Philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer
Episode #2 of the course “Brief history of Contemporary philosophy”
German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer highly valued the irrational and the beautiful. Known for one of the most striking opening sentences in philosophical writing: “The world is my representation,” Schopenhauer shunned the academic community during his time and wrote independently about will, which he believed is an outside force acting negatively on people. He was heavily influential on his contemporaries, including Friedrich Nietzsche, and has caused a ripple effect through various branches of philosophy throughout the 20th century.
Schopenhauer believed in transcendental identity, having reached some of the same conclusions as Eastern philosophers. Like Buddhist philosophy, Schopenhauer believed that attachments to things and desires causes suffering, and that a person must learn to detach in order to end the suffering. If a person can’t detach from the thing he or she desires, Schopenhauer theorized that the person would “become one” with the desire and would be unable to identify himself or herself outside of the desire for that object. Some of his theories about psychological attachment were reinterpreted and expanded upon by Sigmund Freud, and it was Schopenhauer who first claimed that the human action of sex had gone far too long without academic analysis.
Because Schopenhauer believed that human action is not motivated by logical, reasonable forces, he promoted that criminal punishment is necessary to prevent future crimes. In particular, capital punishment should stop people from being harmful instruments of nature again. People cannot be rehabilitated and are not capable of change, according to Schopenhauer, and so it is the responsibility of individuals to exercise free will by taking responsibility for their personality and actions.
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