- Publisher: Peter Smith Pub Inc (June 1, 1969)
- Language: English, German
- ISBN-10: 0844628859
- ISBN-13: 978-0844628851
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 3 x 8.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 3.2 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 90 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,835,877 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The World As Will and Representation (2-Volume Set)
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I first learned about Schopenhauer when I was in a rather low point in my life and was looking for a consolation in the philosophy section of a bookstore. There I stumbled across The Consolations of Philosophy, which had a section about Schopenhauer and his basic outlook on the human condition. I never had a problem with pessimism and in fact always looked for someone great to defend it. Anyway, I slowly started preparing myself for the first volume. I had no philosophical background, just an immense desire to understand Schopenhauer's point of view since I knew then it would become my metaphysical backbone.
One of the challenges was that English is my second language and I feared that philosophy in English would exact too big a demand on my language skills. But the realization that with Schopenhauer lay the answers to my angst was enough to commit to this project.
I first read The Philosophy of Schopenhauer, which I understood for the most part and became even more intrigued. I definitely gained some philosophical muscle and so I plunged into volume one shortly after. It took me three months and it was a rather grueling experience. Partly because of the terminology and new concepts, partly because of the style, partly because of the translation. As one of the readers noted, some of the Latin and Greek phrases are not translated, which infuriated me each time I encountered them. For crying out why? But all these problems are nothing compared with the immense pleasure I got from reading the work, which my body frequently heralded with goosebumps!
I just finished the second volume (took me another 5 or 6 months). I read just a few pages a day. But I'll never regret spending the time. If there's an intellectual equivalent of orgasm, this is it. This experience will be forever etched in my brain. Transcendental idealism (which is also the basis of Buddhist metaphysics) is a life changing idea. I kind of look at myself and everything that happens to me through that lens now.
One of the ideas that was always on the tip of my tongue and that I never was able to articulate even to myself is Schopenhauer's notion about the negativeness of happiness and positiveness of suffering. In other words, happiness is only a subtraction from suffering. Needs, discomfort and suffering is what we start from. Turns out Voltaire said it even more succinctly: "There are no great pleasures without great needs". To, me it's a profound insight and both volumes are worth reading just because of this. If this idea does not give you goosebumps, then Schopenhauer might not be for you. Later I read Ann Ryand's "Atlas Shrugged", where that idea was attacked at least once -- but just as a bare assertion. By the way, "Atlas Shrugged" is the most tedious and crude attempt at realism (or objectivism) I ever read. But I'm digressing again.
I do have a couple of gripes with Schopenhauer's style. Some sentences are REALLY long with sub-sentences and sometimes sub-sub-sentences. Sometimes, I needed to re-read them a dozen times. Also, Schopenhauer is surprisingly repetitive in places, which was also commented on by Magee. But if you think about it, in the age of no computers and fancy editors, it was probably difficult to spot repetition. On the flip side, I found the repetitiveness of his ideas helpful when a particular major concept was not clear, because sure enough he would describe it ten more times from slightly different angles.
Schopenhauer says several times that everything that he had written must be read to fully understand his philosophy. He prescribes a list of his works to be read before "The World as Will and Representation" (TWAWR) is begun. The list includes:
1) His doctoral thesis. On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason (Dodo Press).
2) Hi prize winning essay. Schopenhauer: Prize Essay on the Freedom of the Will (Cambridge Texts in the History of Philosophy).
3) On the Basis of Morality
4) His critique of Kant's philosophy at the end of volume one.
I started with the critique of Kant and quickly abandoned it because it required a decent knowledge of Kant. By the way, Schopenhauer once said that he who hasn't read and understood Kant is a mere child. But I was not ready for Kant yet. So, I skipped Kant's critique and moved on to volume one. I can now say that at least a general idea about the fourfold principle of sufficient reason (FPSR) is required to fully get it. So, do yourself a favor, look it up and read at least a summary of it. Otherwise a lot of the meaning will be lost. But FPSR is all you really need to get started.
By the time you finish TWAWR, even if you don't agree with his ideas, you will definitely be amazed by the sheer breadth of his knowledge. For starters, he spoke four foreign languages fluently -- English, French, Greek and Latin. His knowledge of science of that time is also quite staggering. He frequently provides his insight on physics, math, logic, astronomy, medicine (anatomy and physiology), botany, zoology, biology and chemistry. His knowledge of philosophy is similarly awesome. He constantly refers to and quotes Plato, Aristotle, Hume, Locke, Berkley, Kant and others. Fine arts? Sure! He had a lot to say about poetry, music, sculpture and architecture. In fact, he had something to say about everything that matters.
To conclude, I love Schopenhauer. Too bad I can't thank him in person. To those who accuse him of pessimism, I can only say that just because something is pessimistic, doesn't mean it's not true. And Schopenhauer does make his case strong.
Remember to look at your life through the prism of eternity. Hang in there, accept your lot and carry it with pride. Everything passes...
Thank you, Arthur.
========= 9 years later ========
Shortly after reading Schopenhauer I plunged into learning Latin. I didn't like that I couldn't understand the quotes and Latin was a cool thing to learn anyway. I did that for about 3 years religiously. If you're bored like I was, Latin will keep you entertained for a LONG time :) I ended up reading some ancient authors in the original, which I consider an accomplishment.
I got married and have a daughter now. But my philosophical outlook hasn't changed much. I'm re-reading Magee's introduction to Schopenhauer and am enjoying that again. Maybe I'll re-read Schopenhauer himself one more time at some point.
In order to embrace and understand the material, one must think like him and go beyond the regular forms of every day conceptions and thought processes. Ultimately, they all lead back to every day reality where the pragmatic use of his application can be used. I tend to be more acceptable to optimism as he may have been in certain situations. Although, life was not meant to be easy and it's turbulence can shape the pearl inside each of us. I would recommend people reading this book prior to adulthood to prepare the mind for important decisions that will be placed on a person, as important decisions and responsibilities will indeed present themselves to each of us. To maintain oneself steady and firm in the mind plays a big part for the body to follow in life. I enjoyed this book and look forward to reading volume II next.