Arthur Schopenhauer

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Arthur Schopenhauer as a young man, portrayed by Ludwig Sigismund Ruhl in 1815 Arthur Schopenhauer Signature.svg

Arthur Schopenhauer (born February 22, 1788 in Danzig ; † September 21, 1860 in Frankfurt am Main ) was a German philosopher and university professor.

Schopenhauer designed a teaching that equally encompasses epistemology , metaphysics , aesthetics and ethics . He saw himself as a student and finisher of Immanuel Kant , whose philosophy he understood as a preparation for his own teaching. He drew further suggestions from Plato's theory of ideas and from ideas of Eastern philosophies. Within the philosophy of the 19th century , he developed his own position of subjective idealism and was one of the first philosophers in the German-speaking area to believe that the world is not based on a rational principle.


Origin and early years

Arthur Schopenhauer's birthplace in Gdansk, then Heiliggeistgasse, today ul. Św. Ducha
Johanna Schopenhauer, around 1800

Arthur Schopenhauer's ancestors mostly came from the Danzig Werder between Elbing and Danzig. The grandfather Andreas Schopenhauer (1720-1793) was a very wealthy merchant in Danzig, his wife Anna Renata Soersman daughter of a Dutch merchant. The maternal grandfather Christian Heinrich Trosiener (1730–1797) was also a merchant in Danzig and a councilor from the middle class. The grandmother Elisabeth Lehmann was the daughter of a pharmacist.

The father Heinrich Floris Schopenhauer (1747–1805) took over the company and part of the grandfather's estates. In 1785 he married the 18-year-old Johanna Trosiener (1766-1838). While this marriage was a good choice for them in terms of their status, it was not a particularly happy one for either of them.

Arthur was born on February 22nd, 1788 in Gdansk at Heilige-Geist-Gasse 114 . He also spent his childhood on a family farm in Oliva .

In 1793 the father moved with the family to Hamburg when Prussian troops forced the surrender of the city of Danzig as a result of the second Polish partition . He left his estates in the city because his republican sense of freedom rejected the Prussian rule in the Free Hanseatic City of Danzig.

The family initially settled at Neuer Weg 76 in the old town and in 1797 moved into a larger house in Neuer Wandrahm 92 , where the business area was then located.

training as a businessman

Arthur Schopenhauer as a young man

Heinrich Schopenhauer had planned the traditional family business for his son Arthur and therefore sent him to the Hamburg educational institution under the direction of Johann Heinrich Christian Runge. His school friends at that time were Carl Godeffroy , who later became Minister Resident, and Georg Christian Lorenz Meyer, who later became wine merchant and Senator . Arthur quickly completed what he could learn in commercial school and urgently asked his father to be allowed to attend a grammar school. However, the father considered this superfluous and instead offered him a joint, longer educational trip through Europe. Arthur agreed and, after spending several weeks learning the English language at Wimbledon , traveled to Holland , England , France , Switzerland , Austria , Silesia and Prussia from 1803 to 1804 .

Schopenhauer's Hamburg apartment 1805–1807: Kohlhöfen

From September to December 1804, at his father's request, Schopenhauer began an apprenticeship as a businessman in Jacob Kabrun's Danzig trading house , with whom his father was friends. His mother accompanied him there.

In 1805 they returned to Hamburg and he continued his business apprenticeship at the Jenisch company . On April 20th of that year the father was found dead in the canal behind his house. He suffered from depression and had probably fallen from the attic , a suicide was suspected.

After the father's business was closed and the wall frame 92 was sold , the family lived temporarily from 1805 to 1806 in an apartment at Kohlhöfen 29 near Großneumarkt . In 1806 his mother moved to Weimar with his younger sister, who later became the writer Adele Schopenhauer . Arthur stayed alone in Hamburg and was free to decide whether he would dutifully continue his business apprenticeship or give in to his inclination to pursue an intellectual profession.

Turning to philosophy

He broke off his apprenticeship and in June 1807, on the advice of Carl Ludwig Fernow, became a pupil of the grammar school director Doering at the Illustre grammar school in Gotha . In the same year, like his mother and sister before, he moved to Weimar, where his most important teacher was Franz Passow . The young Schopenhauer was in contact with the writer Johannes Daniel Falk and the poet and priest Zacharias Werner . A childhood friend was the classical philologist Friedrich Gotthilf Osann (1794-1858). In 1809 he fell unhappily in love with the eleven years older 32-year-old actress and opera singer Karoline Jagemann , at the time the lover of Duke Carl August von Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach . He wrote his only surviving love poem for her.

When Schopenhauer came of age, his share of his father's inheritance was paid out. With this sizeable amount of money, he became wealthy and free from financial worries. In 1809 he began studying medicine at the University of Göttingen , which he soon gave up in favor of philosophy. Schopenhauer received his doctorate in philosophy at the University of Jena on October 2, 1813 (magna cum laude) for his writing Ueber the fourfold root of the sentence of sufficient reason , which he received during his stay at the inn "Zum Ritter" in the residential town of Rudolstadt in the summer had completed the same year. Dean Heinrich Karl Eichstädt presided over the examination board .

The poet and natural scientist Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was one of the first readers of his work . Goethe had already become aware of him through his contact with Schopenhauer's mother, who ran a literary salon in Weimar. More frequent encounters with Goethe followed, who formulated his color theory during this time . This theory, which contradicts Newtonian theory, found one of its few supporters in Schopenhauer. When Schopenhauer began to present his own deviating theses with greater self-confidence, the close relationship gradually dissolved. Nevertheless, Schopenhauer had great admiration for Goethe all his life.

By Friedrich Majer Schopenhauer was created using the ancient Indian philosophy of Brahmanism announced. In 1814 he fell out with his mother and went to Dresden , where he frequented literary circles and studied in the city's rich collections and libraries. In 1815 Schopenhauer published his own color theory with the title Ueber das Sehn und die Farben . This arose in correspondence with Goethe and appeared in print in 1816.

