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Arthur Schopenhauer

Arthur Schopenhauer
Arthur Schopenhauer (February 22, 1788 - September 21, 1860) - was a native of Gdansk. His mother Johanna Schopenhauer was born in Gdansk (German name Danzig) and had become an author as well. Arthur was influenced by Schelling, called himself a Kantian, and despised Hegel -- he formulated a pessimistic philosophy that gained importance and support after the failure of the German and Austrian revolutions of 1848.

Schopenhauer's starting point was Kant's division of the universe into phenomenon and noumenon, claiming that the noumenon was will and the most important since it is the inner content and the driving force of the world. For Schopenhauer, human will had primacy over the intellect[?], and the striving will[?] was even more important. From this Schopenhauer devalued philosophy and logic for art because neither could prove the will. In "The World as Will and Representation[?]," Schopenhauer posited that humans living in the realm of objects[?] are living in the realm of desire[?], and thus are eternally tormented by that desire. For him, one way to escape this torment was art.

Through art, Schopenhauer thought, the thinking subject could be jarred out of their limited, individual perspective, to feel a sense of the universal directly --the "universal" in question, of course, was the will. The contest of personal desire with a world that was, by nature, inimical to its satisfaction is inevitably tragical; therefore, the highest place in art was given to tragedy. Music was also given a special status in Schopenhauer's aesthetics[?] as it did not rely upon the medium of representation to communicate a sense of the universal. Schopenhauer believed the function of art to be a meditation on the unity of human nature, and an attempt to either demonstrate or directly communicate to the audience a certain existential horror for which most forms of entertainment --including bad art-- only provided a distraction. A wide range of authors (from Thomas Hardy to Woody Allen) and artists were influenced by this system of aesthetics, and in the 20th century this area of Schopenhauer's work garnered more attention and praise than any other.

Schopenhauer's politics were, for the most part, a much-diminished echo of his system of ethics (the latter was 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 occupy about one fourth of his central work, The World as Will and Representation[?]). In occasional political comments in his Parerga and Paralimpomena[?] 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., a monarch. Schopenhauer did, however, share the view of Thomas Hobbes so far as 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 prideful boasts 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".

Schopenhauer is also famous for his essay Über die Weiber, in which 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. The essay also said that "women are decidedly more sober in their judgment than we are".

This polemic on female nature has since been fiercely attacked by feminists as misogynistic; some people nevertheless hold it to be accurate. In any case, the controversial writting has influenced many, from Nietzsche to 19th century feminists.

Major works

  • Über die vierfache Wurzel des Satzes vom zureichenden Grunde, 1813 (On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason)
  • Über das Sehn und die Farben, 1816 (On Vision and Colours)
  • Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung, 1818/1819, vol 2 1844 (The World as Will and Representation)
  • Über den Willen in der Natur, 1836 (On the Will in Nature)
  • Über die Freiheit des menschlichen Willens, 1839 (On Freedom of the Will)
  • Über die Grundlage der Moral, 1840 (On the Basis of Morality)
  • Parerga und Paralipomena, 1851

Works available on the Internet

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