29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Introduction to Schopenhauer
This is a neat little book that actually summarises Schopenhauer's work really effectively. I'm currently wading my way through 'The World as Will and Representation', and this book is a very good shortcut straight to Schopenhauer's central ideas. It's actually better than some longer commentaries like Magee's. It even gives a clear idea of why there is no 'School of...
Published on 28 Jun 2004 by A. I. Mackenzie
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars snotty, heinous, bankrupt, dumb
This is a dreadful account of Schopenhauer's philosophy. If you are coming to Schopenhauer WITHOUT having carefully read Kant's Critique of Pure Reason (which I don't recommend) you would do well to read Bryan Magee's `The Philosophy of Schopenhauer' as an appetiser, as this will set you on firm ground before reading The World as Will and Representation. I'm not going to...
Published 9 months ago by Mr
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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Introduction to Schopenhauer,
This review is from: Schopenhauer: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)This is a neat little book that actually summarises Schopenhauer's work really effectively. I'm currently wading my way through 'The World as Will and Representation', and this book is a very good shortcut straight to Schopenhauer's central ideas. It's actually better than some longer commentaries like Magee's. It even gives a clear idea of why there is no 'School of Schopenhauer' in the way you get say Kantians and Hegellians and how even though he had few followers Schopenhauer was very inflential, primarily in Philosophy to Nietsche and Wittgenstein and in music to Wagner.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A splendid introduction to an influential thinker,
This review is from: Schopenhauer: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)Schopenhauer, a German philosopher of the early 19th century, is a greatly neglected thinker today, despite being hugely influential in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, most notably on the thought of Nietzsche, Wagner and Freud. The latter in particular, although he denied it, was greatly influenced by him. Janaway convincingly extends the list to include Mahler, Jung, Mann and others. In fact, if you have not yet delved deeply into the work of Freud or Nietzsche, I would strongly recommend that you tackle Schopenhauer before doing so, and Janaway's is the perfect introduction. It is a well-informed, readable and balanced account, neither an apology nor a savaging. Schopenhauer's metaphysics have not stood the test of time, but his worldview, essentially pessimistic yet with promise of redemption, is still very relevant, and in many ways strikingly modern. If you are at all interested in the development of modern thought, especially that of the various German and Austrian schools, then you need to acquaint yourself with Schopenhauer, and I doubt you will find a better introduction than this book.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The world as will,
This review is from: Schopenhauer: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)Schopenhauer: A very short introduction by Christopher Janaway, Oxford, 2002, 152 ff.
The world as will
By Howard A. Jones
This is another excellent little monograph in the Oxford University Press series. Unlike one reviewer, I did not find Schopenhauer the easiest of German philosophers to study, even in translation. I did find Bryan Magee's book equally readable as this, but it is three times the length and is therefore obviously more detailed, as is Hamlyn's book for Routledge. The author here is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southampton and is an expert on Nietzsche and Schopenhauer.
This book begins with a synopsis of Schopenhauer's PhD thesis work, On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason - a ubiquitous principle in philosophy and science since Aristotle that everything must have a cause. His best known work is On the World as Will and Representation (WWR) that was much inspired by eastern mysticism: Janaway tells us how this came about and how it expands on Plato's world of Ideas, on Berkeley's `reality in perception' and on Kant's view of the numinous: `only the will is thing in itself . . . It appears in every blindly acting force of nature'. The identification of Wille with Kant's Ding-an-sich is one of Schopenhauer's great insights; but while Kant's ethics is an ethics of duty, Schopenhauer's ethics is an ethics of compassion.
The compatibility of Schopenhauer's ideas with the Noble Truths of Buddhism is illustrated by a quote: `as long as our consciousness is filled by our will . . . we never attain lasting happiness or peace.' Schopenhauer believed that transcendence of the material world was possible through aesthetic experience, and the role of art and music are discussed in Book III of WWR and the whole of Chapter 6 in Janaway.
Schopenhauer was hugely influential on Nietzsche, on composers like Mahler and Wagner, on novelists like Thomas Mann and on C.J. Jung. Other commentators see Schopenhauer as anticipating Freud in his idea of the role of the unconscious rather than influencing him. This highly readable book provides an excellent introduction to and summary of the main points in Schopenhauer's thought.
Dr Howard A. Jones is the author of The Thoughtful Guide to God (2006) and The Tao of Holism (2008), both published by O Books of Winchester, UK.