Confrontation with the publisher

Schopenhauer then designed his main work Die Welt als Wille und Weise , which was published by FA Brockhaus at the beginning of 1819 and was later to be expanded considerably. At this point in time, the philosopher was already convinced of the importance of his work for the history of ideas, although it was initially not a purely economic success. The first edition was only sold out after thirty years.

The correspondence between Schopenhauer and his publisher is an informative contemporary document. Schopenhauer's view of philosophy as a special kind of writing was modern. His long struggle against typesetting errors matched his father's stamp of the meticulously calculating businessman and the awareness of having written an important font. This meticulousness and a certain righteousness were expressed inter alia. in the fact that in an appendix to his main work, in which he criticized the Kantian philosophy, he examined in great detail all editions of the Kantian works for conceptual deviations. This happened against the background that, in his opinion, the first edition, but not the later ones, was compatible with his own philosophy.

Schopenhauer also saw himself as the keeper of the German language and not only forbade all changes to his manuscript for linguistic reasons, especially adaptations to contemporary usage, to preserve the sharpness of philosophical formulations. As a result, the publication was delayed, so that it could not appear on time for the Leipzig Book Fair in September 1818. In the beginning he dealt with Friedrich Arnold Brockhaus very smoothly and politely ("... Your Well-born ...") , but this changed quickly after the contract was signed and the first deviations appeared. He saw himself as an outstanding but poorly paid author and complained:

“I did not write because of the fee, as the insignificance of it proves itself; but about a long thought-out and painstakingly elaborated work, the fruit of many years, actually my whole life, to be kept and communicated through printing. From which it follows that you do not have to look at me and treat me like your conversation lexicon writers and similar bad scribblers with whom I have nothing in common but the accidental use of ink and pen. "

In another letter to Brockhaus, Schopenhauer writes: "It is a matter of day that with you word and deed, promise and keeping, are two very different things." Brockhaus' reply was sharp. He denied Schopenhauer being a man of honor and refused to accept “any letters” from his author, “which, in their divine rudeness and rusticity, would suggest a Vetturino [a hired coach] rather than a philosopher [...] me I just hope that my fear of only printing waste on your work will not come true. "

Travel and years in Berlin

In September 1818 the private scholar embarked on a trip to Italy, which took him to Milan via Venice, Rome, Naples and Paestum . There, in June 1819, he received news of the collapse of the Danzig trading house AL Muhl & Co., with which he had deposited part of his fortune. He broke off the trip to settle the matter on the spot, and tension re-established between himself and his mother.

In addition, there were financial burdens from the Marqet affair. Caroline Louise Marqet, a 47-year-old seamstress, had so enraged Schopenhauer through her loud conversation with two other women in the anteroom of his apartment that he finally threw her out of the house roughly. The woman who had been treated in this way then sued Schopenhauer because she had retained a persistent tremor in her arm from his rough treatment. She got the right before the Supreme Court and was awarded a quarterly pension of 15 thalers until the tremors disappeared again. As for the verdict, Schopenhauer remarked sarcastically that "she will probably be smart enough not to stop the trembling of the arm". He should be right about that. On her death 20 years later Schopenhauer noted laconically: "Obit anus, abit onus" (The old woman dies, the burden passes).

His financially precarious situation prompted him to apply for a lectureship at the University of Berlin. In 1820 Schopenhauer began teaching at the still young Berlin University . This led to the famous quarrel with Hegel . Schopenhauer started his lectures at the same time as Hegel's, but had only a few listeners because the students preferred Hegel. Soon he began to despise university philosophy. When the trading house Muhl settled his claims in 1821, he left the university and continued his journey to Italy.

From 1821 he had a relationship with the then 19-year-old opera singer Caroline Medon for several years , but he mistrusted her state of health and her possible intentions, so that they never married. After long stays in Munich, Bad Gastein and Dresden, some of which were due to illness, he did not return to Berlin until April 1825 and made another attempt to pursue a university career. Despite a praising discussion of the world as will and conception by Jean Paul , his ideas have not yet found any resonance.

During his stays in Berlin from 1820 to 1831, Schopenhauer lived successively at today's Dorotheenstrasse 83 (then no.34), Kronenstrasse 55, Niederlagstrasse 4, Leipziger Strasse 78, Dorotheenstrasse 90 (then no.30) and finally at Behrenstrasse 70 and 17 in Berlin-Mitte . When a cholera epidemic broke out in Berlin in 1831, Schopenhauer fled to Frankfurt am Main , where he spent the winter, unlike Hegel, who presumably fell victim to her . Medon, who was still in a relationship with him, did not leave Berlin with him because he demanded that she leave behind her illegitimate son, Carl Ludwig Gustav Medon (1823–1905), who was then nine years old ; this led to breakage. At the age of 43 he became interested again in a young girl, namely the 17-year-old Flora Weiss, who, however, rejected the much older admirer. After a stay in Mannheim from July 1832 to June 1833, he finally settled in Frankfurt on July 6, 1833.

Frankfurt years

Schopenhauer on a daguerreotype from 1852

After a long silence, Schopenhauer spoke up again in 1836 with his work On the Will in Nature . In 1837 he intervened in the design of the complete edition of Immanuel Kant's writings by successfully advocating the inclusion of the first version of the Critique of Pure Reason instead of the second version.

Schopenhauer's mother died in 1838. The following year, the Royal Norwegian Society of Sciences crowned its award book on the freedom of human will . In 1841 it appeared together with another, unconsidered award publication, Ueber das Fundament der Moral , under the collective title The Two Basic Problems of Ethics .

As the most important of a series of "apostles and evangelists" Schopenhauer appeared in 1840 Julius Frauenstädt , which is why Schopenhauer called him "Erzevangelist". Before that, Friedrich Dorguth (who is why Schopenhauer called it the “original evangelist”) had drawn attention to Schopenhauer. In 1843, in his work The False Root of Ideal Realism, he called the still little-known Schopenhauer a thinker of world-historical importance.

