[Arthur Schopenhauer]

Title: Arthur Schopenhauer

Author: Jules Lunteschütz

Year: 1855


Arthur Schopenhauer was born on 22 February 1788 in Danzig, Prussia (nowdays Gdańsk, Poland), one of the greatest philosophers ever lived.He was the son of Johanna Schopenhauer (née Trosiener) and Heinrich Floris Schopenhauer, both descendants of wealthy German families. In 1805, Arthur’s father ended his life by committing suicide. From then on, his mother took over his upbringing, and in 1807, Arthur was enrolled in a gymnasium in Gotha. 

 In 1809, Arthur was accepted at the University of Göttingen, where he pursued a degree in medicine. He also studied philosophy under the direction of G.E. Schulze, who regularly assigned him philosophical readings, his interests were especially peaked by the works of Plato and Immanuel Kant, and they had a significant influence in shaping his ideologies.

In 1813, Schopenhauer received his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Jena.

In 1816, Schopenhauer published his most remarkable and highly applauded work, titled ”The World as Will and Representation”, which has influenced economic thought for centuries.

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.

 After an unsuccessful period of lectureship in Berlin prior to 1831 he settled in Frankfurt am Main, where he led a solitary life and became deeply involved in the study of Buddhist and Hindu philosophies and mysticism where he seems to have found echoes of the approach to philosophy that he was independently working on.

He published the essay ‘On the Freedom of the Will’ in which he tried to answer the academic question “Is it possible to demonstrate human free will from self-consciousness?” which was posed by the Royal Norwegian Society of Sciences in 1839.

He published a second edition of ”The World as Will and Representation” in 1844. The first was a virtual reprint of the original, and the second was a collection of essays expanding topics covered in the first. The important topics covered in the work were his reflections on death and his theory on sexuality.

He devoted his time to research and reading, and in 1847, he published a revised version of his early works, titled On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason”.

In 1851, he wrote an essay ‘Of Women’ in which he described the women as less reasonable and lacking the capacity to make decisions. In the essay he also referred to women as the “weaker sex”.

Though he enjoyed a robust health, but in 1860 his health began to deteriorate and he died of heart failure on 21 September 1860 while sitting at home on his couch with his cat.

Schopenhauer never married but had a relationship with Caroline Richter, an opera singer, beginning in 1821.

He believed that the actions of all human beings lacked direction and that desire is the root of all evils. According to him, pain and suffering are directly proportional to desire as it creates frustration upon the failure of attaining a particular goal or object.

He was of the opinion that desire never ends which means after achieving something the desire for a new goal creeps in. This is a cycle which continues for an indefinite period..

This great philosopher’s works and teachings inspired a number of philosophers – Richard Wagner, Friedrich Nietzsche, Jorge Luis Borges and to some extent Sigmund Freud.