Dusty Quotations


I see this quote used or paraphrased quite often, and it is usually unattributed. Now you know who said it.

Who is Arthur Schopenhauer?

Arthur Schopenhauer (/ˈʃoʊpənhaʊər/ SHOH-pən-how-ər, German: [ˈaɐtʊɐ ˈʃoːpm̩haʊɐ] (listen); 22 February 1788 – 21 September 1860) was a German philosopher. He is best known for his 1818 work The World as Will and Representation (expanded in 1844), which characterizes the phenomenal world as the product of a blind noumenal will. Building on the transcendental idealism of Immanuel Kant (1724–1804), Schopenhauer developed an atheistic metaphysical and ethical system that rejected the contemporaneous ideas of German idealism. He was among the first thinkers in Western philosophy to share and affirm significant tenets of Indian philosophy, such as asceticism, denial of the self, and the notion of the world-as-appearance. His work has been described as an exemplary manifestation of philosophical pessimism.

Though his work failed to garner substantial attention during his lifetime, Schopenhauer had a posthumous impact across various disciplines, including philosophy, literature, and science. His writing on aesthetics, morality, and psychology have influenced many thinkers and artists. Those who have cited his influence include philosophers Emil Cioran, Friedrich Nietzsche and Ludwig Wittgenstein, scientists Erwin Schrödinger and Albert Einstein, psychoanalysts Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, writers Leo Tolstoy, Herman Melville, Thomas Mann, Hermann Hesse, Machado de Assis, Jorge Luis Borges, Marcel Proust and Samuel Beckett, and composers Richard Wagner, Johannes Brahms, Arnold Schoenberg and Gustav Mahler.

Schopenhauer is an interesting figure. He was widely influential – I mean, just look at the names on that list above. However, once you begin to examine his own beliefs, you might be led to question *why* he was influential, and in turn, you might also question the people who praise him. Here are a few examples of some of his beliefs that would probably be widely considered questionable today:

In his 1851 essay “On Women”, Schopenhauer expressed opposition to what he called “Teutonico-Christian stupidity” of “reflexive, unexamined reverence for the female (abgeschmackten Weiberveneration)”.[215] He wrote: “Women are directly fitted for acting as the nurses and teachers of our early childhood by the fact that they are themselves childish, frivolous and short-sighted.” He opined that women are deficient in artistic faculties and sense of justice, and expressed his opposition to monogamy. He claimed that “woman is by nature meant to obey”. The essay does give some compliments: “women are decidedly more sober in their judgment than [men] are”, and are more sympathetic to the suffering of others.

In the third, expanded edition of The World as Will and Representation (1859), Schopenhauer added an appendix to his chapter on the Metaphysics of Sexual Love. He wrote that pederasty has the benefit of preventing ill-begotten children. Concerning this, he stated that “the vice we are considering appears to work directly against the aims and ends of nature, and that in a matter that is all important and of the greatest concern to her it must in fact serve these very aims, although only indirectly, as a means for preventing greater evils”. Schopenhauer ends the appendix with the statement that “by expounding these paradoxical ideas, I wanted to grant to the professors of philosophy a small favour. I have done so by giving them the opportunity of slandering me by saying that I defend and commend pederasty.”

With our knowledge of the complete unalterability both of character and of mental faculties, we are led to the view that a real and thorough improvement of the human race might be reached not so much from outside as from within, not so much by theory and instruction as rather by the path of generation. Plato had something of the kind in mind when, in the fifth book of his Republic, he explained his plan for increasing and improving his warrior caste. If we could castrate all scoundrels and stick all stupid geese in a convent, and give men of noble character a whole harem, and procure men, and indeed thorough men, for all girls of intellect and understanding, then a generation would soon arise which would produce a better age than that of Pericles.