At the age of 55, the philosopher, who until then had mostly sublet , moved into his own apartment on the banks of the Main, at Schönen Aussicht 17 , which he kept for 16 years. The neighboring address went down in history as the Schopenhauerhaus , the huge Palais Schöne Aussicht 16 , the house where he died.

One of the earliest detailed photographs of the Schopenhauerhaus, 1861
(photography by Carl Friedrich Mylius )

In 1843 Schopenhauer had completed the second volume of his main work and again turned to the publishing house, which was now headed by Heinrich Brockhaus , with a request for publication. After an exchange of letters that testifies to mutual respect, the supplemented and revised 2nd edition of Die Welt als Wille undführung appeared in 1844 .

Arthur Schopenhauer, 1859

In 1851 the Parerga and Paralipomena (2 volumes) came out with the aphorisms on wisdom.

Richard Wagner had his poem The Ring of the Nibelung presented to Schopenhauer, whom he admired . Julius Frauenstadt's letter on Schopenhauer's philosophy appeared. A series of Schopenhauer portraits by Jules Lunteschütz and other artists was created. In May 1857 Friedrich Hebbel visited Schopenhauer.

In the summer of 1859 , Schopenhauer, often referred to as a misanthropist - he always called his dog "man" when he was angry with him - saved the nine-year-old Julius Frank from drowning.

Schopenhauer turned down his late offer for membership in the Royal Academy of Sciences in Berlin .

On September 9, 1860, he fell ill with pneumonia . After months of " breathing problems with strong palpitations while walking", Schopenhauer finally died of it on September 21, 1860 in Schönen Aussicht 16 in Frankfurt am Main. On September 26th he was buried in the Frankfurt main cemetery.

It was only after his death in 1864 that his text Eristische Dialektik (Technique of Discussing) was published. In it, Schopenhauer formulates 38 rhetorical devices that are supposed to make it possible to emerge victorious from disputes, even when facts speak against the position taken. The contrivances, which are polemically directed against the style of discussion of his contemporaries, provide examples of rabulistic argumentation and offer indications of the false conclusions they caused.

Schopenhauer's personality

Arthur Schopenhauer, as seen by Wilhelm Busch

Arthur Schopenhauer was a loner. In Frankfurt, according to chroniclers, the scholar was an “unrecognized nobody”.

He kept a poodle all his life , which he often addressed with “ Atman ”, the Sanskrit word for breath of life, breath , in the tradition of the Upanishads the essence of the self or the individual soul as part of Brahman , the “ world soul ”. When a dog died, which happened every ten years or so, it would always acquire a similar-looking poodle. Schopenhauer was of the philosophical view that every dog ​​contains every other dog at the same time. “The core of the matter” (Goethe) was never lost. The same was true for people. The way he walked with his poodle on the banks of the Main, gesticulating in self-talk, was mocked by the local poet Friedrich Stoltze , among others .

Schopenhauer's daily routine was structured: work at the desk in the morning, playing the flute regularly before lunch. According to the tradition of his biographers, Schopenhauer is said to have always eaten meals in inns before he went for a two-hour walk with his poodle.

Schopenhauer often expressed himself negatively about " women ":

“They are sexus sequior, the second sex, which is subordinate in every respect, whose weakness one should therefore spare, but to which reverence is beyond measure ridiculous and belittles us in their own eyes. [...] With more justification than the beautiful one could call the female sex the unaesthetic. They have no real sense or receptivity for music, poetry or the visual arts; but mere arrogance, for the sake of their lust for pleasure, it is when they affect and pretend such. "

- Essay "About Women" (1851)

According to Schopenhauer, the feeling of love between man and woman, which goes beyond a sexual passion, only expresses the inner and thus actual will of life in the individual:

"All infatuation, however ethereal [fine, spiritual] it may appear, is rooted solely in the sexual instinct."

The marriages he rejected always - probably founded in unsettling experiences in his childhood home:

“To marry is to do what is possible to make one another disgusting. [...] to halve his rights and double his duties. [...] To get married means to reach into a sack with your eyes blindfolded and hope that you can find an eel out of a pile of snakes. "

Schopenhauer expressed himself rather disparagingly about the Jewish faith . B. he called it (in The World as Will and Idea and Parerga and Paralipomena ) as "raw" and "barbaric". He found him too optimistic in view of his own pessimistic worldview and blamed him for an alleged insensitivity to animals. Regardless of this, he had contact with some Jews in everyday life. In general, Schopenhauer insinuates that scholars in the period between the heyday of Hellenism and the beginning of his own philosophizing had gone astray in the search for truth and that the so-called "thing in itself" was in the wrong place - for example in the transcendental - to have searched, and he himself as a philosopher must now fight against the “truths” that were highly respected at the time but, in the light of the system of will and imagination, were unmasked as false. These “false conclusions” were established to a large extent by Jewish scholars of the post-Hellenistic period. Since, according to Rüdiger Safranski, the person Schopenhauer suffered from the fact that his effect in both professional and private life came to nothing, he had known how to prove his almost lifelong outsider role through aspects and occasional expansion of his philosophy. His goal was to be able to rightly deny emerging society-related wishes. Not least because of the desire for self-protection, he had devalued and offended people who think differently.


Under the influence of Plato and Kant, Schopenhauer took the position of idealism in his epistemology , but took his own subjectivist path within this basic conception ("subjective idealism").

What separates Schopenhauer from the solipsists is his insistence on something that unites and conditions everything. For Schopenhauer this is the blind will that urges existence, Sanskrit : Tat twam asi (“That is you”).

Schopenhauer rejected Hegel's philosophy , which he himself pejoratively referred to as " Hegelia " and "charlatanism". He wrote drastic polemics against Hegel, Schelling , Fichte and the initially revered Schleiermacher .

