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The Great Philosophers:Schopenhauer: Schopenhauer
 
 

The Great Philosophers:Schopenhauer: Schopenhauer [Kindle Edition]

Michael Tanner

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Schopenhauer 1788 – 1860

Western philosophy’s most profound and unrelenting pessimist, Schopenhauer hymned the miseries of human existence with a joylessness that was little short of lyrical. Yet he thrilled to the beauties of music and art.

How did such deep bleakness and such sublime enthusiasm come to coincide in one man, one mind? Only by squaring these two sides of Schopenhauer can we truly hope to understand this most paradoxical – even perverse of thinkers. Only through his thoughts on Beauty can we apprehend his attitude towards Truth.

The failure of later philosophers down the generations to resolve these apparent contradictions has seen Schopenhauer’s thought unjustly marginalized and philosophy itself much poorer. Michael Tanner’s enthralling introduction teases out the difficulties and unpicks the paradoxes to reveal the exhilarating coherence beneath. It amounts to nothing less than a rediscovery of one of Western tradition’s greatest philosophers.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 132 KB
  • Print Length: 80 pages
  • Publisher: Phoenix (14 Sep 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005KKRRWO
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #280,678 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clear, concise and informative 20 Oct 2003
By Diverse - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I love this book! The author really gives a clear understanding of Schopenhauer. I've tried to read and understand S. for a few years, and always left frustrated. I don't have the time to engage in a thorough analysis of this deep thinker. But Mr. Tanner gives a graet summary, with well chosen quotes to give an introductory overview of his thinking. I've read a lot of Nietzche, and I always viewed S. as "pre-Nietzche". But, i'm drawn more and more to the conclusions that S. presents. He sticks with what he observes, and doesn't add his own thoughts on how things should be. The author helps you understand S.'s magnum opus "The World as Will and Representation" very clearly.
Highly recommended.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Introduction to Schopenhauer 1 Sep 2013
By Leonard Seet - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Michael Tanner in Schopenhauer introduces the philosopher's idea for readers who may want to read The World as Will and Representation.

Like Kant, Schopenhauer believes that through our senses we can only experience the representation of the world, in Kant's words, the phenomenal world. But he departs from Kant in his concept of will and willing. For him, willing is the root of all suffering. We seek to satisfy our needs, but once they are met, we become disillusioned and seek to satisfy greater needs and the process never stops. The most common example is that we eat to satisfy our hunger, but having eaten we would feel hungry again. For Schopenhauer this never ending striving and the swing between hope and disillusionment create suffering. His ideas has influenced thinkers like Thomas Mann whose novel The Magic Mountain reflects that search and striving and the resulting suffering and disillusionment.

For Schopenhauer, the Will, as the summation of individual wills, is a unified cosmic principle under all representations, a mindless urging toward no definite end. And such an idea had influenced thinkers like Hartshorne and Whitehead.

But Schopenhauer not only influenced thinkers, but even more so, artists and perhaps musicians. The ideas of ceaseless striving and the cycle of hope and despair appears to lend expressions to the various arts.

However, as Michaal Tanner points out, Schopenhauer's thought process is not as rigorous as philosophers like Kant and at times, the philosopher makes claims without leading the reader through the logical links.

I recommend this book for readers interested in surveying Schopenhauer's ideas before diving into The World as Will and Representation.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Whichever way the will goes... 6 Oct 2007
By ewomack - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Those searching for a bleak view of humanity should look no further than Arthur Schopenhauer. His conception of "the Will" as a purposeless, Sisyphean automaton that never satiates its depthless desires stands as one of Western thought's most life-negating metaphysical posits. A Herculean challenge to peppy optimists, Schopenhauer's philosophy outlines some of life's most miserable, yet undeniable, characteristics. This tiny book provides a good overview of the ups and downs, origins, and influences of Western philosophy's grim reaper (he even looks grim in photos).