The Philosophy of Schopenhauer
Schopenhauer (Arguments of the Philosophers)
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good and compact summary,
This review is from: Schopenhauer: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)To pack an account of Schopenhauer's philosophy - including discussions of where he is inconsistent or where his metaphysics is questionable - into a book of 127 pages is an achievement. Such a concentrated text requires concentrated reading; and, unlike an earlier reviewer on this website, I have found Bryan Magee's book of 456 pages not only more enjoyable but also more rewarding. But if it has to be done in 127 pages, it is well done here.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ideal for the non specialist interested in learning the basics of a fascinating and still very pertinant philosphy,
This review is from: Schopenhauer: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)This is a very neat little book and I think meets a genuine need. Arthur Schopenhauer's philosophy has influenced some of the leading creative artists and thinkers in the 160 years since the world woke up to Schopenhauer's philosophical greatness. A list of those significantly influenced by Schopenhauer's work would include Richard Wagner, Friedrich Nietzsche, Leo Tolstoy, Gustav Mahler, Thomas Hardy, Sigmund Freud, Joseph Conrad, T S Eliot, Thomas Mann, Samuel Beckett, Borges - the list is long and very distinguished.
Many admirers of these great figures will want to gain an understanding of Schopenhauer's thought so as to be able to appreciate the nature and extent of his influence upon Mann, Wagner, Conrad or whoever. A detailed study of Schopenhauer's work from the original works and the extended studies by academic philosophers is quite an undertaking and this little book circumvents the needs for such work.
Christopher Janaway is a deservedly renowned expert in the field of Schopenhauerian philosophy and he takes the reader through all the key areas that need attention.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars snotty, heinous, bankrupt, dumb,
This review is from: Schopenhauer: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)This is a dreadful account of Schopenhauer's philosophy. If you are coming to Schopenhauer WITHOUT having carefully read Kant's Critique of Pure Reason (which I don't recommend) you would do well to read Bryan Magee's `The Philosophy of Schopenhauer' as an appetiser, as this will set you on firm ground before reading The World as Will and Representation. I'm not going to subject people to a long and tedious essay on this introduction (Janaway's) so I will simply list various points that rankle or are flat out wrong.
(x) The tone of the book, on the whole, is RANK; it being a horrible mix of both pomposity and incredulity. It is the kind of attitude that is an anathema to honest philosophical enquiry and is out of place in an introductory text designed for a lay reader: "How are we to take this? If meant literally, it is merely embarrassing."
Such an attitude becomes even more inexplicable in light of 20th century science which presented us with a plethora of counter intuitive notions about the nature of the world; notions which, in their emphasis on the subjectivity of experience and the limits of human knowledge, took on a distinctly Kantian-Schopenhauerian flavour. The distorting of the perceptual form in Einstein's relativity, Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, the wave-particle duality, Bell's theorem and the non-locality of space. Does sneering condescension befit such ideas? (whether you except these as explanations is a whole other matter) Janaway's attitude which seems to treat Schopenhauer as a relic of the past who is silly and inconsequential is utterly bizarre when physics has been moving in a generally Kantian-Schopenhauerian direction. (It's also an interesting side note that Schrödinger was a Schopenhauerian)
I mention the irritating and pompous tone as it seems Janaway has previous form in this regard, as can be witnessed in one of the most idiotic and vacuous reviews of a philosophical work that I have ever read, the book in question being the aforementioned `Philosophy of Schopenhauer' by Bryan Magee, the review being published in MIND 84 . I will perhaps post the review at some point, suffice to say such writing as "Magee's book simply lacks sufficient first-hand involvement with philosophical issues" is not only deeply wrong but ACTIVELY DISHONEST. The roots of such dishonesty I can only guess at. The opening snottiness of "Bryan Magee has written a readable book, in a fairly popular and non-academic style, appropriate to what I take to be its introductory function. It is fairly light-weight, for all its size," is equally unbearable and dishonest. If Magee's book is "lightweight" where on earth does that put Janaway's thunderous introduction? Flyweight? Bantamweight? Amoebaweight?
On to the content of the book:
(1) on page 21-22 Janaway writes in reference to Schopenhauer's account of perception: " The account has a certain ingenuity, but is troubling. For one thing, where do bodily sensations come from? They must surely be originally caused in the body by something prior to the operation of the intellect, but Schopenhauer does not discuss what that prior cause might be. Secondly, how do we apprehend the initial sensation? It cannot be that the mind perceives the sensation as a change in a material thing (the body), and yet if it does not do so, why is the principle of causality, which governs changes of material things, called into operation at all?
