Reading Schopenhauer

Tue 5/12/09 7:04 PM
There are a number of reasons that I find Schopenhauer so appealing. First of all Schopenhauer cleans up Kantian philosophy into something sensible and comprehensible. Kant‘s “Copernican Revolution” is probably one of the greatest conceptual ideas in human history. But his explication of those ideas is at times a fairly messy affair and clarity is not one of the great virtues of his three Kritiken. (If only Schopenhauer had been able to do the original English translation, the history of English and American philosophy might be very different.)

Schopenhauer was extremely perceptive and shifts the basis of philosophical enquiry from perception or reason toward human psychology. This psychological approach had a profound influence on Nietzsche, Freud and Wittgenstein.

His philosophy itself is one of the best approaches to how to deal with life, especially the “problem of evil” or suffering. I find his advocacy of compassion, renunciation and transcendence through art, especially music, to be far more credible and veracious than religion, spirituality or self help.Most of all, I enjoy Schopenhauer because his writing is just plane fun to read. He is one of the great prose stylists of any language. His writing is clear, colorful, opinionated and full of variety. He is quite funny and is one of the few philosophers to use humor—certainly the most successful. His satirical Die Kunst, Recht zu behalten, a satire on philosophy and academics written in the form of a treatise on logic and rhetoric, is quite hilarious.

It is no wonder that his greatest influence was not on philosophy but literature. His list of literary and artistic devotees is almost universal in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and includes the likes of Thomas Hardy, Thomas Mann, Baudelaire, Conrad, Poe, Borges, Proust, Tolstoy, Kafka and especially Wagner. You can see the influence in practically all of Wagner’s operas but most particularly in his final work. Parsifal is practically a recreation of Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung in music. It is possibly the closest thing I have to sacred ritual. We listen to the entire five hour opera every year at Easter.


~ by severalfourmany on May 12, 2009.

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