child 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 university philosophy.While in Berlin, Schopenhauer was named as a defendant in an action at law initiated by a
woman named Caroline Marquet. She asked for damages, alleging that Schopenhauer had pushed her. According to Schopenhauer's court testimony, she deliberately annoyed him by
 Marquet alleged that the philosopher raising her voice while standing right outside his door.
had assaulted and battered her after she refused to leave his doorway. Her companion testified that she saw Marquet prostrate outside his apartment. Because Marquet won the
lawsuit, he made payments to her for the next twenty years. When she died, he wrote on a
copy of her death certificate, Obit anus, abit onus ("The old woman dies, the burden flies").
In 1821, he fell in love with nineteen-year old opera singer, Caroline Richter (called Medon), and had a relationship with her for several years. He discarded marriage plans, however, writing, "Marrying means to halve one's rights and double one's duties", and "Marrying means, to grasp blindfolded into a sack hoping to find out an eel out of an assembly of snakes." When he was forty-three years old, seventeen-year old Flora Weiss recorded
rejecting him in her diary.
Schopenhauer had a notably strained relationship with his mother Johanna Schopenhauer. After his father's death, Arthur Schopenhauer endured two long years of drudgery as a merchant, in honor of his dead father. Afterward, his mother retired to Weimar, and Arthur dedicated himself wholly to studies in the gymnasium of Gotha. After he left it in disgust after seeing one of the masters lampooned, he went to live with his mother. But by that time she had already opened her infamous salon, and Arthur was not compatible with the vain, ceremonious ways of the salon. He was also disgusted by the ease with which Johanna had forgotten his father's memory. Therefore, he gave university life a shot. There, he wrote his first book, On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason. She informed him that
the book was incomprehensible and it was unlikely that anyone would ever buy a copy. In a fit of temper Arthur told her that his work would be read long after the rubbish she wrote would
have been totally forgotten.
In 1831, a cholera epidemic broke out in Berlin and Schopenhauer left the city. Schopenhauer settled permanently inFrankfurt 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 heart failure on 21 September 1860, while sitting in his armchair at home. He was 72.Thought
Philosophy of the "will"
A key focus of Schopenhauer was his investigation of individual motivation. Before Schopenhauer, Hegel had popularized the concept of Zeitgeist, the idea that society
consisted of a collective consciousness which moved in a distinct direction, dictating the
actions of its members. Schopenhauer, a reader of both Kant and Hegel, criticized their logical optimism and the belief that individual morality could be determined by society and reason. Schopenhauer believed that humans were motivated only by their own basic desires,
 For Schopenhauer, human or Wille zum Leben (Will to Live), which directed all of mankind.
desire was futile, illogical, directionless, and, by extension, so was all human action in the world. To Schopenhauer, the Will is a metaphysical existence which controls not only the actions of individual, intelligent agents, but ultimately all observable phenomena. Will, for Schopenhauer, is what Kant called the "thing-in-itself".
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"). This is the next best way, short of not willing at all, which is the best way. Total absorption in the world as representation prevents a person from suffering the world as will. Art diverts the spectator's attention from the grave everyday world and lifts them into a world that consists of mere play of images. With music, the auditor becomes engrossed with a playful form of the will, which is normally deadly serious. Music was also given a
special status in Schopenhauer's aesthetics as it did not rely upon the medium of phenomenal representation. Music artistically presents the will itself, not the way that the will appears to an individual observer. According to Daniel Albright, "Schopenhauer thought that music was the only art that did not merely copy ideas, but actually embodied the will
Schopenhauer's moral theory proposed that of three primary moral
incentives, compassion, malice and egoism, compassion is the major motivator to moral
expression. Malice and egoism are corrupt alternatives.
According to Schopenhauer, whenever we make a choice, "we assume as necessary that that decision was preceded by something from which it ensued, and which we call the ground or
reason, or more accurately the motive, of the resultant action." Choices are not made
freely. Our actions are necessary and determined because "every human being, even every
animal, after the motive has appeared, must carry out the action which alone is in accordance
 A definite action inevitably results when a with his inborn and immutable character."
particular motive influences a person's given, unchangeable character. If there is no free will, should crimes be punished?
The State, Schopenhauer claimed, punishes criminals in order 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
Does the State seek revenge for a crime?
"…the law and its fulfillment, namely punishment, are directed essentially to the future, not to
the past. This distinguishes punishmentfrom revenge, for revenge is motivated by what has
happened, and hence by the past as such. All retaliation for wrong by inflicting a pain without any object for the future is revenge, and can have no other purpose than consolation for the suffering one has endured by the sight of the suffering one has caused in another. Such a thing is wickedness and cruelty, and cannot be ethically justified. …the object of punishment…is deterrence from crime…. Object and purpose for the future distinguish punishment from revenge, and punishment has this object only when it is inflicted in
fulfillment of a law. Only in this way does it proclaim itself to be inevitable and infallible for every future case; and thus it obtains for the law the power to deter…."
Should capital punishment be legal? "For safeguarding the lives of citizens," he asserted,
"capital punishment is therefore absolutely necessary.""The murderer," wrote
Schopenhauer, " who is condemned to death according to the law must, it is true, be now used as a mere means, and with complete right. For public security, which is the principal object of the State, is disturbed by him; indeed it is abolished if the law remains unfulfilled. The murderer, his life, his person, must be the means of fulfilling the law, and thus of re–
establishing public security." Schopenhauer disagreed with those who would abolish capital
punishment. "Those who would like to abolish it should be given the answer: 'First remove
murder from the world, and then capital punishment ought to follow.' "
People, according to Schopenhauer, cannot be improved. They can only be influenced by strong motives that overpower criminal motives. Schopenhauer declared that "real moral
reform is not at all possible, but only determent from the deed…."