? I'm not sure if these questions are being asked in bad faith or whether Janaway has not understood what is being said, so let's be clear: The EFFECT as it is apprehended by the brain - our starting point being sense datum, some action of matter - has its root in a metaphysical substratum which is unknowable, this being the thing-in-itself, the will, what matter is in-itself. This distinction is the difference between what is causality and what is not causality. Causality, as Schopenhauer makes clear, being all that is left once matter has been stripped of every discernible property (this leaves us with an abstraction, matter as ACTING IN GENERAL without any defined mode of acting i.e. in time and space with such and such a quality). If causality is then removed we are left with an X, the will, what is unknowable. (and it is important to make clear that, as should be obvious, there is no causal relationship between phenomena and the thing-in-itself, this phenomenal world IS the thing-in-itself in its conditioned aspect.)
The extent to which we KNOW sensation is as something already IN a causally connected, phenomenal world as furnished by our understanding; there then appears that great disparity between sensation a some kind of localised feeling under the skin of a body and the sensually variegated phenomenal world of our perception.
As regards space as an a priori form, it doesn't matter - speaking now outside this condition - whether we say NO space or space wholly unlike that of human experience (as the string theorists claim with their 10 and 11 dimensions) because neither can become known, that is, both are unknowable and if some creature claimed such apprehension his attempt to explain it to us would be unintelligible, and even then we would claim he does not KNOW the thing-in-itself because such existence constitutes a being-in-itself WITHOUT knowledge.
To ask Schopenhauer to go beyond the limits of the phenomenal world and talk directly about the thing-in-itself is utterly absurd, as Janaway is doing here. This is as I said down to either disingenuousness in which case he is misleading the reader or lack of understanding in which case he should not be writing about Schopenhauer at all.
(2) on page 7 Janaway writes: "Most importantly, the human psyche can be seen as split: comprising not only capacities for understanding and rational thought, but at a deeper level also an essentially `blind' process of striving"
This is poorly explained: it should be made very clear that WILL is not OF the mind, that mind is simply phenomena of the brain, but that this brain is an object IN MINDS and is thus phenomenal. WILL is the IN-ITSELF of matter; our notion of pure matter above (acting in general, the basis of experience) being an abstraction from what we actually perceive in experience i.e. conditioned matter i.e. the FORMS and QUALITIES OF matter.
(3) on page 8 Janaway writes: "Many have found Schopenhauer's philosophy impossible to accept as a single, consistent metaphysical scheme."
Who?? Name names. Give examples. Explain why.
(4) on page 8 Janaway writes: "What is set down at the beginning should be treated not so much as a foundation for everything that is to come, but as a first idea which will be revealed as inadequate by a second that seems to undermine it, only to reassert itself in transformed guise later on.
What is this awful blather?? What is Janaway even referring to?? Schopenhauer begins the World as Will and Representation with his corrected and clarified Kantianism as it pertains to transcendental idealism. It is THE foundation stone of the rest of the book. There is no inadequacy and undermining of this section of his work in later sections. The only inadequacy is Janaway's ability to apprehend what has been said.
(5) on page 17 Janaway writes: " He believed that empirical consciousness, limited as it was to the phenomena of space, time, and causality, was something inferior which we should aspire to escape from, if possible."
Another terrible explanation. It is the WILL, that underlying thing-in-itself of which this phenomenal world is a conditioned manifestation which Schopenhauer finds appalling, and it is this unceasing and unquenchable WILL that Schopenhauer wants to escape from by becoming a "pure subject of knowing"
(6) On a side note: I do not believe for a single second that Janaway has read The Critique of Pure Reason from cover to cover. Maybe he browsed the spark notes?
(7) Janaway uses the term "transcendental idealism" once in the entire book but uses idealism or idealist a dozen or more times in explaining Schopenhauer's position. The sense in which Schopenhauer uses the term idealism is in the sense that transcendental idealism IS idealism PROPER. Any other kind of idealism is simply an incoherent position.
(8) on page 30 Janaway writes: "One alleges that we cannot imagine anything which exists outside our own minds, because `what we are imagining at that moment is . . . nothing but just the process in the intellect of a knowing being' (W2, 5). This is reminiscent of a controversial argument attempted by Berkeley, who thought that an unperceived tree could not be imagined. Schopenhauer's use of the argument is not very convincing, however, because even though my imagining a world independent of my mind does presuppose my own mind, the existence of what I imagine - a world independent of my mind - does not.
This is stupid and does nothing to nullify what Schopenhauer is saying. YOU CANNOT ESCAPE THE SUBJECTIVE CONSCIOUSNESS IN FORMULATING AN INDEPENDENT WORLD. The rest of Janaway's bluster that follows simply boils down to a matter of preference for a realist interpretation of the world and is not a counter argument.
(9) on page 36 Janaway writes: "To subsume willing under force (or energy, which has also been suggested) is not Schopenhauer's intention."
