Schopenhauer is renowned as the greatest, most brilliant pessimist among philosophers. He was the first to discover that our lives, and world history, are governed not by reason or rational planning but rather by the same blind, hungry will as drives the lives of animals and plants. Instead of reason, says Schopenhauer, there rules, as the basic metaphysical principle, just the “the blind will, appearing as the tendency to life, the love of life, vital energy…the same thing as makes the plant grow”. Because every being on earth is filled with this blind will and needs, in order itself to live, to find its place in the sun by pushing other beings aside, persecuting and hunting them, devouring them and itself fearing being devoured. Even the majestic lion stands on a mountain of corpses to which he owes his existence. But worst of all are human beings, who inflict pain both on animals and on each other. They use their intelligence to systematically exploit, build factories, lock animals in cages and stalls and fight wars for land and materials.
Like the Buddhists, Schopenhauer concludes that life necessarily means suffering. “Every life-story is a story of suffering”, he writes. And like the Buddhists too he draws a radical conclusion. We must say “no” to life and resists its pressure by means of art, asceticism and meditation. But what does it mean to say “no” to life? If our lives are indeed just a devouring and being-devoured under the impulse of blind will, how can we ever escape this fate? Of what use is a pessimism like Schopenhauer’s today? Schopenhauer provides uncompromising answers to these questions that still fascinate us two hundred years on. His key ideas are presented here with the aid of over a hundred quotations from his finest work. The book appears as part of the popular series “Great Thinkers in 60 Minutes”.
“Schopenhauer himself was of the view that ‘whoever really has something to say can say it clearly’. And Schopenhauer’s central philosophical idea is certain very clearly expressed in this introduction to his thought.”
Dr Sebastian Maier-Madignier
"Schopenhauer in 60 Minutes" is available in all bookstores and online shops in paperback and as an eBook.