'Studies in Pessimism'
By Arthur Schopenhauer (Author), T. Bailey Saunders (Translator)
Arthur Schopenhauer was a German philosopher. He is best known for his magnum opus, The World as Will and Representation, in which he argues that the phenomenal world is driven by a metaphysical will that perpetually and malignantly seeks satiation. He also wrote influentially on aesthetics, ethics, and religion. Transcendental idealism provided the basis for much of his thought, and his atheistic philosophy has been described as an exemplary manifestation of philosophical pessimism. Finding his conclusions to be compatible with those of much Eastern philosophy, his solutions to the problems of existence and suffering were consequently similar to those of Vedantic and Buddhist thinkers (e.g., asceticism). His doctoral dissertation, On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, examined the nature of epistemology and experience in the phenomenal world, and has been influential in the history of phenomenology. Schopenhauer's philosophy has proven influential in philosophy, art, psychology, and literature; thinkers who have cited his influence include Friedrich Nietzsche, Richard Wagner, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Erwin Schrödinger, Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Otto Rank, Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell, Leo Tolstoy, Thomas Mann, Thomas Ligotti, and Jorge Luis Borges, among others.
Schopenhauer was a contemporary of Hegel and strongly opposed to his idealism. He in fact developed what he called the metaphysics of the 'will' in order to oppose Hegelian idealism directly. Although not by any means as influential as Hegel at that time in Germany, he began to attract the attention of later existentialists in the 14/20th century. Schopenhauer began his studies as a physician and later on turned to the philosophy of both Plato and Kant. After finishing his studies, he went to Weimar where he met Goethe with whom he became good friends and was also introduced to the Vedanta and Hindu mysticism. He considered the Upanishads, the sacred scripture of Hinduism, as one of the foundations of his philosophy and he is the first major European philosopher in the modern period in which one can see the influence of Oriental thought. He supported Goethe against Newton in their debates over the nature of color.
Schopenhauer's major work is The World as Will and Idea in which he turned from the centrality of reason in Hegelian philosophy to the power of intuition, creativity and even the irrational. It is this aspect of his thought that has influenced modem existentialism as well as psychology and anthropology. Schopenhauer also exercised a great deal of influence on German arts and letters and was also one of the figures who attracted a number of Muslim thinkers and writers who had studied in Europe in the early part of this century.
(Seyyed Hossein Nasr)