World as an idea

Similar to George Berkeley , Schopenhauer takes the view that the question of an outside world given independently of its perception does not arise. Regarding the existence of an outside world, he argues against dogmatism , which according to his presentation breaks down into realism and idealism, as well as against skeptical arguments, since the world shows itself to the subject only as an idea - which, however, should not be understood as an imagination - and perception is our only access to the objective world.

Against philosophical skepticism , he argues that it needs a “therapy” or “cure” rather than a serious discussion. According to his conception, the objective world is always given to us as a subject only in the mode of representation; This means that objects have their existence only as one side of the representational relation of subject and object. Nevertheless, with Schopenhauer, the world has a reality that goes beyond the pure, imaginative representation. Accordingly, it would be wrong to understand the world simply as the imagination of human consciousness. Rather, what is essential in Schopenhauer's terminology is the distinction between the idea , which is broken down into subject and object, on the one hand, and mere imagination or fantasy , which is not connected with it, on the other.

Schopenhauer contradicted Kant's conviction that the thing in itself lies beyond all experience and therefore cannot be recognized. Kant's thing in itself was also unrecognizable for him (we only ever see what we perceive with our senses), but not inexperienced . Through self-observation of our person we can be sure its what we are ultimately we learn in us the will . It is the thing-in-itself and thus not only the mainspring of all action by humans and animals, but also the metaphysical explanation of the laws of nature. The world is ultimately a blind, unreasonable will (cf. instinct theory ). Schopenhauer is thus the classical philosopher and main representative of metaphysical voluntarism .

But the world is not just will, it also appears as an idea. It is the appearance of the one will that is individualized and linked through space and time as well as causality , which form the a priori given mode of knowledge of us intellectual beings. “The world is my imagination” is the first main sentence of his philosophy. What appears to us as a world is only for us , not in itself . For Schopenhauer there is nothing observed without an observer, no object without a subject. The world, viewed as an idea, breaks up into subjects and objects, which are both inseparable and radically different from one another, but in the end both are only appearances of the will. According to Schopenhauer, this is the essence of the world which, appearing in subject and object , looks at itself as it were.

World as will

The world of ideas is based on the will, which Schopenhauer understands as a groundless urge. He grades the will according to the facts of his work, speaks of causes if the effect is in accordance with them, such as B. in the case of elastic collisions, of stimuli, when the effect discharges an energy potential, and of motives, when the effect was calculated as the implementation of certain intentions.

“Namely , I call cause , in the narrowest sense of the word, that state of matter which, by bringing about another with necessity, itself undergoes just as great a change as that which it causes [...] I call stimulus that cause which itself does not suffer any counteraction appropriate to it [...] The stimulus holds the means, makes the transition between the motive, which is the causality passed through the cognition , and the cause in the narrowest sense. "

In these forms the will determines all processes of organic and inorganic nature. It is objectified in the world of appearances as the will to live and to reproduce. This doctrine of the “primacy of the will” forms the central idea of ​​Schopenhauer's philosophy, it had a far-reaching influence and justifies the topicality of Schopenhauer's work.

Schopenhauer, who repeatedly dealt with Augustine with varying results , only knows free will according to his now famous thesis: "Man can do what he wants, but he cannot want what he wants." Will, that is, the will fundamentally. In the strictly causally ordered empirical world, the world of imagination , there is no place for a person acting without a purely empirical cause, not only in the sense that this contradicts our way of thinking, but in the deeper sense that the will itself manifested in all its parts according to the law of causality.

In contrast to Berkeley, Schopenhauer does not see causality as a mere concept, but the will itself, which is the work of the mind to interpret. The will is free only insofar as it does not prescribe anything to be what it is (i.e., that the laws of nature determine everything that happens, but are not as they are by any law). The will thus understood has this freedom only before its manifestation, which itself is nothing more than its expression that has become effective. In the case of humans, their active will is determined by their “character” - conceived as innate and unchangeable - which is arbitrary, i.e. does not exist for any deeper reason. One can only will according to this character.

Nevertheless, Schopenhauer speaks of an intelligible free will: if the subject of the underlying will recognize , it can him in certain moments of contemplation , for example by intense enjoyment of art, in the negative. Schopenhauer describes this as a state of melancholy .

Mind and reason

Schopenhauer distinguishes between two intellectual faculties , understanding and reason . The mind expresses itself in direct judgments about what is looked at, for example to recognize how strong or fast someone is, what is the cause of a noise or at what angle and with what force a spear has to be thrown in order to hit its target. Reason, on the other hand, is the ability to think conceptually, that is, to summarize views under concepts, to imagine concepts, to compare the content of concepts with one another, etc. Schopenhauer distinguishes this doctrine of thinking ( dianoiology ) from the doctrine of being ( ontology ).

While the mind is common to all animals, reason is the most outstanding characteristic of humans. However, Schopenhauer described human reasoning much more skeptically than Kant or the pure idealists, for example.

Pessimism and redemption

Arthur Schopenhauer's grave complex in Frankfurt's main cemetery in Gewann A 24
Arthur Schopenhauer's tombstone

Schopenhauer established a system of empirical and metaphysical pessimism . The blind, unreasonable world will is for him the absolute primal force and thus the essence of the world. Reason is only the servant of this irrational world will. The world - as a product of this baseless will - is bad through and through, something that shouldn't be, a debt. There can be no worse world at all.

“Now this world is set up as it had to be in order to be able to survive with precise adversity. But if it were a little worse, it could no longer exist. "

The world is a “valley of tears”, full of suffering. All happiness is illusion, all pleasure is only negative. The restlessly striving will is not finally satisfied by anything

“Because all striving arises from want, from dissatisfaction with its condition, is therefore suffering as long as it is not satisfied. But no satisfaction is permanent; rather, it is always only the starting point of a new striving. We see striving everywhere inhibited in many ways, fighting everywhere. So as long as suffering: no ultimate goal of striving, so no measure and goal of suffering. "

The basis of all will is need, lack, i.e. pain. Life “swings back and forth between pain and boredom like a pendulum”. Even by its very nature, human life is incapable of true happiness. Every life story is a story of suffering, an ongoing series of large and small accidents.

