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The Best 9 Books by Arthur Schopenhauer [PDF]

Arthur Schopenhauer was born in Danzig on February 22, 1788. When Schopenhauer was 5 years old, Poland annexed Danzig, formerly a free market town. His family moved to Hamburg, Germany, in search of a more congenial environment for his father’s business.

In 1797 Schopenhauer was sent to live with a family in France, returning to Hamburg after 2 years to enter a private school. He later became interested in literature, which earned him the disapproval of his father, who nevertheless gave him a choice between pursuing serious literary studies or traveling with the family for 2 years. Schopenhauer chose to travel.

At the end of his travels, Schopenhauer got a job as a clerk in the office of a Hamburg merchant. That year, 1805, his father died, apparently by suicide. The mercantile world was nothing but a burden to the young Schopenhauer, whose ambitions and desires were unfocused and frustrated.

Feeling bound by a promise to his father, Schopenhauer continued to work until 1807, when he resigned to study Greek and Latin at a school in Gotha. He then moved to a school in Weimar, where his mother had already established herself as a teacher of a literary salon frequented by Goethe and other notables.

But Schopenhauer had quarreled earlier with his mother. So he resided with his mentor, the philologist Franz Passow, who paid his tuition. Schopenhauer’s studies went well and in 1809, acquiring a succulent bequest, he enrolled at the University of Göttingen. He studied mainly science and medicine, but finally opted for philosophy.

Schopenhauer’s new passion for philosophy led him to the University of Berlin, where he attended lectures by Johann Gottlieb Fichte, then Germany’s leading philosopher. He ended up disappointed with Fichte, but remained at the university until 1813, when Prussia moved to expel the French after Napoleon’s defeat. 

Seeing the dangers of remaining in Berlin and in no mood of nationalistic fervor, Schopenhauer took refuge in Rudolstadt. There he completed his doctoral thesis, which he successfully submitted to the University of Jena. He self-published the dissertation and returned to Weimar. He met Goethe, who seemed to sympathize with his thinking. One of the fruits of their conversations was the short study “On Vision and Colors” of 1816.

Schopenhauer’s unhappy relations with his mother finally ended in open hostility and he moved to Dresden. By this time, the central and simple idea of his philosophy had taken hold of his mind. The main source of this idea was his own experience and states of mind, but the expression of it owed much to the philosophies of Plato and Immanuel Kant and to the mystical literature of India.

Whereas earlier philosophies had been divided into schools and special problems, his own, as he conceived it, would be a single, simple structure. The simplest expression of this powerful idea is probably the very title of the book he wrote in Dresden, “The World as Will and Idea”.

With two books to his credit, Schopenhauer held a chair of philosophy at the University of Berlin.

In 1831, cholera was epidemic in Berlin, and Schopenhauer fled to Frankfurt, where he remained for the rest of his life. In 1836 he published a study on contemporary science, “On the Will in Nature”, in which he showed that his philosophy was consistent with the sciences. In 1837 he won a prize from the Royal Norwegian Society of Sciences for the essay On the Freedom of the Will. To this essay he added another, publishing in 1841 “The Two Basic Problems of Ethics”.

During these years he revised and expanded the text of “The World as Will and Idea”, which was republished in 1844 with 50 new chapters. In 1847 he republished his dissertation, “On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason”. By then he was already attracting attention, but the fame that was predicted for him was still only a dream.

Finally, in 1851, Schopenhauer published the book that brought him fame and followers. Entitled “Parerga and Paralipomena”, it was a collection of highly polished and insightful essays and aphorisms. His style was probably the main reason for the book’s immediate success.

Schopenhauer died on September 21, 1860. By then he had countless followers and was idolized as a kind of savior.

1) Essays Of Schopenhauer

Essays Of Schopenhauer author Arthur Schopenhauer

Essays Of Schopenhauer is a fairly complete collection of short essays. Schopenhauer, one of the most relevant figures of philosophy, took this discipline to a more logical and rational level, so when you deeply analyze his writings more than one will begin to think about things in a different way, managing to transform and broaden your mind.

The collected essays are not only interesting, but also easy to read, and it is worth noting that they will not leave anyone indifferent. Schopenhauer is known for his brutal honesty, and he did not think twice to write exactly what he thought, which may displease some people. An example of this is his ideas towards women, which border on misogyny and sexism.

Even if you don't share all of his ideas, we recommend this reading to contrast them with yourown or put them in context. There is no denying that, even today, Schopenhauer's words are still relevant.

2) The Basis Of Morality

The Basis Of Morality author Arthur Schopenhauer

The Basis Of Moralityis a work of ethics. Schopenhauer's doctrine was that morality is based on compassion or sympathy. For him, for an action to have moral value it must have arisen from compassion, in which one feels identified to some extent with the person concerned, and without personal gain involved, for this would be selfish. Therefore, if an action is the result of any other motive, it would have no moral value.

In this work divided into 4 sections, Schopenhauer gives his impressions of the history of Western ethics, criticizes Kant's ethics and then shows us his own theory of ethics, and ends with a brief description of the metaphysical foundations of ethics.

Since this is a somewhat in-depth read, we recommend that you take your time and read it at your leisure, and it is also ideal if you already have a basic knowledge of Kant's ethics.

3) The Essays of Arthur Schopenhauer Counsels and Maxims

The Essays of Arthur Schopenhauer Counsels and Maxims author Arthur Schopenhauer

InThe Essays of Arthur Schopenhauer Counsels and Maximsthe German philosopher conveys his ideas in a clear and direct way. This book contains thoughts and observations that can help people to put into perspective their way of living and relating to society.

