Tuesday 21 August 2012

Arthur Schopenhauer Looking At Things

Some weeks ago I finished reading Arthur Schopenhauer’s main work, The World as Will and Idea.

Looking at glasses
This accomplishment came a bit late in light of the fact that I first encountered Schopenhauer at the age of 17. This was the time when I decided to study philosophy and was exploring the – admittedly limited – stock of philosophy books in the libraries of my home town. Somehow I bumped into Rüdiger Safranki’s biography on Schopenhauer and was enchanted by the book. It depicted the intellectual scene of late romanticism, Goethe’s Weimar and German idealism in a way that I found fascinating. Thanks to the book, I became interested in Schopenhauer and started to read his minor works. However, I soon realized that his system cannot properly be understood without a basic understanding of Kant, so I began to study Kant. Then I went to university, and many other philosophers diverted me from Schopenhauer. At the back of my mind, I kept planning to read his main work but did not find time to do so until I finished my PhD thesis last year.

Schopenhauer’s most frequently – although simplistically – cited thought is that life is suffering. This may have touched me 15 years ago when – having awakened from the naivety of my childhood – I felt the pain of an unrequited love for the first time. Today, perhaps because I understand more clearly the delight that even an unrequited love can bring, the idea of life being suffering does not affect me much. What I find interesting in Schopenhauer instead is what he wrote about the redemptive power of looking at things.