In Janabuffoon's awful review of `The philosophy of Schopenhauer' he levels this accusation at Magee, completely misunderstanding what has been said. Magee explains that such words as force and energy would of been far preferable - though not perfect - as they are more NEUTRAL than the loaded term WILL. The most applicable term being something like X. Schopenhauer explains that forces are the most immediate OBJECTIFICATION of the will in the phenomenal world; calling them qualitates occultae i.e. occult qualities because, though they aid us in explaining phenomena, they go unexplained themselves; they just are.
(10) on page 40 "This is still troubling, however. If knowledge of our acts of will is the nearest we get to the thing in itself, and if even here we do not know it directly, what grounds do we really have for claiming to know what it is?"
Schopenahuer never claims to know directly what it is but what it's ABOUT. The two other senses in which he uses the term WILL i.e. ACT OF and PERSONAL* (that most DIRECTLY known in consciousness, emotions, pleasure, displeasure) have the same root: MATTER i.e. percieved causality, whether body or brain. Take away the causality and you are left the thing-in-itself, WILL, in its unknowable sense. In other words, ALL ROADS LEAD TO ROME. Unfortunately, Janaway does a terrible job of clearly distinguishing between Schopenhauer's uses of the term.
*Personal is my own wording. Schopenhauer uses ACT OF to cover both distinctions. The difference is direction: from mind to matter in one sense (ACT OF), from matter to mind in the other (PERSONAL).
(11) on page 40 Janaway writes: "As an exercise in metaphysics, Schopenhauer's doctrine of the will as thing in itself is so obviously flawed that some people have doubted whether he really means it - perhaps will is just a concept which explains a wide range of phenomena, and is not supposed to extend to the unknowable thing in itself? "
Here Janaway ramps up his pomposity, stupidity and bluster to stratospheric heights. WILL IS THE UNKNOWABLE THING-IN-ITSELF: THIS PHENOMENAL WORLD IS A CONDITIONED MANIFESTATION OF THAT WILL. We cannot talk directly OF that will but can talk ABOUT it as we have knowledge of this phenomenal world which is its objectification.
(12) on page 42 Janaway writes on the body and my will being one: "This would suggest, somewhat perversely, that there can be no such thing as a willing which goes unfulfilled because one's muscles or nerves do not function in the right way. (Would Schopenhauer say that stroke victims have not `genuinely' willed, if their bodies fail to move as they want them to?)"
Another utterly idiotic remark. There is no sense in which this willing is going fulfilled or unfulfilled because WILLING is not OF the mind and all that exists in the above case is motivation or idea in the mind of a subject. By Janaway's perverse reckoning he would say that my attempt to move a glass I saw on the table using just my mind, which then failed to move, was a failure of my WILLING. What was in my head was merely an idea or motivation. THE CONNECTION OF THIS THINKING AND WILLING IS COMPLETELY INEXPLICABLE.
--This is an open review and i'll add to it when I have sufficient time or desire to rescan the book--
5.0 out of 5 stars superb summary,
This review is from: Schopenhauer: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Kindle Edition)I heard Professor Janaway in a progamme BBC Radioo 3. His knowledge about Schopenhauer, his concision, prose (eloquence) were extraordinary and I ended researching to get his books. I found this one the perfect match, a good introduction to those want to learn about Schopenhauer but don't have much time or don't want to be overloaded with information. It gives you precise, indispensable information about Schopenhauer and the clarity of Professor Janaway keeps you wanting to read more. It is a valuable tool to access the basics of this great Philosopher.
5.0 out of 5 stars Schopenhauer makes it rather difficult for himself.,
This review is from: Schopenhauer: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)As Magee states in his book on Schopenhauer's(1788-1860) philosophy, that the idea of wille has caused problems.He could not call it power for that would have been mistaken for Science. Schopenhauer's world is purposeless.Will is blind and found in nature without consciousness.According to Arthur S,our human psyche is split. We have rational thought,but at a deeper level a blind process of striving,which can be in conflict with the conscious portions of our nature.In otherwords, you are better off not being born. Humanity is caught in a cross roads between its needs to reproduce,and that of a pure intellect that can rebel against its nature and aspire to a timeless contemplation of a higher reality.He was refering to a saint and artists.The production of art needs genius,not mere talent.For they have two thirds intellect and one third will and grasp eternal ideas.The normal person is the other way around.Schopenhauer praised painting,Poetry(praise at last) and Music.Which is a copy of the whole will as the world itself is.Wagner liked this part.Saints see reality from an subjective standpoint.They did not recognise ego and this empirical world,they denied it. But suffering can make you see that life is a delusion. Sex he thought, is where one could forget self and will.No wonder Wagner became a convert to Schopenhauer.The book The World as will and representation was Richards Bible.Tristan und Isolde Act 2, is very much the sex act put to music.A oneness when they die.But S,thought we lost identity and no one would recognise another.