For Schopenhauer, the key to happiness lies in the attainment of tranquility, so many of the things to which society tends to attach great importance, such as the attainment of wealth, for example, have no real value. According to him, a good enough and realistic goal is simply the avoidance of unhappiness rather than the unbridled pursuit of happiness.

He also speaks of pain as something that can be positive and, as we age, life becomes less and less illusory. If you are interested in reading some philosophical views on life in general, we invite you to give this work a chance.

4) The Essays of Arthur Schopenhauer on Human Nature

The Essays of Arthur Schopenhauer on Human Nature author Arthur Schopenhauer

Although it is well known by his followers that Schopenhauer has a very pessimistic view of human nature, the reflections and observations on life that he raises in The Essays of Arthur Schopenhauer on Human Nature, become stimulating for many as they tend to trigger a whole explosion of ideas and thoughts.

This book is a reflection on the hopes and fears we experience as people and societies, where Schopenhauer exposes that we tend to give more importance to the things we have than to what we actually have. That it is in our nature to look to our past (or sometimes to the future) without valuing our present.

He also raises some interesting ideas about physical and intellectual freedom leading to moral freedom. Without a doubt, Schopenhauer's ability to examine and analyze human motives and character is astounding.

5) The Essays of Arthur Schopenhauer Religion a Dialogue Etc

The Essays of Arthur Schopenhauer Religion a Dialogue Etc author Arthur Schopenhauer

The Essays of Arthur Schopenhauer Religion a Dialogue Etc., is a work that takes us back to ancient Greek philosophical texts, recalling the Socratic dialogues, in which two characters expounded their discourses on knowledge and the nature of truth, each adopting an opposing perspective on the subject in question.

In this particular case the subject refers to religion, and the characters involved are Demopheles and Philalethes. The curious thing about this play is that it is not based on the traditional opposing discourses, that is, it does not pit belief against non-belief, but in this case neither of the two characters is a believer, so their disagreement is about the view they have of belief in others.

Therefore, the philosophical debate that arises goes beyond having or not having faith, but is a more complex debate about the quality of having it.

6) The Essays of Arthur Schopenhauer Studies in Pessimism

The Essays of Arthur Schopenhauer Studies in Pessimism author Arthur Schopenhauer

One of the characteristics for which Schopenhauer is known is that he was a pessimist, and he had a rather depressing view of the human condition; for him, the world is a mistake and something that ought not to be. In fact, his pessimism constituted one of his most famous and unique philosophical tendencies.

One of the ideas he postulated was that the will to live dictates all aspects of human existence, and since the will is insatiable this contributes to people being unhappy. Therefore, either happiness is impossible, or one must learn to control the will.

The Essays of Arthur Schopenhauer Studies in Pessimism may seem at first glance to be a very bleak and depressing way of looking at the world, but for many it can actually be liberating, as it sets aside the enormous burden of assigning meaning to our existence.

7) The Essays of Arthur Schopenhauer the Art of Controversy

The Essays of Arthur Schopenhauer the Art of Controversy author Arthur Schopenhauer

The Essays of Arthur Schopenhauer the Art of Controversy is a compilation of debate tactics that covers topics such as logic and classical rhetoric. With this essay we will be able to know and learn those tricks that politicians use to sell their ideas and why not say it, their lies.

In this essay we will be able to find broken down certain formulas used in debates such as: making your answer be considered correct and/or superior to that of your opponent, the technique of distraction, the direct affirmation that your point of view is correct, even when it clearly is not, among others.

So this book is a must read if you want to know what are some of the methods to gain advantage during a debate, keep in mind that Schopenhauer was an advocate of dialectical argumentation and to which he gave much importance, in fact, in his opinion, philosophers wrongly neglected it in favor of logic.

8) The Essays of Arthur Schopenhauer the Art of Literature

The Essays of Arthur Schopenhauer the Art of Literature author Arthur Schopenhauer

InThe Essays of Arthur Schopenhauer the Art of Literature, the author presents his analysis in relation to topics such as writing, style, literary values, genius, criticism, learning and knowledge, authorship, among others.

This work can well be considered as a writing manual, where Schopenhauer lets us see his ideas and style, so we must keep in mind that what we see portrayed is not the absolute truth, but the opinions and/or prejudices of a man.

What we do not doubt is that it will surely be of great interest to aspiring writers. It is easy to understand, and does not resort to the need to employ footnotes to explain complicated terms, but instead presents a refreshingly clear prose style. It should be noted that for Schopenhauer the best way to train oneself in the theory of writing was to study how the great authors executed their best works.

9) The Essays of Arthur Schopenhauer the Wisdom of Life

The Essays of Arthur Schopenhauer the Wisdom of Life author Arthur Schopenhauer

InThe Essays of Arthur Schopenhauer the Wisdom of Life, the author reflects on what for him is really important and what is secondary to achieve a well-lived existence. He mentions that everything revolves around the will and how it is shaped by our personality and emotions.

The inner self, he says, is far more significant than material, professional or social achievements, although Schopenhauer himself seems to struggle to accept his own views, as he also suggests that ultimate happiness consists in devoting oneself fully to one's faculties and producing lasting works.

This work full of insightful reflections is easy to read and digest, much more so than others by other equally renowned philosophers, so if you like to think differently you will enjoy reading it, whether you agree with him or not, as the clarity of Schopenhauer's prose is profound and thought-provoking.