The most powerful expression of the will is the sex drive that cannot be permanently satisfied.

In the “valley of tears” of this world, Schopenhauer considers death to be better than life. However, it is a common mistake to derive an encouragement to commit suicide from this. The suicide is not a solution because of the metaphysical will find immediately a new form and so the wheel of life brings in motion again. However, as the highest earthly being, man is able to negate the will for himself.

"Recognition of the unity of all beings and asceticism , negation of the will to live alone can redeem us, not suicide, which only destroys the individual appearance of all-will."

Art, especially music and morals , also contribute to overcoming the frustrating and painful existence and entering nirvana.


“Inner mood, the preponderance of knowledge over willing, can produce this state in any environment. This is shown to us by those excellent Dutch people who directed such a purely objective view of the most insignificant objects and who set up a permanent monument of their objectivity and peace of mind in the still life, which the aesthetic observer does not look at without emotion [...]. "

The art works as a temporary " Quietiv [sedative] of the will". This aesthetic culminates in world negation. The human being - as the highest form of the will objectifying itself in the phenomenal world - is given the opportunity to undo will and suffering and thus to reach a state of "non-being" (a kind of nirvana ). The “true work of art” helps him by making the “inner essence” of a thing, his idea , aware and in this way helps the viewer to an objective point of view that lifts him out of his subjectivity, his “want”. By granting an idea, Schopenhauer understands the anticipation of something visible , his premonition, which is stimulated by the work of art.

“That we all recognize human beauty […], but in the real artist this happens with such clarity that he shows it as he has never seen it […]; This is only possible because the will, whose adequate objectivation, at its highest level, is to be judged and found here, is indeed we ourselves . Through this alone we in fact have an anticipation of what nature [...] tries to represent; what anticipation in true genius is accompanied by the degree of prudence that, by recognizing the idea of individual things , he as it were understands nature halfway and now expresses purely what it only stammered. "

Music occupies a special position because, according to Schopenhauer, it is able to give an objective image of all the volitions in this world, whereby the pitch plays the key role in differentiating the different forms of will - the deeper, the closer to the laws of matter, the higher, the closer to the motivations of man:

“In the deepest tones of harmony, in the basic bass, I recognize the lowest levels of the objectivation of the will, the inorganic nature, the mass of the planet. All the high tones, easily mobile and fading away faster, are known to have arisen through the secondary vibrations of the deep fundamental tone [...] This is now analogous to the fact that the entire bodies and organizations of nature must be regarded as arisen through the gradual development from the Mass of the planet: this, like its carrier, is its source: and the higher tones have the same relationship to the basic bass. [...] Now, furthermore, in the entire ripen voices that produce harmony, between the bass and the leading voice singing the melody, I recognize the entire sequence of steps in which the will is objectified. Those closer to the bass are the lower of those levels, the still inorganic, but already expressed bodies: the higher ones represent to me the world of plants and animals. [...] Finally, in the melody , in the high-pitched, singing main voice that guides the whole thing and unrestricted arbitrariness in uninterrupted, meaningful coherence of a thought from beginning to end and representing a whole, I recognize the highest level of objectivation of the will , the level-headed life and striving of man. "


In terms of moral philosophy , in contrast to Kant, Schopenhauer formulates an ethic of compassion. The only reason to act unselfishly is to recognize what is one's own in the other - that is compassion (although the term, unlike today's parlance, means sympathy ). Schopenhauer negotiates the ethics of compassion in the fourth book of Die Welt as Will and Idea and above all - in concrete terms - in the price publication Ueber the Basis of Morality (or also About the Foundation of Morality ). In the first, he is primarily concerned with the metaphysical justification, in the last with the empirical verifiability (as a counter-program to Kant) of the ethic of compassion.

For Schopenhauer, every person is regarded as the objectification of the will. The individual human being as a subject is an individuation of the will. Since the will is considered omnipotent by Schopenhauer, from which everything arises, every individual now considers himself, as the individuation of the will, to be the pivot not of himself, but of the world in general. This view results from the wrong identification of the ideas as facts, whereby the non-artist does not recognize the "thing in itself" (the will) behind the ideas and therefore identifies his individual ideas as "things in themselves".

In the opposite, in the other person, the person (the individuated will) now recognizes the same will. The person striving through the will to the absolute affirmation of the individuated will ( egoism ) now recognizes in his counterpart that only the absolute negation of the will of the counterpart corresponds to an absolute affirmation of his own will. So the person driven by the blind will notices that the same blind will resides in all other living beings and makes them suffer just as much as he does. Selfishness is overcome through compassion; man identifies with the other through the insight into the suffering of the world. Only in this way can the will, the driving force according to Schopenhauer, keep itself alive.

From this follows a radically different "imperative" compared to Kant:

“Neminem laede; imo omnes, quantum potes, juva. "

"Do not hurt anyone, rather help everyone as far as you can."

- The principle of all morality

Its ethics include the protection of animals :

"Sympathy for animals is so closely related to the goodness of character that one can confidently say that whoever is cruel to animals cannot be a good person."

Since he regards the world as a manifestation of a metaphysical will that connects humans and animals, he knows no more beautiful prayer than that: "May all living beings remain free from pain." Accordingly, he urges respect for the uniqueness of life.

Political opinions

In connection with the revolution of 1848 , Schopenhauer commented on the role of the state : There is violence in nature, including between people, which is advantageous for the “ masses ”; but since the people are “an eternally immature sovereign”, “ignorant, stupid and unlawful”, their “physical power must be subjected to intelligence , to spiritual superiority”. The purpose of the state is to ensure that there is “as little injustice as possible in the community”; in favor of the common good, the state may also do injustice.

