The Philosophy of Schopenhauer

The Philosophy of Schopenhauer

The Philosophy of Schopenhauer

The Philosophy of Schopenhauer

Synopsis

Dale Jacquette charts the development of Schopenhauer's ideas from the time of his early dissertation on The Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason through the two editions of his magnum opus The World as Will and Representation to his later collections of philosophical aphorisms and competition essays. Jacquette explores the central topics in Schopenhauer's philosophy including his metaphysics of the world as representation and Will, his so-called pessimistic philosophical appraisal of the human condition, his examination of the concept of death, his dualistic analysis of free will, and his simplified non-Kantian theory of morality. Jacquette shows how these many complex themes fit together in a unified portrait of Schopenhauer's philosophy. The synthesis of Plato, Kant and Buddhist and Hindu ideas is given particular attention as is his influence on Nietzsche, first a follower and then arch opponent of Schopenhauer's thought, and the early Wittgenstein.

Excerpt

I came to Schopenhauer indirectly through a prior interest in the philosophy of Wittgenstein. In particular, I wanted to understand what Wittgenstein means in Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus 6.4211, when he says that “Ethics is transcendent. Ethics and aesthetics are one.” The secondary literature hinted that Schopenhauer’s philosophy might provide the key. While this was a tantalizing clue, it did not by itself resolve my uncertainty, but only led to more and more careful reading and rereading of Schopenhauer’s works. It was not long in this process before my original motives for studying Schopenhauer ripened into a lasting involvement with all aspects of his thought on its own terms and for its own sake.

As an undergraduate I read Schopenhauer’s Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason and both volumes of The World as Will and Representation in translation. This first exposure to Schopenhauer gave me a rough idea of his philosophy and its relation to the philosophies of Plato and Kant, just as at the time I had only a rough idea of the philosophies of Plato and Kant. It was insufficient background later on to help me clarify what I now see as the early Wittgenstein’s debt to Schopenhauer’s transcendentalism, not only in the identification of ethics with aesthetics and his concept of the metaphysical subject or philosophical I, but in every aspect of his philosophical semantics and its applications in the Tractatus, including the sign–symbol distinction and picture theory of meaning.

What I discovered in reacquainting myself with Schopenhauer is the explanatory power of his dual aspect conception of the world as Will and representation. However useful the study of Schopenhauer has been to my understanding of later episodes in the history of philosophy, it is his philosophical system standing on its own that has meant increasingly more to my own reflections in metaphysics, ethics and aesthetics, and in my efforts to come to terms with all the comedy and tragedy of the human condition. Schopenhauer combines mid-nineteenth-century scientific philosophy with . . .

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