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Schopenhauer is rightly accorded one of the finest writers ever to publish serious philosophy. And here, in his Essay's & Aphorisms, you can taste just a little of his prose.
As far as his philosophy (the most pessimistic you'll ever find) goes this is a far easier though much less expansive volume than his great World as Will & Representation. This volume is, in effect, an appetizer. However, he does offer us a few interesting essays which can provide the springboard into his mammoth two volume masterpeice.
Particularly of interest is Schopenhauer's essay on aesthetics, and his work on suffering.
However, women may find his essay On Women a little hard to stomach: he makes Neitzche look like Shere Hite.
There is also a fine introduction by Hollingdale, one of the best scholars of German philosophy about. So: read this, then read the major work.
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on 28 September 2014
Any philosopher can write so that the average reader can't understand what they are saying. Even Nietzsche managed it, In fact many did so intentionally, addressing themselves to other philosophers and academics. Schopenhauer, on the other hand, is a brilliantly lucid writer and natural born communicator. He reads as pacey and gripping as a good novel, but without talking down to his readers. JG Ballard said human beings can't handle reality for too long at a stretch.Schopenhauer was on message 200 years before him. When you consider when he wrote, even in translation his work is modern and never flinches from delivering some hard truths we may prefer to shy away from. Philosophical writing developed in Germany as a direct result of the genius of Goethe, whose work covered every other sphere of writing. German writers had to explore philosophy as a outlet for their writing. If they wrote novels or poetry, they could only be rated as second rate Goethes. England and France produced great novelists. Germany produced philosophers. That's the key to how good Schopenhauer is...he's a great writer who chose philosophy as his theme, i.e. writer first. OK, feminists don't like him, but then they wouldn't, would they? They don't like anything but themselves, especially reality.
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If your serious about finding out what life is all about, or if your just looking to expand your cleverness by kicking idiocy off her rusty stool, then read The World as Will and Representation. It may not be as potent, today, as it was back in its day; even so, the Will can still give you an ontology peeling experience and send a shiver through the hollow glass orb you call your will; by putting you back in the cockpit of your life vehicle.

You don't need drugs to expand your seeing you see; you can awaken by reading the right philosophy. Back in the 1940's, scientists discovered consciousness expanding chemicals; a spiritual antidote to the atom bomb if you like. These chemicals allowed the testosterone driven monkey mind a glimpse through the veil of Maya. Taking LSD was like watching a high definition, 3D, film for the first time. Your sensory ratios were enhanced for the better, but inevitably, the real world would forever appear dull and dreary. It was thought that by expanding your awareness you stopped being a selfish arshole. It didn't work by the way.

Reading great philosophy can also do this. The genius of reading what genius' have said is that your mind expands like a balloon, and, if you don't pop, you see further; you realise that the rat race is an insult to your time and those mortgage payments they told you will make you happy, are not the meaning of life after all, and so you stop being an envious arshole because you see something more outside the dreary Kantian cave.

Carl Sagan said there are millions of books; the point is, read the right ones. Reading can change your neuronal ratios, making you smarter, but, inevitably, your world will probably look duller.

Philosophers today don't talk like this. These days' philosophy books are marketed to American teenagers. This is why the level of intelligence is plummeting like a pebble in a pond. You won't find this problem with the philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer; oh know. Schopenhauer was the LSD of his day, he really was.

This is why the philosophy of this old pessimist is a consciousness expanding agent, though I doubt he will have the same effect as he once did, but this is only because our world is so saturated with noise, that even God is drowned out. Schopenhauer is now silent when he should be read by free thinking spirits; after all, Albert Einstein and Erwin Schrodinger were fans.

Arthur Schopenhauer is a historical anomaly who wrote about space-time 80 years before the physicists and discovered the unconscious 60 years before Freud. So he is a historical anomaly but you can probably still get a week psychedelic hit by reading The World as Will and Representation and have a corner of the great veil lifted. Also, I will add, grab your consciousness by the short n curly and move your ontological moorings slightly to the left, just like a tectonic plate sliding on acid.

I used the word `pessimist' above because this is the smelly label that dangles over Schopenhauer's system. If you go to Wikipedia or the Stanford encyclopaedia, you will come away with the wrong idea about the man's ideas. Reading what someone else has written about the philosophy of Schopenhauer is like wanting someone else to digest your food for you. I mean, would you read history books if you had a DeLorean? Then why do we insist on reading second hand writings, and second hand scribbling about great literature at that, because that is what Schopenhauer is; literature comparable to a grand symphony. Isn't this obvious, that reading secondary texts is analogous to having some bloke whistle Beethoven in your ere, when you can listen to the real thing instead?