Schopenhauer preferred an enlightened monarchical absolutism because that was the only way people could be reined in and governed. He spoke of a “monarchical instinct in man”. Republics, on the other hand, are "unnatural, artificially made and sprung from reflection [...] everywhere one will must be the guiding principle."

Effect and reception

Hardly any modern German philosopher has reached a broad readership as well as numerous celebrities from the fields of art and science as directly as Schopenhauer. The admirers of the writer and philosopher Schopenhauer included, among others. Richard Wagner , Wilhelm Busch , Thomas Hardy , Friedrich Nietzsche , Henri Bergson , Thomas Mann , Bruno Frank , Hermann Hesse , Albert Einstein , Kurt Tucholsky , Samuel Beckett , Thomas Bernhard , Stanisław Lem , Arno Schmidt , August Macke , Jorge Luis Borges and Michel Houellebecq .

At the end of August 1869, Leo Tolstoy put a veritable Schopenhauer panegyric on paper:

“Do you know what this year's summer has meant for me? Uninterrupted enthusiasm for Schopenhauer and a number of spiritual pleasures that I have never experienced before. [...] I don't know if I will change my mind one day, at least now I am convinced that Schopenhauer is the most brilliant of all people [...]. When I read it, I cannot understand why his name could remain unknown. There is at most one explanation, the one that he himself repeats so often, namely that there are almost only idiots in this world . "

Schopenhauer's influence on modern German literature can hardly be overestimated. This can be seen not only in the numerous supporters among the writers, but also in his contribution to the renewal of the German written language. In particular because of his special relationship to aesthetics and art theory , many artists and writers referred to Schopenhauer's teaching.

Philosophy and religion

The philosopher Eduard von Hartmann criticized Schopenhauer's teaching very early in his Philosophy of the Unconscious (1869) and saw the “denial of the world” called for in it as “cowardly personal renunciation”.

Friedrich Nietzsche put his third Untimely Consideration (1874) under the title Schopenhauer als Erzieher : “I belong to the readers of Schopenhauer who, after reading the first page of his, know for sure that they read all pages and every word will hear what he said in the first place. […] The strong sense of well-being of the speaker envelops us at the first tone of his voice; We feel similar to entering the high forest, we breathe deeply and suddenly feel good again. […] I suspected that I had found in him the educator and philosopher I had been looking for for so long. Admittedly only as a book: and that was a big flaw. ”Later, of course, Nietzsche rejected Schopenhauer's philosophy and countered his pessimism with a radically optimistic vitalism . Schopenhauer obviously remains a reference.

In 1814 Goethe wrote in Schopenhauer's studbook: "If you want to enjoy life, you must give value to the world."

Ferdinand Tönnies ' will theory as axiomatic of sociology in community and society (1887) shows strong influences of Schopenhauer. In 1906, Max Scheler described Schopenhauer as the trigger for the philosophy of life : “[He is] the forerunner of pragmatism  - not as a philosophy, but as a methodology of science. [...] insofar as he regards the intellect as a mere weapon of the blind will to live in the struggle for existence [...], he is Bergson's predecessor . "

Hermann Graf Keyserling scoffed at Schopenhauer's artistry , who had always been about mere representation, both internally and externally. The theosophist Johannes Maria Verweyen again rejected Schopenhauer's negative attitude: "[...] a predominance of displeasure and pain in life, against which pleasure and happiness cannot really arise".

Ludwig Wittgenstein shows a clear influence of Schopenhauer, since "we can view Wittgenstein's mature view of the will both as a rigorous adoption of Schopenhauer's view and as a continuation of his early investigations into the nature of the ethical and psychological will". And: "The most important point, however, is that Schopenhauer's influence on Wittgenstein's philosophy could be deeper and more widespread than we thought [...]."

Max Horkheimer's thinking was strongly influenced by Schopenhauer's pessimism: “That all life obeys power and that surrender to the cause, the identification with that which is not me, seems to lead out of the magic circle of egoism and lead into nothing - and that is a myth - Schopenhauer saw and was angry with the world for it. "

Arnold Gehlen classified Schopenhauer's ethic of compassion as a “partial truth” in the framework of his conception of a “pluralistic ethic” and in this context pointed critically to the isolated life situation of the philosopher: The motive of compassion is “understandable as the voice of a man who is familyless, stateless and jobless when Frankfurter and Rentier who had arrived would have had trouble finding other incentives to commit themselves ”.

The reception and spread of Buddhism in Germany  - as already mentioned in Richard Wagner's writings - can also be traced back to Schopenhauer's work. The philosopher saw this religion as an alternative to Western metaphysics and interpreted its quest for knowledge as a means of breaking through the spiritual isolation of the individual . Schopenhauer found numerous connections between his own philosophy and Buddhist teaching, such as atheism . The enthusiasm for India of many intellectuals at the time, as well as the first German translations of Asian texts, were stimulated by his writings.


The psychoanalysis (or metapsychology ) Sigmund Freud starts immediately at Schopenhauers doctrine of the will and its negation in, by examining the damage caused by (voluntary or involuntary) impulse suppression arise. Freud's approach can be classified as an attempt to re-rationalize human life, since he developed a method for analyzing Schopenhauer's concept of will with the aim of making it controllable. "Where IT was, I should be."

Commemorative stamp of the Deutsche Bundespost for Schopenhauer's 200th birthday in 1988

In addition, Carl Gustav Jung , the main representative of analytical psychology , tied in with Schopenhauer with his concept of the collective unconscious .

The founder of individual psychology, Alfred Adler , interpreted Schopenhauer's approach to overcoming suffering as a fundamentally positive aspect in human development on the way from immaturity at birth to individual perfection. Schopenhauer's design, aimed at a world will, is interpreted as a creative element in every living being. Adler sees Schopenhauer's approach to the negation of life as prepared in a hostile relationship with his mother.


