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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Schopenhauer's greatest work, 10 Feb. 2010
Dr. H. A. Jones "Howard Jones" (Wales, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The World As Will And Idea (Everyman) (Paperback)
The World as Will and Idea by Arthur Schopenhauer, Everyman (J.M. Dent), 1995, 336 ff. Eng. trans. by Jill Berman.

Schopenhauer's greatest work
By Howard A. Jones

Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung (WWR) was published in 1819. Immanuel Kant, whose work greatly influenced Schopenhauer, had died in 1804. The other most influential philosopher in his life was Plato. The German word "Vorstellung" can be translated as "idea" or "notion", which highlights the development of the philosophy of Schopenhauer out of Plato's world of Ideas or Forms. But "Vorstellung" can also be rendered as "representation", and this meaning emphasises the inspiration Schopenhauer found in the eastern mystical concept of "maya".

Schopenhauer's home life was not a happy one. His mother was a romantic novelist and social butterfly; his father was a depressive who committed suicide when Schopenhauer was in his late teens. This background greatly influenced Schopenhauer whose major work is imbued with a spirit of deep pessimism. Readers would benefit from reading, or reading about, Schopenhauer's doctoral thesis "On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason" before tackling WWR as the thesis work is referred to several times and informs Schopenhauer's interpretation of the work of other philosophers.

WWR is written in four Books. Book 1 deals with the world as representation, that is, all we can know of the world is what we glean from the images or representations presented to the senses, and the work opens with the statement `The world is my idea'. Book 2 is really the core of the work - the world as will. It is here that Kant's influence is most keenly felt since Schopenhauer himself, at least in Volume 1 of his work, regarded der Wille as the equivalent of Kant's Ding an sich - the thing-in-itself - the unknowable noumenal aspect of objects in the material world.

Book 3 gives us Schopenhauer's views on art and `the Idea independent of the principle of sufficient reason'. This is quite an extended discussion, though it is not all self-consistent. The final Book is probably the most pessimistic of them all. Although it describes der Wille as the "will to life", Wille zum Leben, a concept that had a profound effect on the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche, it is essentially an evil or demonic force that drives us on continually without our ever gaining satisfaction. The only possibility for release for Schopenhauer is through art and music (he was a great opera lover and played the flute himself).

This is not an easy book to read or interpret but if you are strong enough to rise above its over-riding pessimism it contains many interesting and challenging ideas. Just as Schopenhauer was a great admirer of Plato and Kant, so he despised the philosophies of Fichte and Hegel: this work is the antithesis of Hegel's developing Geist, inspiration of the world.

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.

Schopenhauer: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Flawed but fascinating, 5 April 2008
This review is from: The World As Will And Idea (Everyman) (Paperback)
The World as Will and Idea is Schopenhauer's major work, intended as a systematic philosophy to go beyond the limits of Kantian critique. It is perhaps because he is judged by this standard that Schopenhauer largely remains a marginal figure in mainstream academic philosophy, a footnote to Kant and Hegel, and worthy perhaps of inclusion in prefatory remarks on Nietzsche. But it is a shame to miss the real originality and insight of his thought and particularly that on art and ethics.

The first two parts of the book deal with matters of the nature of reality and what we can know of it. Schopenhauer here advances arguments that may be rather dry and technical for the layman reader - though certainly far less intimidating than Kant, and often illustrated with illuminating examples - and that collapse under the mildest philosophical scrutiny. But they provide the basis for a rethinking of the nature of man that would be profoundly influential. In Schopenhauer is the idea of man as fundamentally governed by impersonal drives. The idea of philosophy as the study of the divine faculty of human reason - present at least up to Hegel - is here supplanted by an account that brings humans back to earth with a notion of Will that would anticipate Nietzsche's Will to Power along with Freud's theory of the unconscious. What follows is a brilliantly pessimistic account of life as a ceaseless, vain striving after temporary pleasures - but also a sketch of possible redemption in the renunciation of the will and in the contemplation of art. These are the passages that make the text worth reading, creating from the carefully observed analyses of the life of the will a more complete picture of the human being, and bringing to light the possibility of escaping the banality of brute existence. Regardless of the ultimate validity of its grand claims, readers of all backgrounds can take something genuinely edifying from any part of The World as Will and Idea.

The Everyman edition presents the best opportunity to appreciate the vivacity of Schopenhauer's prose. It combines both volumes of the original text into a single, short book, cutting out much of the unnecessary verbiage and frequent technical digressions in order to bring his central themes into focus. Moreover, the excisions in this edition are sufficiently well-chosen for me to recommend it even to readers studying the text at university.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great service, 18 Feb. 2013
Mr. S. Greenwell (newcastle) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The World As Will And Idea (Everyman) (Paperback)
thanks, great service, quick and good quality book and a very good price, will use again if anything tickles my fancy.
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The World As Will And Idea (Everyman) by Arthur Schopenhauer (Paperback - 5 Jun. 1995)
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