Arthur Schopenhauer was a renowned German philosopher, remembered for his pessimistic views on human nature, which are discussed in his highly praised and widely discussed book, “The World as Will and Representation”. Schopenhauer’s theories were influenced by the philosophies of Plato and Immanuel Kant, his teachings brought him in constant academic rivalry with Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.
Arthur Schopenhauer was born on February 22, 1788, in Danzig, Poland. He was born into an affluent German family, his father, Heinrich Floris Schopenhauer was a successful merchant, while his mother, Johanna Troisner was a writer. His parents had moved to Hamburg in 1793, upon Prussia’s annexation of Danzig. In 1805, Arthur’s father ended his life by committing suicide. From then on, his mother took over his upbringing, and in 1807, Arthur was enrolled in a gymnasium in Gotha. Later, he was placed under the tutelage of the famous Greek philosopher, Franz Passow, who instructed him in classical studies. Two years later, he became fluent in Greek and Latin. At the age of 21, he inherited one-third of the paternal estate which allotted him a fixed income of his own. In 1809, Arthur was accepted at the University of Göttingen, where he pursued a degree in medicine. He also studied philosophy under the direction of G.E. Schulze, who regularly assigned him philosophical readings, his interests were especially peaked by the works of Plato and Immanuel Kant, and they had a significant influence in shaping his ideologies.
In 1813, Schopenhauer received his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Jena. The same year, he published his first book, titled “Uber die vierfache Wurzel des Satzes vom zureichenden Grunde”. Later that year, he decided to return to Weimar, where his mother had established a reputed literary salon, that was frequented by influential literary figures, such as Johann Wolfgang van Goethe, who inspired Schopenhauer’s work in “On Vision and Colours”, published in 1816.
In 1816, Schopenhauer published his most remarkable and highly applauded work, titled “Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung” (The World as Will and Representation), which has influenced economic thought for centuries. The book was published in four volumes, the first book dealt with the ‘Idea’ that is described as a product of science and experience, and revolves around the concept of logic. The second volume deals with the ‘Will’, and describes how the will imposes itself on the world, the third volume discusses the ‘Platonic Idea’ which says that the idea does not depend on the principle of logic, and lastly, the fourth volume deals with the ethical connotations of the acceptance or rejection of the will. This book was very well received and praised, and it firmly established Schopenhauer as a gifted writer and eminent philosopher.
In 1820, he accepted a teaching position at the University of Berlin, where his teachings came into striking contrast with those of Hegel’s, hence, this gave way to an academic battle of opposing ideologies, which consequently drove Arthur away from academia.
In 1833, he moved to Frankfurt, and lived there for the next 30 years, all by himself and the company of his pet cats and poodles. He devoted his time to research and reading, and in 1847, he published a revised version of his early works, titled “On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason”. In 1851, he published an essay, titled “Of Women”, where he described women as incapable of decision making and rationality, and termed them as the “weaker sex”. He also composed several writings on aging, which were later published as “Senilia”. Arthur Schopenhauer passed away due to heart failure on September 21, 1860, at the age of 72.