In 1911 Paul Deussen founded the Schopenhauer Society , became its first president and began to publish a (unfinished) critical Schopenhauer edition in 14 volumes.

On the 150th anniversary of his death on September 21, 2010, there were not only monographs and collections of quotations but also numerous accolades in the press.

A “Schopenhauer Hotel” was built in the last place of residence in Frankfurt am Main on the Schöne Aussicht .


  • In Frankfurt am Main, the city and university library has been showing the exhibition “The world as will and imagination” on Schopenhauer's life and work since October 22, 2019.
  • The exhibition “Schopenhauers Frankfurt” has also been on view in the Historical Museum in Frankfurt since October 30, 2019.


Significant editions were published by Arthur Hübscher , Ludger Lütkehaus and Wolfgang Freiherr von Löhneysen and the ten-volume Zurich edition by Angelika Hübscher.

  • About the fourfold root of the principle of sufficient reason. 1813 (Schopenhauer's dissertation). Second, very improved and considerably increased edition. 1847 ( Google Books , Commons ). Third, improved and increased edition 1864 ( Google Books ).
  • About vision and colors. 1816 ( Google Books ). Second improved and enlarged edition. 1854 ( Commons ).
  • Theoria colorum. 1830. (Latin version of the revised theory of colors.)
  • The world as will and idea . First volume, 1819 (full text) (second volume see below 1844). Second, increased edition 1844 ( BSB Munich ). Third, improved and considerably increased edition, 1859 ( Google Books ).
  • About the will in nature. 1836. Second, improved and increased edition 1854. (digitized version)
  • The two basic problems of ethics: About the freedom of human will, About the foundation of morality. 1841. Second, improved and enlarged edition. 1860 ( Google Books , (pdf) ).
  • The world as will and idea. Second volume, 1844 (digitized version, BSB Munich) , third increased edition 1859 (digitized version)
Parerga and Paralipomena , first edition

In addition, Schopenhauer's handwritten estate was edited by Arthur Hübscher and Volker Spierling :

  • Arthur Hübscher (Ed.): The handwritten estate in five volumes. Complete edition in six volumes. DTV, Munich 1985; Unchanged reprint of the historical-critical edition, Frankfurt am Main .: Waldemar Kramer 1966–1975. [In detail: early manuscripts 1804–1811, critical discussions 1809–1818, Berlin manuscripts 1818–1830 (contains the Eristic dialectic ), the manuscript books of the years 1830–1852, last manuscripts / Gracian's hand oracles (including about the, for several years , methodical corruption of the German language), marginal writings on books].
  • Volker Spierling (ed. And introduction): Philosophical lectures. 4 vols. From the handwritten estate. Piper, Munich 1987–1990. [In detail: theory of the entire conception, thinking and knowing, metaphysics of nature, metaphysics of beauty, metaphysics of morals.]
  • Ludger Lütkehaus (ed.): The book as will and concept. Arthur Schopenhauer's correspondence with Friedrich Arnold Brockhaus . CH Beck, Munich 1996, ISBN 3-406-40956-3 .
  • Ludger Lütkehaus (ed. And epilogue): I am a man who understands fun - insights from a happy pessimist. Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, Munich 2010, ISBN 978-3-423-13910-6 .
  • Franco Volpi , Ernst Ziegler (ed.): Senilia - thoughts in old age. CH Beck Verlag, Munich 2010, ISBN 978-3-406-59645-2 .
  • Ernst Ziegler (ed. And preface): About death - thoughts and insights about ultimate things. CH Beck Verlag, Munich, 2010, ISBN 978-3-406-60567-3 .
  • Ernst Ziegler (Ed.): Pandectae. Philosophical notes from the estate . Beck, Munich 2016, ISBN 978-3-406-68369-5 .
  • Ernst Ziegler (Ed.): Spicilegia. Philosophical notes from the estate . Beck, Munich 2015, ISBN 978-3-406-67114-2 .

Since 2017, the Berlin lecture on The Entire Philosophy or the Doctrine of the Nature of the World and the Human Spirit from 1820/21 has been re-edited as a study edition by Daniel Schubbe with the assistance of Judith Werntgen-Schmidt and Daniel Elon:

