Arthur Schopenhauer (22 February 1788 – 21 September 1860) was a German philosopher known for his pessimism and philosophical clarity. Schopenhauer's most influential work, The World as Will and Representation, claimed that the world is fundamentally what humans recognize in themselves as their will.
Schopenhauer, on the other hand, saw humanity as guided by something other than reason. He recognized that people were driven by biological urges, including sexual urges, and that humanity was driven by a capacity for rationalization -- excuses rather than pure or detached logic applied to some kind of absolute. To described humanity's strivings outside of some kind of pure reason, Schopenhauer used the word "will." This was the "will" in the title to what would be his best known book, The World as Will and Idea.
Tragedy is for Schopenhauer the highest poetical art: it presents the terrible side of life, the pain and evil, the want and suffering. Tragedy presents the war of Will with itself. This knowledge produces a quieting effect on the will, so that resignation takes place--not a surrender of the things of life, but of the will to live. This is not suicide; rather it is like the middle way of the Buddha--a renunciation of fear and desire which allows one to become united with the eternal.
Schopenhauer was an atheist who was influenced by Buddhist and Indian philosophy. He believed in the reality of the world, but thought that people’s view of it was illusory. [...] People attempt to maintain the illusion that their life has meaning, but their movement from one desire to another is the basis of their motivation. The way out of this unsatisfactory state of being is either through art, aesthetic pleasure, contemplation, or ascetic self denial.
The kinship of music and philosophy Schopenhauer shows strikingly after reminding us again that he has "been trying to bring out clearly that music expresses in a perfectly universal language, in a homogeneous material, mere tones, and with the greatest determinateness and truth, the inner nature, the in-itself of the world, which we think under the concept will, because will is its most direct manifestation..."
On the basis of his metaphysics, Schopenhauer was led to advocate quietism and resignation as an attitude to life. As is well known, Nietzsche held Schopenhauer's views on this and other matters in far higher esteem at the start of his intellectual career than he did at its end.
Schopenhauer possessed great literary and rhetorical skills in his presentation of a bewitching philosophical construct with perceptive metaphors and penetrating insights that have been echoed, reinterpreted and elaborated by subsequent thinkers and artists in the late 19th and 20th century, and indeed far beyond the tiny circle of the professors of philosophy. In the rogues gallery of intellectuals and artists we find Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, Freud, Richard Wagner and Mann, both Russian novelists Turgenev and Tolstoy, Proust, Zola, Mallarme and, most of all, Borges.
This journey [throughout Europe] became an important marker in Arthur Schopenhauer's life as he intended that the observation was to be his first goal for himself. He experienced the European culture in the way of the interested traveller, and developed his ability further to express the observed to himself and in written travel descriptions. A few experiences were of a more rough kind, first and foremost that he witnessed the public hanging of three men, together with the sight of misery of the galley slaves at a galley, standing firm at the quay, which worked as a prison. These experiences consolidated his pacifist, as it did his pessimist attitude, even more.
Schopenhauer was born, then, into a place without warmth or security. He records an occasion when, his parents having left the house, he experienced extreme anxiety that they would never return. Anxiety remained with him all his life: ‘I always’, he remarks with characteristic honesty, have an anxious concern that causes me to look for dangers when none exists.’
[Schopenhauer's] central concept of the will leads him to regard human beings as striving irrationally and suffering in a world that has no purpose, a condition redeemed by the elevation of aesthetic consciousness and finally overcome by the will's self-denial and a mystical vision of the self as one with the world as a whole.
For decades, Schopenhauer had been viewed by Anglo-American analytic philosophers as a source for pointedly poignant observations on human life as a figure of literary and not philosophical interest. But the tide has changed.
The fact that Schopenhauer treats Western and Eastern philosophies as one body of knowledge, and shows a deep appreciation of the thought systems of Hinduism and Buddhism, shows a cross-cultural approach in his philosophical metrology which was way ahead of his times.
The kernel of his thought is to be found in his magnum opus, The World as Will and representation, which was published in 1818 - when Schopenhauer was hardly 30 years old. This extraordinary work is undoubtedly one of the richest philosophical books in Western history. It not merely offers a compacted metaphysics of the will - the blind drive that pervades everything - but also expounds intriguing theories of nature, the self, art. and scientific, religious, aesthetic, and ethical values, and yields a fascinating naturalistic account of knowledge and perception…
Arthur Schopenhauer, the German philosopher who lived from 1788 to 1860, is famous amongst students of philosophy as the 'philosopher of the will', who said that underlying the world of experience was an incessant, striving 'force'. He is likewise famous as the 'philosopher of pessimism' or the 'philosopher of disenchantment' because of his account of the suffering and misery in the world.
Arthur Schopenhauer had to be patient, thought a long life, while in the outside world history was accelerating and the 'wild years of philosophy' were culminating in the revolutionary events of 1848. The 'wild years' ignored this philosopher of 'weeping and gnashing of teeth', and of the ancient art of the contemplative life which is anxious to attain tranquility. They ignored the philosopher who, far ahead of his time, brought together the three great affronts to human megalomania [cosmological, biological, and psychological] and thought them through to the end.