The easily digestible essay carries the subtitle "Metaphysics and Art." That serves as the most concise summary possible of the subsequent 54 pages. Michael Tanner, who has also written introductory books on both Wagner and Nietzsche, begins with the origins of Schopenhauer's metaphysics in Kant. Those unfamiliar with the classic story of Hume's skepticism leading to the grand Kantian Transcendentalist program might have to re-read a few sentences here and there, but overall the discussion remains accessible. Schopenhauer's idea of "representation" derives from Kant's bifurcation of phenomenon (the physical world as we perceive it) and noumenon (the world as it is in itself, inaccessible to us) in "The Critique of Pure Reason." In essence, he disagrees with Kant's dichotomy and instead suggests that we can know the world as it is through "the Will." In a very Buddhist and Vedantic manner, Schopenhauer says that we are all a part of a unity, a "Primal One," and thus humanity harbors an illusion of individuality. This mirage, called the "Principle of Individuation" or "principium individuationis," lies at the heart of our unquenchable desires. We are all in fact part of the universal "will," which manifests itself, according to Schopenhauer, everywhere, even in gravitation. Humanity remains enslaved to this massive "Will." We can't sate it and one fulfilled desire turns into ten additional desires. As such, the voluminous nastiness we experience, directly or indirectly, througout our lives are not illusions we can write off as "appearances." They exist. Tanner summarizes: "One of the things that distinguishes Schopenhauer from most other philosophers is his insistence that the world is not the place we would like it to be." Some philosophers begin their systems with how they would like the world and then argue in reverse to fill that conclusion. Schopenhauer may be pulling the same sleight of hand with his system, but his gloomy outlook suggests otherwise. Ultimately, he almost represents the philosophical equivalent of stealing candy from a baby.

Though Schopenhauer often gets, understandably, categorized as a pessimist, Tanner defends him against such brickbats. At this point the metaphysical discussion turns to art. First off, Schopenhauer does not condone suicide, even in the ugly face of the oppressive "Will." He calls it a "futile and foolish act." Tanner sees Christian morality peeking out here. Second, the arts provide some solace for the will, particularly music (here's where Wagner's mouth fell open). Though he strangely turns to Platonic forms as the "highest grade of objectification of the will" he nonetheless gives special status to music as the way one experiences the will directly. Tanner asks the obvious question why anyone would want to know the will given its depiction as an evil tyrant over humanity. Schopenhauerian "salvation" then becomes a puzzle; it is suggested that we could throw off the illusion of individuality and become one with the will. But is that desirable? Tanner scrutinizes this tension that runs through Schopenhauer's philosophy.

The book thus concludes with a head-scratcher. Nonetheless, it provides a great introduction to the pros, cons, and seeming contradictions in Schopenhauer's philosophy. Tanner also points out his legacy in figures such as Nietzsche and Wagner. The former later rejected "artist's metaphysics" while the latter seemed to embrace it, even though Schopenhauer openly advocated Rossini and supposedly disliked Wagner's music. In the end, everybody goes whichever way the will goes. At least Schopenhauer, slightly presaging psychology, thought so.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Easy Intro to Schopenhauer 22 Aug 2005
By Scott gru-Bell - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Despite the lack of a bibliolography, this brief book explores Schopenhauer's main thoughts on Will and Aesthetics. The writing is crisp and easily understood. The many quotations from the philosopher's main work are clear, inspiring me to read Schopenhauer directly.

Dr. Tanner introduces Shopenhauer by way of Kant, and in my opinion gives a clear and relevant account. He contrasts Schopenhauer with Nietzsche, who first adopted his predecessor's thoughts, but who later overcame the apparent pessimism of Schopenhauer with his own Uebermensch.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Explains the inextricably complicated (Rossini) 4 Aug 2005
By Bruce P. Barten - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
For anyone who still thinks of philosophy as a loose collection of schools of thought or method headed by major thinkers, as Randall Collins roughly pictured in 1098 pages in THE SOCIOLOGY OF PHILOSOPHIES / A GLOBAL THEORY OF INTELLECTUAL CHANGE, then the major thinkers Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche had differing degrees of success, as Kant and Hegel have far more lines in the index of the Randall Collins book than Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. Nietzsche expressed a contrary view, possibly more ancient than modern, which applied far more accurately to the pre-Platonic Greeks, that there is no philosophy, only philosophers. For those whose idea of meaning depends mainly on context, Schopenhauer must now be evaluated primarily in what he was able to learn from Kant, how he reacted to his contemporary Hegel, and whether he deserved the repudiation which Nietzsche eventually expressed as a sign of triumph over the denial of will lying in the heart of Schopenhauer's philosophy. I have the big major volumes of Schopenhauer's philosophy, but I was hoping to find more when I checked the shelf in a used book store and found something tiny by Michael Tanner called SCHOPENHAUER / Metaphysics and Art (1997, 1999).