Secondary literature


Web links

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Individual evidence

  1. Walther Rauschenberger: Schopenhauer's ancestors and side relatives. In: Yearbook of the Schopenhauer Society . 1940. pp. 115–137, see also Schopenhauer's ancestors Schoppenhauer Chronik
  2. ^ Daniel Schubbe, Matthias Koßler (ed.): Schopenhauer manual. Life - work - effect. 2nd Edition. JB Metzler, Stuttgart 2018. ISBN = 978-3-476-04558-4 p. 2f. , with a short description of the family
  3. Hans Georg Siegler: The homeless Arthur Schopenhauer. Young years between Danzig, Hamburg, Weimar. Droste, Düsseldorf 1994 excerpts , about early years and family
  4. The world is my will by Thomas Andre, Hamburger Abendblatt of September 21, 2010
  5. ^ Rüdiger Safranski: Schopenhauer and the Wild Years of Philosophy. Harvard University Press, Massachusetts 1991, ISBN 0-674-79276-9 , pp. 52-53.
  6. Axel Burchardt: Schopenhauer's footsteps in Thuringia. Lecture and exhibition on November 13th on the 200th anniversary of Schopenhauer's doctorate. (No longer available online.) In: Universitätsarchiv. Friedrich Schiller University Jena, November 8, 2013, archived from the original on January 8, 2014 ; accessed on January 13, 2014 .
  7. See the studies by Urs App on oriental influences on the genesis of Schopenhauer's philosophy, v. a. Schopenhauer's compass. The birth of a philosophy. UniversityMedia, Rorschach / Kyoto 2011, ISBN 978-3-906000-02-2 .
  8. ^ Letter of August 14, 1818, quoted from Rudolf Borch : Schopenhauer. His life in self-testimonials, letters and reports. Propylaen-Verlag, Berlin 1941, p. 150.
  9. ^ Letter of August 31, 1818.
  10. ^ Letter of September 24, 1818.
  11. ^ Judgment of the Instructional Senate of October 4, 1824 , confirmed by the purification resolution of March 2, 1826
  12. Schopenhauer may have taken the motto from Johann Georg Sulzer's theory of the fine arts , see Karlheinz Muscheler : The Schopenhauer-Marquet processes and the Prussian law. JCB Mohr (Paul Siebeck), Tübingen 1996, ISBN 3-16-146546-6 , p. 103.
  13. ^ Berlin address book 1829
  14. ^ Karl Voß: Berlin, travel guide for literature lovers, from Alex to the Kudamm , Berlin 1986, ISBN 3-548-04069-1 , pp. 56, 64, 65, 80, 85, 108, 119
  15. However, an opposing opinion is represented e.g. B. Holger Althaus: Hegel and the heroic years of philosophy . Carl Hanser Verlag, Munich, ISBN 3-446-16556-8 , pp. 579-581. As a result, Hegel died of an acute outbreak of chronic gastric disease.
  16. Robert Gruber: Schopenhauer's beloved in Berlin. Vienna 1934, p. 32.
  17. The anecdote from the “Englischer Hof” on the Roßmarkt still lingers today that his extraordinary appetite sometimes attracted attention. "Doctor, you really do eat for ten," a person sitting next to you is said to have said to him. "Yes, of course," he replied, "but I also think for ten!"
  18. Interpretation according to Rüdiger Safranski: Schopenhauer and the wild years of philosophy. See secondary literature.
  19. Wolfgang Benz (Ed.): Handbook of Antisemitism. Enmity against Jews in the past and present. Volume 2: People , Part 2: LZ , de Gruyter, Berlin 2009, ISBN 978-3-598-24072-0 , p. 745 ff.
  20. In World as Will and Idea p. 26, according to Anthony Kenny : History of Occidental Philosophy. Volume IV. Modern. 2nd Edition. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 2014, ISBN 978-3-534-73858-8 , p. 28.
  21. Arthur Schopenhauer: The world as will and idea. First volume, Cologne 1997, § 23.
  22. WWV I. § 56
  23. WWV II. Chap. 46
  24. WWV I. § 59
  25. a b I. c. Section 56
  26. I. c. Section 57
  27. I. c. § 59
  28. Arthur Schopenhauer: The world as will and idea. Second volume, Cologne 1997, § 68.
  29. The world as will and idea, § 38
  30. Arthur Schopenhauer: The world as will and idea. First volume, Cologne 1997, § 45.
  31. Arthur Schopenhauer: The world as will and idea. First volume, Cologne 1997, § 52.
  32. Basis of Morality, § 19
  33. Michel Houellebecq: En présence de Schopenhauer. Éditions L'Herne, Paris 2017, ISBN 978-2-85197-832-5 ; German In Schopenhauer's presence. DuMont, Cologne 2017, ISBN 978-3-8321-9882-4 .
  34. XVII, 330 f.
  35. Eduard von Hartmann: Philosophy of the Unconscious. Attempt at a worldview. C. Duncker, Berlin 1869. See the review in: Literarisches Centralblatt für Deutschland , No. 16, April 10, 1869, Col. 441–444 ( digitized version ).
  36. Lexicon of Goethe-Zitate DTV, 1995, p. 507.
  37. Max Scheler: The forms of knowledge and society. Francke, Bern 1960, p. 223 (first edition Bouvier, Bonn 1906).
  38. ^ Hermann Keyserling: Schopenhauer as Verbilders. Leipzig 1910.
  39. Johannes M. Verweyen: Mastery of Life. Dresden 1926, p. 306.
  40. ^ Modesto Gómez-Alonso: Wittgenstein on the Will and Voluntary Action. In: Jesús Padilla Gálvez (Ed.): Action, Decision-Making and Forms of Life. Berlin and Boston 2016, pp. 77–108. (Digitized version) . Original quotations: “[…] we may regard Wittgenstein's mature view of the will both as a rigorous adaptation of Schopenhauer's and as the continuation of his early investigations on the nature of the ethical and the psychological will” (p. 77); "The most relevant point is, however, that the influence of Schopenhauer on Wittgenstein's philosophy might be deeper and more pervasive than we thought [...]" (p. 107).
  41. ^ Max Horkheimer: Notes 1950 to 1969 and twilight. Notes in Germany. Edited by Werner Brede, Frankfurt 1974, p. 63.
  42. ^ Arnold Gehlen: Morality and Hypermorality. A pluralistic ethic. 6th edition. Klostermann Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2004, ISBN 3-465-03303-5 , p. 53 f.
  43. Margret Kaiser-El-Safti: The Pensive Thinker . The emergence of Freud's metapsychology as a function of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. Bonn 1987.
  44. Alfred Adler: The meaning of life. Frankfurt am Main 1933.
  45. Alfred Adler: About the nervous character. Frankfurt am Main 1928.
  46. Arthur Schopenhauer: I am a man who understands fun. Insights from a lucky pessimist. Edited by Ludger Lütkehaus. dtv, Munich 2010.
  47. Ernst Ziegler (Ed.): Arthur Schopenhauer. Thoughts about death. CH Beck, Munich 2010.
  48. For example Ludger Lütkehaus: Being is not the good. A portrait of the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer . In: The time. August 26, 2010. Konstantin Sakkas: Victory of Renunciation. Life and death with Schopenhauer. In: Deutschlandfunk. September 19, 2010. Edo Reents: Being is nothing. On the 150th anniversary of Schopenhauer's death . At: , September 21, 2010.
  51. Arthur Schopenhauer - work and study edition ., with information on the special features of the various complete editions.