The World as Will and Representation
A difficult book
This book is by far the most difficult and
challenging book you'll be reading this quarter, but what is interesting
is the reason why it is so challenging.
It is not challenging because Schopenhauer
is a bad writer. He is considered a superb writer, with an ability to
phrase things simply, clearly, and beautifully. Many people actually read
Schopenhauer simply for the pure enjoyment of it.
Nor is the book challenging because the translation
is a bad one. There have been some bad English translations of Schopenhauer,
but this translation is considered a major improvement on the others,
and is considered to be exceptionally well done.
The difficulty actually lies instead in the
unusualness of Schopenhauer's worldview. It will take a fair amount of
reading before you begin to see what he is saying, but once you do see
it, the reading begins to flow well. I would bet that in this group of
students, at least three or four of you (and maybe more) will find Schopenhauer
to be not just understandable, but even downright enjoyable.
If you are having difficulty understanding
Schopenhauer, you should consider the following aids.
questions to me in the class forum about the readings. I strongly encourage this, since answers to questions you have will almost
certainly be helpful to lots of your fellow students as well.
When posting these questions, it will be most
helpful to refer to specific parts of the text. For example, what does
Schopenhauer mean by the sentence on page xx which begins "..."
? Or "What does Schopenhauer mean by "morphology" on page
xx? The more specific the question the better, but even if you can't ask
something specific, please feel free to pose questions either to me or
to fellow students.
over this series of introductory lectures on Schopenhauer's thought.
(This is actually a requirement rather than a recommendation.) This should
help a little.
a secondary source on Schopenhauer.
All of the history of philosophy books referred to on the course
homepage > Library references have chapters on Schopenhauer. The
chapter in Will Durant's book, The Story of Philosophy, is particularly
Schopenhauer a second time through.
This is what Schopenhauer himself suggests. Of course most authors would
like you to read their books through a second and third time, but in Schopenhauer's
case it may be almost a necessity in order to fully understand the world
view he is laying out for us. I know that most of you will not have time
to read the book fully a second time, but perhaps you'll have time and
inclination at some point in the future.
These introductory lectures about Schopenhauer
will be divided into several sections, each section constituting one mini-lecture.
The sections will be as follows:
I. The Buddha's
four noble truths and Schopenhauer
In which a favorable comparison will be drawn
between the four noble truths in Buddhism and some of the key themes in
II. Life is
Suffering because Life is Willing
In which the source and root of all suffering
III. The World
as Representation (ie, Phenomenon)
In which the entire world - i.e., the entire
"spatial, temporal, causal manifold" - is seen to be mere representation
IV. The World
In which the ultimately noumenal, the really
real, the thing it itself is discovered to be The Will (Der Wille)
In which the intimate encounter with The Beautiful
is seen as a source of true insight and salvation
In which the practice of ascetidism, or self-denial,
is seen as the only true and lasting path to awakening and salvation
will = No worldIn which the goal of Schopenhauer's philosophy
is discovered to be: non-being, nirvana
VIII My Assessments of Schopenhauer
In which your professor offers his own personal
assessments - some favorable and some not - of Schopenhauer's philosophy