Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) was one of the greatest writers and German philosophers of the nineteenth century. His work influenced figures as diverse as Wagner, Freud and Nietzsche. Best known as a pessimist, he was one of the few philosophers read and admired by Wittgenstein.

In this comprehensive introduction, Julian Young covers all the main aspects of Schopenhauer's philosophy. Beginning with an overview of Schopenhauer's life and work, he introduces the central aspects of his metaphysics fundamental to understanding his work as a whole: his philosophical idealism and debt to the philosophy of Kant; his attempt to answer the question of what the world is; his account of science; and in particular his idea that 'will' is the essence of all things.

Julian Young then introduces and assesses Schopenhauer's aesthetics, which occupy a central place in his philosophy. He carefully examines Schopenhauer's theories of the sublime, artistic genius and music, before assessing his ethics of compassion, his arguments for pessimism and his account of 'salvation'. In the final chapter, he considers Schopenhauer's legacy and his influence on the thought of Nietzsche and Wittgenstein, making this an ideal starting point for those coming to Schopenhauer for the first time.


This is a book written primarily, though not exclusively, for those coming to Schopenhauer for the first time. It aims to introduce the reader to Schopenhauer’s thought as a whole and, particularly in the final chapter, to convey a sense of its lasting importance.

By the generous standards of nineteenth-century German philosophy, Schopenhauer’s is short and to the point. He only wrote one work of systematic philosophy, The World as Will and Representation. To master this is to master the totality of his philosophy. (Admittedly this involves mastering, in English translation, 1221 pages.)

In its final version, The World as Will consists of two volumes. The first, the substance of which appeared in 1818, is divided into four books. The second, added in 1844, comprises four ‘Supplements’ to each of the four books of volume I. Usually, though not universally, the supplements are, as Schopenhauer claims, expansions rather than corrections of the ideas of the corresponding book in volume I. My book closely follows the fourfold structure of Schopenhauer’s great work, a work Thomas Mann described as a symphony in four movements.

Book I, together with its supplement – the topic of my Chapter 2 – argues that the world of everyday experience is ‘representation’, merely; that it is only an ‘appearance’ or ‘phenomenon’ of reality, not reality itself. Book II – the topic of my chapters 3 and 4 – pursues the interesting topic of what that reality is which underlies the everyday world. Schopenhauer’s master-word is ‘will’. The . . .

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