Arthur Schopenhauer was one of the most important German philosophers of the 19th century, offering a pessimistic view, with a very original philosophical system of Kantian, Platonic and Buddhist nuances, unifying Western and Eastern metaphysics.
Here we will review your life through a biography of Arthur Schopenhauer in summary format.
Biography of Arthur Schopenhauer: his influence on philosophy
Arthur Schopenhauer’s life was spent mostly in Germany, living in a way quite contrary to the lifestyle that might have been offered given his roots. His singular way of seeing human destiny, terribly pessimistic, coupled with his way of combining western and eastern philosophy have made him a German philosopher who leaves no one indifferent.
Arthur schopenhauer was born in Danzig, now Gdańsk, Poland, on February 22, 1788]. He was the son of a fairly wealthy merchant, Heinrich Floris Schopenhauer, and his wife Johanna Henriette Trosenier who, years later, would be known for her novels and essays.
In 1793, when the city of Danzig became ruled by Prussia, the Schopenhauer family moved to Hamburg.. There, little Arthur would receive a private education, focused primarily on furthering his father’s career.
Later, already attending a school specializing in business training, Schopenhauer would have the opportunity to exhibit the enlightened ideas, Which would set a precedent in his view of the human situation, pessimistic and unfavorable.
His fate would change with the death of his father in April 1805. Faced with the death of Mr. Schopenhauer, his son, who was no longer under pressure to exercise the family profession, chose to remain in Hamburg, while his mother and her sister would move to Weimar, where Johanna would have the opportunity to surround herself with an important circle of poets, in the presence of JW von Goethe and Christoph Martin Wieland, known as “the German Voltaire”.
While still in Hamburg, young Arthur would enjoy greater freedom, approaching the sciences and the arts and definitively leaving aside the commercial career which interested him so little.
In May 1807 he left the city and spent the next two years between the cities of Gotha and Weimar, where he acquired sufficient academic preparation to attend university.
In the fall of 1809 he enrolled in medicine at the University of Göttingen and attended lectures on the natural sciences. However, the second half began he moved on to the humanities, initially focusing on the study of philosophers such as Plato and Kant.
From 1811 to 1813 he attended the University of Berlin, where he listened to philosophers such as JG Fichte and Friedrich Schleiermacher and later.
It was at this time that he presented his thesis Über die vierfache Wurzel des Satzes vom zureichenden Grunde (“On the quadruple root of the principle of sufficient reason”), with which he obtained his doctorate in philosophy at the University of Jena.
During the winter of 1813 he remained in Weimar with his sister and mother. Thanks to Johanna’s poetic circle, Arthur would have the opportunity to meet Goethe and discuss philosophy with him..
That same winter Friedrich Meier, who was a disciple of Johann Gottfried Herder, introduced him to the knowledge of Hindu antiquity. Thus, Schopenhauer would know the Eastern philosophies, like that of Vedānta and the mysticism of the Vedas. He will later combine these doctrines with those of Plato and Emmanuel Kant, laying the foundations of his philosophical system.
Only a year later he would leave Weimar after a family discussion. Schopenhauer was uncomfortable with his mother’s frivolous lifestyle after his father’s death. It would be from this maternal and childish quarrel that Arthur would decide to move to Dresden, where he remained until 1818, linked to a group of writers belonging to the Dresden Abendzeitung, a newspaper.
It would be at this point that Schopenhauer would finish his treatise Über das Sehn und die Farben (“On vision and colors”), a treatise in which supported the ideas on light promoted by Goethe and contrary to those exhibited by Isaac Newton.
His main work: The world as will and representation
He spent the next three years writing his major work, Die Welt ALS Wille und Vorstellung (“The World as Will and Representation”), published in 1819. This work is considered to be the clearest exponent of his fierce pessimism. He exposes, in several volumes, a theory of knowledge, philosophy of nature, aesthetics and ethics.
It is necessary to understand, first of all, the idea of pessimism understood in the philosophical context. This pessimism argues that we live in the worst possible world, where pain is eternal and where fate is a constant attempt to achieve what we will never really achieve. There is no progress either in humanity or in civilization.
In the first volume, Schopenhauer speaks of Kant. The world is a representation which is understandable only with the help of the constructs of the human intellect, such as time, space and causality. But these constructions only show the world as an appearance, as a multiplicity of things, one by one, not as a whole in itself, An ensemble that Kant originally considered to be something that was not possible to know.
In the second book, Schopenhauer talks about the only thing we know in two ways: we know our body in appearance, that is, in its external form, but at the same time we know ourselves firsthand, knowing our will. , something like our essence. . The will, in itself, is something, it is unitary, impossible to change, which transcends beyond space and time., And that it has neither causes nor purposes.
After the publication of this work, Schopenhauer did not develop a new philosophy. His later work was essentially about going into more detail on what is on display in these four books, as well as trying to have a more active college life, but with rather subtle success.
In March 1820, after a tour of Italy and a triumphant dispute with Hegel, obtained permission to lecture at the University of Berlin. Although he trained as a member of the university for 24 semesters, only his first lecture was officially given. Hegel was more popular and opaque, but his anger killed him years later, ending the “competition”.
Life in Frankfurt and the following years
Unlike Hegel, it seems that Schopenhauer knew that Berlin was not a highly recommended city to live in due to the presence of the disease. That is why deciding to move to a healthier city, Frankfurt, where it has been her home for the past 28 years.
Already living in this city, he would give up his career as a university professor, living in a very isolated, ascetic way, absorbed by his studies focused on the natural sciences. It is also at this time that the personality by which we know him today is formed, strict and of a style a little old-fashioned even for the time.
In 1836, after 19 years without publishing anything, he published above all a short treatise, Über DES Willen in der Natur (“On the will in nature”), he skillfully combined his discoveries in the natural sciences, which were growing in popularity at the time., Relating them to his theory of the will. In the preface to this treatise, he showed his aversion to Hegel, who died in 1831, by speaking openly of him as a gossip.
During his last years of life, he brought some clarifications to his major works. He even made a third edition of “The World as Will and Idea”, which appeared in 1859, and in 1860 made a second edition of his “Ethics”. Arthur Schopenhauer died in Frankfurt am Main on September 21, 1860, due to a cardiopulmonary arrest.
The Schopenhauerian heritage
Schopenhauerian character and thought did not leave his contemporaries and later the great thinkers indifferent., The height of Leo Tolstoy, Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, Carl Gustav Jung, Albert Einstein, Erwin Schrödinger, etc. It may sound a little surprising, but this philosopher has been widely read in the field of physics. In fact, Einstein described Schopenhauer’s thoughts as a kind of continual consolation, despite his marked pessimism about human development.
On the other hand, he had his detractors. Ludwig Wittgenstein, although a teenager, he adopted the epistemological idealism of Schopenhauer, after studying it further, rejected his ideas, switching to the conceptual realism of Gottlob Frege. Wittgenstein himself would be quite critical of Schopenhauer, Describing him as a superficial thinker. At his side, Bertrand Russell, in his “History of Western Philosophy”, reproached Arthur Schopenhauer for considering him as a promoter of asceticism but who did not carry it out.
- Schopenhauer, A (1813). On the quadruple root of the principle of sufficient reason. Second, much improved and significantly increased edition.
- Schopenhauer, A (1816). About vision and colors. Improved and enlarged second edition.