LSD inventor, Albert Hoffman, was a young man in Vienna when Schopenhauer's fame was most felt. Years later, aged 103, Hoffman spoke about what happens after death, he said "I go back to where I came from, to where I was before I was born, that's all." This is from Schopenhauer.
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on 12 March 2012
Schopenhauer's thoughts are preceded by the translator's introduction. This contains interesting background material. But beware: the introduction is a rather dismissive attempt to rationalise or "explain" the roots of Schopenhauer's world view. Do not be distracted by this - Hollingdale may well be a fine translator but he is not the philosophical genius that Schopenhauer was.
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on 25 January 2016
Amazing. Probably my favourite philosopher. I especially respect the essays on writing (being an artist/creative genius), 'The Will to live' and suicide. As a woman I even think the essay on women was probably relevant for its time.
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on 2 May 2012
I don't know why it took me this long to get around to reading Schopenhauer, who I have been meaning to read ever since I discovered Nietzsche, lo these many years. I wanted to read his main work first, The Will as Idea and Representation, but was unable to find it at a reasonable price. I was very happy with this book, however, which is taken almost entirely from his Parerga and Paralipomena, and was translated by R.J. Hollingdale, who was the foremost British translator of Nietzsche, among others. Schopenhauer was a great thinker, and this book is filled with clear and concise insights into a variety of topics. He wrote in a way that is easily understandable and not boring, which cannot be said of most philosophers either before or after him. There are quite a few phrases in various languages, and not all of them are translated, but many of the ones that aren't can be inferred rather easily either from their context or root word. This is the kind of book that will be enjoyed by anyone who likes to think and who enjoys contact with great minds. Just a note on his pessimism: It makes a lot more sense than most of the alternative philosophies I've read or considered, and is not depressing or enervating.
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on 13 October 2011
The essays in this book are probably a good starting place for anyone wanting to begin to get to grips with Schopenhauer's philosophy. The opening chapters, to do with suffering and the meaninglessness of existence, will help the reader to understand why he is taken to be a pessimist. It is hard to argue with his philosophy. Even if we don't embrace his entire system we have to agree with his assessment of the conditions of life. For him, the whole world is completely bankrupt and would be better off not existing at all. Whereas Leibniz, as a Christian, viewed the world as `the best of all possible worlds' Schopenhauer took the opposing view, namely, that it was the worst of all possible worlds as anything worse would cease to function at all. Everything is a prisoner to what he calls `Will', whether it be rocks obeying gravity, birds flying, sexual acts etc., and it all happens so that the same meaningless spectacle can be repeated ad infinitum.

His philosophy will be familiar to those who follow Buddhism. The world, according to Buddhism is similarly poisoned and full of suffering (Dukkha). Their solutions are not too dissimilar either. Both too are accused of pessimism.

You don't have to agree with what Schopenhauer says in these essays to enjoy them. They are great literature themselves and it is enough to know that his philosophy influenced many great writers and artists (Konrad, Hardy, Wagner and Thomas Mann to name but a few); we would be much the poorer without these.
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on 29 November 2013
I bought this again fairly recently, partly from nostalgia, as it was the first philosophy book I ever read. I'd like to offer my opinions, partly on the book, but more generally on the author and his ideas.

If you look at various details in his life, I think you're likely to conclude that, essentially, Schopenhauer was a pretty horrible guy. While a number of factors would no doubt have contributed to his particular outlook on life, one key event must have been the trauma he suffered, while still a teenager, when his father committed suicide. This unfortunate event was made worse, in his mind at least, by his mother remarrying, something that filled him with intense revulsion and jealousy. Assuming his gloominess and sense of rancour must, on some level, have always been there, these events it seems really brought them to the forefront of his mind.

After studying, and over many years, Schopenhauer developed a sophisticated system of thought that was designed, primarily, to make one think about the world in a way that was so morbidly pessimistic and warped it was almost insane. The logic used, like most philosophy from his time to very recent times is now completely defunct. His vast, metaphysical gobbledygook - bits borrowed from Kant, Buddhism etc., then rehashed - from which his famous utterances derive, was clearly, once you reflect on it for a moment, an entirely made up construct, a giant philosophical house of cards.

Looking at some of his actual views, he is famous for despising women and, of course, for endorsing suicide. To paraphrase one writer, he praised suicide while sitting at a well-set table! In other words, since he enjoyed all the privileges of a higher social class throughout his life, this viewpoint was nothing but unashamed hypocrisy. He was involved in countless sexual affairs, yet in his writings extolled the ascetic lifestyle, even going as far as to denounce the sexual instinct as the most wicked force in nature. And finally, his views on scientific matters; not surprisingly, they've all been proven to be invalid.

So, why is he held in high esteem today, by so many? For one, and only one reason: his views on art, about which he wrote clearly, and yes, often eloquently. But that's it! Nothing else in his writings matter! It makes complete sense in fact to see most of his writings as an enormous sham or ploy, a cruel device to induce others to share his nasty, bleak and hostile view on life...

Read it, and make up your own minds of course, but really, don't fall for the claptrap that this thoroughly unpleasant, intellectual conman, was also some kind of genius!
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on 1 September 2011
One of the best and most insightful books I have ever read, this collection of short pieces. Schopenhauer perceived the truth about humanity. The poor man eventually killed himself.
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on 14 May 2014
This book is excellent and honest. It has a great ring or truth about it. It is believable and a great ridicule of life and society. Down to earth and readable.
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