Essays of Arthur Schopenhauer - (1892) - PDF ebook

Essays of Arthur Schopenhauer

Essays of Arthur Schopenhauer

Contents of the book: 

 The wisdom of life.--Counsels and maxims.--Religion and other essays.--The art of literature.--Studies in pessimism

Excerpt from the translator's preface:

 Schopenhauer is one of the few philosophers who can be generally understood without a commentary. All his theories claim to be drawn directly from facts, to be suggested by observation, and to interpret the world as it is; and whatever view he takes, he is constant in his appeal to the experience of common life. This characteristic endows his style with a freshness and vigour which would be difficult to match in the philosophical writing of any country, and impossible in that of Germany.

 If it were asked whether there were any circumstances, apart from heredity, to which he owed -his mental habit, the answer might be found in the abnormal character of his early education, his acquaintance with the world rather than with books, the extensive travels of his boyhood, his ardent pursuit of knowledge for its own sake and without regard to the emoluments and endowments of learning. 

He was trained in realities even more than in ideas; and hence he is original, forcible, clear, an enemy of all philosophic indefiniteness and obscurity.

Still, hope, it may be said, is not knowledge, nor a real answer to any question; at most, makeshift, rational support for intellectual weakness.

 The truth is that, as theories, both optimism and pessimism are failures; because they are extreme views where only a very partial judgment is possible. And in view of the great uncertainty of all answers, most of those who do not accept a stereotyped system leave the question alone, as being either of little interest or of no bearing on the welfare of their lives, which are commonly satisfied with low aims; tacitly ridiculing those who demand an answer as the most pressing affair of existence. 

But the fact that the final problems of the world are still open makes in favour of an honest attempt to think them out, in spite of all previous failure or still existing difficulty; and however old these problems may be, the endeavour to solve them is one which it is always worthwhile to encourage afresh. For the individual advantages which attend an effort to find the true path accrue quite apart from any success in reaching the goal; and even though the height we strive to climb be inaccessible, we can still see and understand more than those who never leave the plain. 

The sphere, it is true, is enormous—the study of human life and destiny as a whole; and our mental vision is so ill-adapted to a range of this extent that to aim at forming a complete scheme is to attempt the impossible. It must be recognized that the data are insufficient for large views and that we ought not to go beyond the facts we have, the facts of ordinary life, interpreted by the common experience of every day. These form our only material. The views we take must of necessity be fragmentary—a mere collection of papers, rough guesses at the undiscovered; of the same nature, indeed, as all our possessions in the way of knowledge—little tracts of solid land reclaimed from the mysterious ocean of the unknown.

Translated by Bailey Saunders

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