However,Schopenhauer was influenced by Kant and Plato,(who believed in reincarnation),then he found out about Buddhism and Hinduism at one of his mothers parties.He was inspired by the Hindu Upanishads. When Johanna Schopenhauer's husband died,she became a novelist and set up a salon for intellectuals and artists in Weimar,attracting Goethe. The Mother tiring of Arthur S, threw him out of her house in 1814 and they never saw each other again.His book "The world as will and reprsentation" was written in his 20's. He was amazed that Indian philosophy thought as he did.But did he really understand it.The idea that one could live like a saint, or be an artist and reach a sense of timelessness and ignore society,may be fine in theory,but as he and Wagner showed, they did not withdraw from the world.They liked luxury. S who could speak fluent English read the Times and liked dining out.Wagner liked Champagne,satin and silk."The World owes me this",he said.
Buddha,Siddhartha,a prince, thought through right thinking and meditation,one could reach Nirvana. "I am the raft to take you across the river,the rest is up to you. Do not build monuments or worship me",he proclaimed. Being human the masses ignored that statement.However,Buddha thought being a monk was the best path. Sankara,(788-822),thought that the world was Maya,false,Brahman-the one is the only reality of which we are a part.However, Ramanuja(1017-1137)stated that the world of matter and Brahman are one,not Maya(illusion).Both wrote commentaries on the Bhagavad Gita.(song of our Lord).
The Gita mentions that man can achieve his highest good by doing action without reward. In Indian terms doing a deed knowingly for good karma(cause and effect) or out of self interest is wrong.The Gita is a story about the war within the spirit. A path to liberation without endless rebirths.You can follow your dharma,(duty) with out personal benefit,no self interest,also perform actions,and yet escape rebirth and attain liberation without withdrawing into a cave.The Upanishads created a world where society could fail, because it encouraged the best in society to withdraw from it.The Gita written between 5th and first centuries B.C, rectified this situation.One has to have a grasp of Indian thought to understand some of Schopenhauers philosophy.He had come to the conclusions he did,before the Upanishads,but then it opened other vistas to him.
Schopenhauer read the Upanishads nearly every night,but he could not see,that his philosophy would lead the way to a position that the Upanishads nearly caused,a failed society,full of hermits.It is impractical.Or was his philosophy elitist,open to the few?.I think he saw his views as making the world aware of suffering.For an atheist he did think that death ended the I and will,and somehow we ended up as One in another dimension,so Magee states.Amid the gloom,a slight glimmer of light.Schopenhauer views on dreams,that an artist can show us the hidden truth within them,are practical. Wagner and Freud used this idea in their work. Also,he was the first to suggest that sex effects us psychologically.He thought we gained our intellect from Women,but he did not like them very much.His view soured no doubt by his mother. Schopenhauer thought he had found the answer to the worlds problems,not realizing the truth,that if you question,you obtain an answer and it raises another question,a never ending quest. There is never an ulimate answer.Thomas Mann,Tolstoy,Hardy and Proust.Mahler,Beckett and Borges were influenced by Schopenhauer.
A very well written book by Janaway,and written simply,so anyone can understand the ideas of Schopenhauer.I obtained this book, because wading through Magees book was heavy going. However,that is no reflection on Magee,his books the Aspects of Wagner,and Wagner and Philosophy are classics and simply written.
Magee,B. Wagner and Philosophy.(2000) Penguin books.
Magee,B. The philosophy of Schopenhauer.(1983)Oxford University Press.
Mcgreal,I.Great thinkers of the Eastern World.(1995)Harper Collins publishers.
4.0 out of 5 stars God loves a pessimist,
This review is from: Schopenhauer: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)Possibly my favourite philosopher, from my thus far limited knowledge, Schopenhauer seems to fit my own views of the world very well, particularly about how happiness is in striving rather than achieving and that art is the only true escape for the unending misery that is life. Only his opinions on women let him down a bit, but I let him off on account that at the time he was alive they weren't that uncommon views. "Life without pain has no meaning"/"It's better to have never been born" I do love a pessimist!
2 of 18 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars almost pointless,
This review is from: Schopenhauer: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)Why bother reading an introduction when his writing style is the most accesible of all german philosophers- you know their all miserable sods and his dad was rich, leaving him the only inheritor-don't be a philistine! leave this on the shelf and buy the real thing!
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Schopenhauer: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) by Christopher Janaway (Paperback - 21 Feb 2002)