There is too much of Schopenhauer's work to expect a short explanation of all of it. He wrote at such great length on so many topics that the 54 pages of Michael Tanner's book would only be valuable as a summary of a particular aspect that is important for distinguishing Schopenhauer from the other thinkers with which he has become inextricably entwined in the minds of readers whose approach to philosophy has not been as systematic as the great books approach. My own interest would be more perverse than usual because I would like to find, somewhere in the philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), some indication that his interest in music was in some way on the upskirts of rock 'n' roll, even when he is writing, "No one has kept so free from this mistake as Rossini; hence his music speaks its own language so distinctly and purely that it requires no words at all, and produces its full effect even when rendered by instruments alone." (pp. 48-49).

Schopenhauer playing flute by himself for several hours a day is probably the opposite of the kind of music appreciation of modern youngsters who expect to hear, "Let's party, let's get down. Turn the radio on, this is the meltdown" as in Sheryl Crow's "There Goes the Neighborhood" song. Schopenhauer was not even a seminar type thinker, as Michael Tanner seems to expect whenever a universal truth stated by Schopenhauer does not conform to our modern reduction of philosophy to a group discussion format in which individuals take turns expressing points of view. Since Plato, philosophy has been adept at condemning the poets and trying to think in ways that speak with more validity than music, so what do you expect? I think Michael Tanner blames Schopenhauer for indicating that music says more than philosophy, when Schopenhauer's main point of view would then be foolish:

This tiresome need of art to be `truthful', when the truth is disgusting, is what Nietzsche only came to free himself from -- granted his general outlook -- late in life when he wrote (and then only in a notebook): `We have art in order that we may not perish of truth. Truth is ugly.' Why didn't Schopenhauer say the same? (p. 47).

I must say that I was highly impressed by the first page of this book, which mentioned THE WORLD AS WILL AND REPRESENTATION and Kant's CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON with "he espoused some of its key doctrines, and it is necessary to grasp them to see how Schopenhauer moved on, as he saw it, from them to his own highly idiosyncratic position." Pages 2 and 3 trace the fundamental problem back to David Hume, and the beginning of THE WORLD AS WILL AND REPRESENTATION is quoted on pages 5-6. Pages 9-11 quote the second chapter of Book II for the inner nature of the individual for whom "The act of will and the action of the body are not two different states objectively known, . . ." At the end of the second book, Schopenhauer has a position of "Eternal becoming, endless flux, belong to the revelation of the essential nature of the will." (p. 16). In Volume II, in a chapter called `Characterization of the Will-to-Live', most unfortunately, "everyone perseveres in such a mock existence as long as he possibly can" (p. 18).

Finally Richard Wagner, Tolstory, Thomas Mann, Hardy, and Conrad are mentioned as having "a strong satisfaction in having what they regard as the necessary, inescapable misery of life so lucidly conveyed." (p. 19). Book III gives us:

"Thus the subject of willing is constantly lying on the revolving wheel of Ixion, is always drawing water in the sieve of the Danaids, and is the eternally thirsting Tantalus." (p. 20).

Then a discussion of earthly happiness and pain quotes pages with particular sentences examined to find "this is more of the registering of a tendency than the statement of a universal truth, and it is certainly not a necessary or conceptual truth." (p. 28).

On the upskirts of rock 'n' roll, Michael Tanner observes "that the way in which we usually appreciate music, when we are concerned with it from the point of view of emotional expression, is something that we value because it, at best, takes us into the deepest recesses of our empirical selves, the selves which maintain a constant attempt to remain sharply individuated. So whatever the truth about music, how and even if it is expressive, it can't be expressive of ultimate reality." (p. 51). He must mean that when Aimee Mann sings "You Could Make a Killing" on the `I'm with Stupid' CD, it might be true for an individual listener, but if everybody tried it, the chaos would be unreal.
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