Arthur Schopenhauer

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Schopenhauer, Arthur

(är`to͝or shō`pənhou'ər), 1788–1860, German philosopher, b. Danzig (now Gdansk). The bias of his own temperament and experience was germinal to the development of his celebrated philosophy of pessimism, which he presented with such clarity and skill as to gain eventual recognition as one of the great philosophers. He studied at Göttingen, Berlin, and Jena, and he traveled throughout Europe. In Berlin he opposed the teachings of G. W. Hegel and attempted unsuccessfully to establish himself as a lecturer. After 1831, Schopenhauer lived and worked in retirement, chiefly in Frankfurt am Main. He had no friends, never married, and was estranged from his mother, a woman of considerable intellectual ability. Schopenhauer's most important work is The World as Will and Representation (1818, tr. 1958). His other works, mainly elaboration and commentary upon his original thesis, include On the Will in Nature (1836, tr. 1889), The Basis of Morality (1841, tr. 1903), Essays from the Parerga and Paralipomena (1851, tr. 1951), and many lesser essays. Schopenhauer considered himself the true successor of Immanuel Kant. However, he interpreted Kant's unknowable thing-in-itself as a blind, impelling force that is manifest in individuals as a will to live. Intellect and consciousness, in Schopenhauer's view, arise as instruments in the service of the will. Conflict between individual wills is the cause of continual strife and frustration. The world, therefore, is a world of unsatisfied wants and of pain. Pleasure is simply the absence of pain; unable to endure, it brings only ennui. The only possible escape is the renunciation of desire, a negation of the will reminiscent of Buddhism. Temporary relief, however, can be found in philosophy and art. Schopenhauer held that music was unique among the art forms in that it expressed will directly. The ethical side of Schopenhauer's philosophy is based upon sympathy, where the moral will, feeling another's hurt as its own, makes an effort to relieve the pain. His stress on the strength of the impelling will influenced Friedrich Nietzsche and the psychology of Sigmund Freud.


See biographies by D. W. Hamlyn (1985) and D. E. Cartwright (2010); P. Gardiner, Schopenhauer (1963); B. Magee, The Philosophy of Schopenhauer (1988); E. von der Luft, ed., Schopenhauer: New Essays in Honor of His 200th Birthday (1988).

Schopenhauer, Arthur


Born Feb. 22, 1788, in Danzig (now Gdansk); died Sept. 21, 1860, in Frankfurt am Main. German idealist philosopher.

In 1820, Schopenhauer became a privatdocent at the University of Berlin, and from 1831 he lived in Frankfurt am Main. His principal work is The World as Will and Idea (vols. 1–2,1819–44). The Kantian a priori forms—time, space, and the categories of reason—were reduced by Schopenhauer to a single fundamental law of sufficient foundation. Subject and object are considered as corelative factors that make up the world as the “idea” (Vorstellung) of the subject. On the other hand, the world taken as a “thing in itself” is represented in Schopenhauer as a blind, irreducible “will to life,” which is fractionated into an infinite multiplicity of “objectifications.” Peculiar to each objectification is a striving toward absolute domination, which is expressed in an unceasing “war of all against all.” At the same time the multiplicity of the objectifications of the will also exists as a hierarchical entity, reflecting the hierarchy of ideas (understood in the Platonic sense), that is, of adequate objectifications of the will. The highest degree in the series of objectifications of the will is man—a creature endowed with a rational awareness. Each cognizant individual is aware of his own will to life, and all other individuals exist in his idea as something dependent on his being; this serves as the source of man’s limitless egoism.

The social organization (the state) does not abolish egoism, according to Schopenhauer, since it is merely a system of balanced private wills. The overcoming of egoistic impulses is carried out in the sphere of art and morals. Art is the creation of genius, based on the capacity of “disinterested contemplation,” in which the subject acts as a “pure, will-less” subject and the object functions as the idea. The highest of the arts is music, which has as its goal not the reproduction of ideas but rather the direct reflection of the will itself.

In emphasizing the illusory nature of happiness and the inevitability of suffering, rooted in the very “will to life,” with its senselessness and eternal dissatisfaction, Schopenhauer—in contrast to Leibniz—called the existing world the “worst of all possible worlds,” and he designated his own doctrine as “pessimism.” Schopenhauer considered the true foundation of morality to be the sense of compassion, owing to which the deceptive appearance of individuality is dissolved in the awareness of the unity of all being.

Schopenhauer’s irrationalistic and pessimistic philosophy, which was not popular during his lifetime, found wide acceptance during the second half of the 19th century; it became one of the sources for the philosophy of life and was a predecessor of a number of the concepts of depth psychology (the doctrine of the unconscious). Schopenhauer’s influence was felt by R. Wagner, E. von Hartmann, F. Nietzsche, and T. Mann, among others. In 1911 the Schopenhauer Society was founded in Frankfurt am Main.


Sämtliche Werke, vols. 1–7. Wiesbaden, 1946–59.
Der handschriftliche Nachlass, vols. 1–5. Frankfurt am Main, 1966–75.
In Russian translation:
Poln. sobr. soch., vols. 1–4. Moscow, 1900–10.


Fischer, K. A. Shopengauer. Moscow, 1896. (Translated from German.)
Nietzsche, F. “Shopengauer kak vospitatel’.” Poln. sobr. soch., vol. 2. Moscow, 1909.
Volkelt, J. A. Shopengauer, ego lichnsot’ i uchenie. St. Petersburg, 1902. (Translated from German.)
Gruzenberg, S. O. A. Shopengauer: Lichnost, myshlenie i miroponimanie. St. Petersburg, 1912.
Asmus, V. F. Problema intuitsii v filosofii i matematike. Moscow, 1953. Chapter 4.
Bykhovskii, B. E. Shopengauer. Moscow, 1975.
Simmel, G. Schopenhauer und Nietzsche, 3rd ed. Munich-Leipzig, 1923.
Pfeiffer, K. Schopenhauer. [Berlin] 1943.
Zint, H. Schopenhauer als Erlebnis. Munich-Basel, 1954.
Von der Aktualität Schopenhauers. Frankfurt am Main, 1972.
Hübscher, A. Denker gegen den Strom. Schopenhauer: Gestern-Heute-Morgen. Bonn, 1973.


Schopenhauer, Arthur

(1788–1860) German philosopher known for philosophy of pessimism. [Ger. Hist.: NCE, 2447]