He claimed that this doctrine was not original with him. Previously, it appeared in the writings
of Plato , Seneca, Hobbes, Pufendorf, and Anselm Feuerbach. Schopenhauer declared that
their teaching was corrupted by subsequent errors and therefore was in need of clarification.
Schopenhauer was perhaps even more influential in his treatment of man's psychology than
he was in the realm of philosophy.
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 gave a name to a force within man which he felt had invariably 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 and to reproduce.
Schopenhauer refused to conceive of love as either trifling or accidental, but rather understood it to be an immensely powerful force lying unseen within man's psyche and
dramatically shaping the world:
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 ...These ideas foreshadowed Darwin's discovery of evolution and Freud's concepts of
the libido and the unconscious mind.
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 did, however,
share the view of Thomas Hobbes on the necessity of the state, and of state violence, to
check the destructive tendencies innate to our species.
Schopenhauer, by his own admission, did not give much thought to politics, and several times he writes 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 possessed a distinctly hierarchical conception of the human races, attributing
civilizational primacy to the northern "white races" due to their sensitivity and creativity: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 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.
According to Bernard Bonnejean, Schopenhauer's politic and social theories represent the
first stage of a necessary awareness. For Huysmans, they would be a kind of catalyst, "
invisible to the layman ", between the black report of the French atheistic naturalism and the necessity of a Christian conversion :
Je me croyais loin de la religion pourtant. Je ne songeais pas que, de Schopenhauer que j'admirais plus que de raison, à l'Ecclésiaste, et auLivre de Job, il n'y avait qu'un pas. Les
prémisses sur le Pessimisme sont les mêmes, seulement lorsqu'il s'agit de conclure, le philosophe se dérobe. [...] L'Eglise, elle, explique les origines et les causes, signale les fins, présente les remèdes ; elle ne se contente pas de vous donner une consultation d'âme, elle vous traite et elle vous guérit alors que le médicastre allemand, après vous avoir bien
démontré que l'affection dont vous souffrez est incurable, vous tourne, en ricanant, le dos.I believed myself far from religion though. I never thought that I admired Schopenhauer's more than reason, Ecclesiasticus and the Book of Job, there was only one step. The premises of Pessimism are the same, only when it [is] concluded, the philosopher escapes. [...] The Church... explains the origins and causes, reporting purposes, has the medicines, [it] does not just give you a consultation of soul, [it] treats you and heal you while [the] German quack, after you have clearly demonstrated that the disease you have is incurable, turns his back on you, sniggering.
Views on women
In Schopenhauer's 1851 essay "Of Women" ("Über die Weiber", full text), he expressed his
opposition to what he called "Teutonico-Christian stupidity" on female affairs. He claimed that "woman is by nature meant to obey", and opposed Schiller's poem in honor of women,
"Würde der Frauen" ("Dignity of Women"). The essay does give two compliments, however: that "women are decidedly more sober in their judgment than [men] are" and are more sympathetic to the suffering of others. However, the latter was discounted as weakness rather than humanitarian virtue.
Schopenhauer's controversial writings have influenced many, from Friedrich Nietzsche to
nineteenth-century feminists. Schopenhauer's biologicalanalysis of the difference between
the sexes, and their separate roles in the struggle for survival and reproduction, anticipates some of the claims that were later ventured by sociobiologists and evolutionary
psychologists in the twentieth century.
After the elderly Schopenhauer sat for a sculpture portrait by Elisabet 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 believed that a person inherited level of intellect through one's mother, and
personal character through one's father. Schopenhauer 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. On the question of eugenics, 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 antidemocratic-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 advocacy of anti-egalitarianism and eugenics influenced the neo-
aristocratic philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche, who initially considered Schopenhauer his mentor.
As a consequence of his philosophy, Schopenhauer was very concerned about the welfare of animals. For him, all animals, including humans, are phenomenal manifestations of 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 everything is basically 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.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.
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.
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
Views on homosexuality and pederasty
Schopenhauer was also one of the first philosophers since the days of Greek philosophy to
address the subject of male homosexuality. In the third, expanded edition of The World as
Will and Representation (1856), Schopenhauer added an appendix to his chapter on the
"Metaphysics of Sexual Love". He also wrote that homosexuality did have the benefit of preventing ill-begotten children. Concerning this, he stated, "... 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."Shrewdly anticipating the
interpretive distortion on the part of the popular mind of his attempted scientificexplanation of
pederasty as a personal advocacy of a phenomenon Schopenhauer otherwise describes, in
terms of spiritual ethics, as an "objectionable aberration", Schopenhauer sarcastically concludes the appendix with the statement that "by expounding these paradoxical ideas, I wanted to grant to the professors of philosophy a small favour, for they are very disconcerted by the ever-increasing publicization of my philosophy which they so carefully concealed. I have done so by giving them the opportunity of slandering me by saying that I defend and
Intellectual interests and affinities
Schopenhauer read the Latin translation of the Upanishads which had been translated by
French writer Anquetil du Perron 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 considered them to contain superhuman conceptions. The Upanishads was a great source of inspiration to Schopenhauer, and 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 Sanfranski. 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
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, and that the extinction of desire leads to salvation. 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. In the Buddhist perspective, the enemy to be defeated
is craving rather than desire in general.
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 purushartha or goals of life in Vedanta Hinduism.
In Schopenhauer's philosophy, denial of the will is attained by either: