Schopenhauer (1788-1860)


w as the year of birth to one of historys most renowned philosophers, Arthur Schopenhauer. His place of birth was Danzig in Germany. Artur Schopenhauer´s mothers name was Johanna Henriette Troisener S. (1766-1838), his father´s name was Heinrich Floris S. (1747-1805). His parents were liberals, which meant that they had adopted the ideas of the Age of Enlightment. The horrors of communism had yet to be clearly traced in much of this thinking, which is why the French revolution, among other things, was greeted with open arms. The development was complicated and in 1793, shortly before the Prussian occupation of Danzig, the family of Schopenhauer fled to Hamburg, which at this point was a strongly growing business city, a later fact that pleased the business-minded father.

   Hamburg and Le Havre

T he final destination in Hamburg became, following a shorter moving within the city, a street connected to the cqnql system of central Hamburg, Neuer Wandrahm 92. In 1797 Johanna Schopenhauer gave birth to a second child, thus Arthur got a younger sister, Luise Adelaide Lavinia S. (1797-1849). Later during the same year, Arthur was sent away to live in Le Havre with a french family to learn a second language. Grégorie de Blesmaire was the name of the familys father and Arthur experienced a happy time with this company, as well as finding a friend of the same age in the son of the family, Anthime. The stay in Le Havre was over at the age of eleven and Arthur went back to Hamburg to initiate his studies, whose direction was chosen by the father. The father considered the future choices of the son to be identical with that of the businessman and placed him in the privately owned school of Runge, with the study direction of trade.

   Studies and a journey

T hus did Heinrich Floris have a hope of the son becoming a businessman in order to take over his merchant house. Arthur had reluctantly yielded to the proposals of the father, but gave vent to his own wishes to study language and take further education with other goals in sight nonetheless. When Johanna and Heinrich Floris Schopenhauer prepared for a longer journey through Europe, Arthur faced the choice between staying at home by himself and studying at the grammar school, or to go with the parents and begin an apprentice at a skilful merchant as soon as they returned. This journey became an important marker in Arthur Schopenhauer´s life as he intended that the observation was to be his first goal for himself. He experienced the European culture in the way of the interested traveller, and developed his ability further to express the observed to himself and in written travel descriptions. A few experiences were of a more rough kind, first and foremost that he witnessed the public hanging of three men, together with the sight of misery of the galley slaves at a galley, standing firm at the quay, which worked as a prison. These experiences consolidated his pacifist, as it did his pessimist attitude, even more.

   The return and the death of the father

T he journey lasted for one year and four months. Arthur Schopenhauer did after the return fulfill his promise to the father by entering as an apprentice in the company of Mr. Jenisch. The economic learnings which he took possession of through this would indeed serve him well in his later life. Eventually the father was struck by businesslike setbacks and then by a following depression because of this. He fell ill from jaundice and remained sitting in his room in the need of help. Heinrich Floris wife, Johanna, may have been expected to lend her husband a hand, but in the way of women she rather chose to amuse herself. An old servant had to step in for her. In the morning of the 20th of april in 1805 did the father Heinrich Floris Schopenhauer perish when he fell into the canal from one of his buildings. Historians have interpreted this event as suicide.

   Life goes on

T he familys heritage after Heinrich Floris guaranteed their wealth. Now did Johanna and Luise Adelaide move to Weimar after shutting down the company and selling the house in Hamburg. Arthur felt attached by his earlier promise to the father and continued his economic studies for a few years as he received bed and board from an official by the name of Mr. Willinck. His spare time was devoted to the study of philosophy, attending lectures and musical gatherings. Anthime, his earlier friend, moved to Hamburg for studies with the direction of trade. During a brief time of Arthur Schopenhauers life did he and Anthime searched for female company in the way of older teenagers, and as the “respectable” ladies made themselves inaccessible it is conceivable that the two friends chose to stain themselves with whores. Arthur Schopenhauer felt locked, nevertheless, and he wasn´t free until he received a letter from the mother, in which she redeemed him from his promise to the father. He left Hamburg at the age of nineteen to pursue his studies in Weimar, in spite of his mother wishes that he should direct his course toward another place. Arthur Schopenhauer began his studies at the grammar school of Gotha in 1807 and could continue his studies at the university of Göttingen in 1809. He eventually moved in with the mother after the arrival in Weimar, and her fears of daily family bickering came true. Arthur Schopenhauer made further learnings in Göttingen; he studied metaphysics, psychology and philosophical scepticism under the advice of Gottlob Ernst Schulze (1761-1833). The next instance was the university of Berlin where other lecturers such as Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834) and Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1762-1814), among others, were current. He moved to Rudolstadth, eventually, where he was accommodated at an inn by the name of Zum Ritter. Arthur Schopenhauer wrote his doctor´s thesis, in connection to this, which he called “Über die vierfache Wurzel des Satzes vom zureichenden Grunde” (which was later rewritten in 1847). He was 25 years old at the time.


H owever, it was through the mother Johanna schopenhauer that Arthur got in conctact with the poet Goethe, who was quite eminent in Germany of that time. Johanna Schopenhauer frequently invited people to various soirées where Goethe came to be a resumptive visitor. Arthur took a back seat at the beginning, but send his doctor´s thesis to Goethe for consideration, in which way he gained his attention. Goethe replied by asking Arthur Schopenhauer to study Goethes own theory of colours. Arthur replied with a balanced criticism on this point which came to be developed in a number of letters that were exchanged between them afterwards. But as Goethe never remarked on Schopenhauers works in an acceptable way, in spite of his repeated remarks, and merely taking interest in his own theories, the relation came to fade away with time. Goethe was nevertheless one of the characters that cast his influences over Arthur Schopenhauers life and thinking to a great extent, although partially as a reference of a “naïve, philosophical point of view”. Arthur managed to write a dissertation, “Über das Sehen und die Farben”, which was released in 1816, through the inspiration of Goethe.

   The Upanishads

T he speculative, philosphic-religious writings of the Upanishads were translated into latin and released during the nineteenth century, and Schopenhauer began his private studies of these writings in 1814. The reincarnation and the world soul (the brahma) are central themes to the Upanishads, together with the coincident, individual soul (atma) at the ultimate by nature . Some of the writings have been added more than 600 years B.C., and they have been added to during the years continuously. Arthur Schopenhauer took a particular interest in the aspect of these writings that approaches Buddhism practically. The Upanishads emphasizes a descriptive interpretation of the world as a blind nature , which doesn´t represent a value per se. The individual should instead strive to see through the illusion of life and redemption from the inner compulsion associated with a “blind” life. Nirvana should be sought in the long run.

   Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung

w as the year when Schopenhauer moved to Dresden, Grosse Meissnersche Gasse 35, to pursue private studies and philosophical writings by his own initiative. This is where he wrote his most important piece of work, “The World as Will and Representation”, the work that later came to be associated with his person for ever. According to this writing, the world is merely a phenomena as an object of the perceiving subject, a notion whose specific expressions are unimportant in a wider sense. The important thing is the nature which can be noticed as a law beyond phenomena, namely the will. The shapes in which the will manifests itself remains as the expression of the laws of nature in the specific forces. All specific expressions may be traced back to motives and causalities, whereas the natural laws or the will per se are without reason . Schopenhauer approaches the world with reference to four different aspects in “The World as Will and Representation”. The first and second aspect concerns the world as representation and the world as will. The third part of the book describes the terms of the individual liberation, arts and aesthetics, while the fourth part enters into the subjects of death and erasure, ethics and contemplation.

   Lectures and vacation

A rthur Schopenhauer went on a nearly yearlong journey to Italy shortly after finishing his great work. This journey was mostly spent on cultural discoveries, probably on one or two love affairs, as well. In 1820 Arthur Schopenhauer was approved as a private senior lecturer at the University of Berlin, where he gave lectures for ten years. Hegel (1770-1831), the publically very popular, but despised by Schopenhauer, gave lectures during these years (1819-1831), and as long as Schopenhauer demonstratively located his lectures at the same time as those of Hegels, they were scarcely visited. There was no students at many of Schopenhauers lectures, but merely a few curious visitors of mixed background, while the lectures of Hegel gathered hundreds of spectators. Schopenhauer later wrote an essay where he gave vent to his hate of Hegel. Another publication that attacked the philosophical establishment was, “Über den Willen in der Natur”, which was published in 1836. The insufficient appreciation for his own theories and works of the public made him depressed and he returned to Italy during a few summer vacations. The last journey lasted for totally three years, after which he returned to Berlin not until 1825, yet after , except for in Venice and Florence, staying at the health resort of Bad Gastein in Munich and in Dresden for some time.

    Arthur Schopenhauer is popularized

T he start of Schopenhauers broad reputation of today may be interpreted from certain complications at the end of his life. As a reply to two announced philosophical competitions, Schopenhauer sent a twofold contribution , one for each competition. The first competition was announced by the Royal Norwegian Academy of Science in Trondheim, the second by the Royal Danish Academy of Science in Copenhagen. The first contribution was rewarded with a first price, the other was not rewarded, as no other contribution was received. The essays were compiled into a document, “Die beiden Grundprobleme der Ethik”, which was published in 1841. Schopenhauer blended his accounts with lunges against Hegel and established philosophy, as usual. A publication of the collected works of Immanuel Kant was initiated at the University of Königsberg, at an other occasion. Schopenhauer wrote a letter with comments and advice, of which one, among other things, concerned the main work of Kant, stated that the first edition was superior to the second and should be given precedence because of that, to the responsible people. The letter of Schopenhauer was considered as he suggested and his letter was quoted in the preface of the concerned book. At the age of 60, Schopenhauer wrote a document, which became more read during his lifetime than any other piece of work of his. The writing was called “parerga und paralipomena” which implied that it concerned a supplementation of his previous books. The writing was published in 1851.

   Schopenhauer dies

A fter being diagnosed with heart problems even in 1857, Arthur Schopenhauer was struck by sporadic pressure on the chest and uneven heart rythm .The pressure on the chest proved to stem from an inflammatory condition of the lungs. The problem returned for a number of attacks with an interval of a week, after a certain decline during the autumn. After conversing with dr. Gwinner in apparent good health on September 18th, he was found dead in his chair on the 21th.

    Summary of important writings

  1. Über die vierfache Wurzel des Satzes vom zureichenden Grunde (1813)
  2. Über das Sehen und die Farben (1816)
  3. Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung (1819)
  4. Über den Willen in der Natur (1836)
  5. Die beiden Grundprobleme der Ethik (1841)
  6. Parerga und Paralipomena (1851)

   Kåre Andersson


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