Arthur Schopenhauer

An Introduction

John Knoblock

Genius is its own reward; for the best that one is, one must necessarily be for oneself…. Further, genius consists in the working of the free intellect…, and as a consequence …the productions of genius serve no useful purpose. The work of genius may be music, philosophy, painting, or poetry; it is nothing for use or profit. To be useless and unprofitable is one of the characteristics of genius; it is their patent of nobility.
"On Genius"
Arthur Schopenhauer

Arthur Schopenhauer was born February 22, 1788, in Danzig, the son of a wealthy merchant. He was given a private education and then attended a private business school. The sudden death of his father in April 1805 changed the course of his life, and, during the next two years, he acquired in Gotha and Weimar the academic preparation necessary for attendance at the University of Göttingen. Beginning as a student of medicine, he transferred to the humanities, concentrating first on Plato and Immanuel Kant. He then attended the University of Berlin, but ultimately earned his doctorate of philosophy from the University of Jena.

The Orientalist Friedrich Majer, a disciple of Johann Gottfried Herder, introduced him to the teachings of Indian antiquity which would profoundly influence his thought and made him the first major European thinker to grasp the thought of India. He believed that the Upanisads, together with the philosophies of Plato and Kant, constituted the foundation on which to erect a proper philosophy of representation. He dedicated himself to this task, producing his magnum opus, The World as Will and Idea, in 1819.

In March 1820, he began lecturing at the University of Berlin. An antagonist of Hegel from the first, he deliberately scheduled his lectures at the same hour as Hegel's, assuring that few students would attend his classes. When even his book received little critical attention, he became discouraged, occupied himself with minor works, and finally renounced his career as a university professor to live as a recluse, totally absorbed in his studies and writings. He died September 21, 1860, in Frankfurt am Main.

His theories on aesthetics and ethics, pointing to the negation of the will as liberation, his "pessimistic" world-view that regarded nonbeing more highly than being, and his conception of music as the highest of the arts all exercised a powerful influence on both Wagner and Nietzsche.


On Vision and Colors (1815)
The World as Will and Representation (1819)
The Two Fundamental Problems of Ethics (1841)
The World as Will and Representation (1844; 2d Edition)
Parerga and Paralipomena (1852)

Bibliography of Schopenhauer's Works

Bibliography of Works on Schopenhauer

Schopenhauer On The Web

Schopenhauer Biography

Schopenhauer Page with quotations from his works.

Schopenhauer Bibliography

Discussion Group dedicated primarily to the philosopher's ethical theory

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Last revised 4/18/96