Arthur Schopenhauer Biography

Philosopher, Journalist (1788–1860)
Arthur Schopenhauer was a German philosopher best known for his book The World as Will and Representation, and for his pessimistic views of human nature.


Arthur Schopenhauer was born in Danzig, Poland, on February 22, 1788. His most famous book, The World as Will and Representation, argued that human action is driven by the dissatisfied will and is ultimately directionless. He was a devotee of Plato and Immanuel Kant, and a rival of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. He died at his home in Frankfurt, Germany, on September 21, 1860.


Early Life

Arthur Schopenhauer was born in Danzig, Poland, on February 22, 1788. He was a descendant of two wealthy German families. Schopenhauer's parents relocated to Hamburg after Prussia annexed Danzig in 1793. Schopenhauer's father died in 1805, possibly as the result of a suicide. His mother, Johanna, was a writer and intellectual who started a literary salon in Weimar after her husband's death.

Career: Philosopher and Novelist

Schopenhauer enrolled at the University of Gottingen in 1809. There, he focused on philosophy, studying the ideas of Plato and Immanuel Kant. In 1819, Schopenhauer published The World as Will and Representation (Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung), which would establish his career as a philosopher. He subsequently accepted a position at the University of Berlin, where he initiated a rivalry with fellow lecturer Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel that ultimately drove him from academia.

Conflict followed Schopenhauer beyond his professional life. While living in Berlin, he was convicted of assaulting a woman named Caroline Marquet after she refused to leave his doorway, and would make payments to Marquet for the rest of her life.

Later Life

In 1833, Schopenhauer relocated to Frankfurt following a cholera outbreak in Berlin. He lived alone there for the next three decades, kept company by pet poodles and cats. His collected writings on aging were eventually published under the title Senilia.

Arthur Schopenhauer died of heart failure on September 21, 1860, at the age of 72, at his home in Frankfurt.


Schopenhauer's writing focused on an extended investigation of individual motivation. Unlike Hegel, Schopenhauer believed that humans were motivated by their own basic desires rather than broader social trends. He considered human action directionless, and saw desire as the root of suffering and pain. Artistic contemplation, he argued, offered a temporary reprieve from this pain.

Animal welfare was a major concern for Schopenhauer, who believed that animals and humans were all fundamentally equal in their self-centered motivations. He was a devoted pet-owner who denounced philosophical arguments that placed human lives above those of animals.

Schopenhauer was a devotee of Sanskrit literature and took a strong interest in Buddhism, in which he saw marked comparisons with his own beliefs.


Schopenhauer has influenced intellectuals worldwide, most notably those in the fields of philosophy, the arts and psychology, and he was particularly popular during the Modernist era of the early 20th century. Richard Wagner, Friedrich Nietzsche and Jorge Luis Borges have each cited Schopenhauer as a major influence.

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