Arthur Schopenhauer, His Life and Philosophy

Arthur Schopenhauer, His Life and Philosophy

by Helen Zimmern

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Overview

The object of this book is, as its preface states, to portray for general English readers a German philosopher whose name is comparatively new amongst us, and to serve as an avant-courier for the translation of his capital work, "Die Welt als Wille und Yorstellung." The memoir is by no means an exhaustive one, but well calculated to stimulate further curiosity concerning its subject; it has the merits of simplicity and clearness of style, and is throughout characterised by a moderate, judicial spirit. Schopenhauer stands before us as a representative of that school of philosophy "which finds rest in the conception of the universe as unity." As a metaphysician we may regard him as the direct descendant of Kant, but he is chiefly interesting as an exponent of the Indian intellect,—" a European Buddhist."

In England his name was first brought forward by an able article in the "Westminster Review" for April, 1853, entitled "Iconoclasm in German Philosophy," and understood to have proceeded from Mr. John Oxenford: an article which gave Schopenhauer himself unfeigned satisfaction and pleasure. Since then allusions to his writings have not been unfrequent in English periodical literature. He has a peculiar claim to our attention, because, unlike the majority of German thinkers, he is a cosmopolitan, exempt from local and national trammels, and has thus deserved the dictum of the "Revue Contemporaine"— "Ce n'est pas un philosophe comme les autres, c'est un philosophe qui a vu le monde."

Arthur Schopenhauer was born at Danzig, on the 22nd of February, 1788, his infant years being thus contemporaneous with the French Revolution. His family was of Dutch extraction, and his ancestors, as far back as we may trace them, seem to have been men of powerful and decisive character. In the days of Peter the Great, Arthur's great grandfather, Andreas Schopenhauer, was a rich and influential citizen, as is shown by the fact of the choice of his house for the reception of the Czar and the Empress Catherine, during their visit to Danzig. Arthur Schopenhauer's father, Heinrich Floris, was born in 1747; he was educated as a merchant, and spent a large portion of his youth in France and England. For the latter country he conceived an enthusiastic admiration, and we find him later in life imitating the English manner in the style of his country house and garden at Oliva, near Danzig. He was also a constant reader of "the Times," from which, he said, "one could learn everything." His rectitude, candour, and uncompromising love of truth were remarkable, and won the esteem of his fellow citizens. When thirty-eight, Heinrich married Johanna Trosiener, the daughter of a member of the Danzig Senate. Her education appears to have been meagre and incomplete; but, possessed of good natural abilities, and aided by an English clergyman, as well as by her husband, her mind was not slow to expand in the intellectual and aesthetic atmosphere of her new home. In youth she had a pleasant though not beautiful countenance, and a figure of mignonne proportions; through life she possessed a certain charm of bearing and conversation, which courted attention in society.

Shortly after their marriage, Heinrich took his young wife on a distant journey, visiting some of the chief German towns, Belgium, Paris and England. He strongly desired that the son he hoped for might be born on English ground, and thus obtain the rights of our citizenship. It was found necessary, however, to return to Danzig, where, in 1788, the great thinker and pessimist was born. We know nothing of the events of his child-life until the year 1793, when Danzig was blockaded by the Prussians. As soon as their troops entered the city, determining its subjugation, Heinrich, rather than submit to foreign rule, fled with his wife and five-year-old son to Swedish Pomerania. Thence the selfexiled family migrated to Hamburg, where they formed a new home. Here, Heinrich was seized with his former passion for travel, and during a twelve years' residence at Hamburg, he and his wife accomplished several foreign journeys. In these Arthur always shared, his father wisely judging that the cosmopolitan culture thus gained would prove of invaluable service to him in mature life. He was thus brought into contact while yet a child with some of the most noted celebrities of the period, amongst whom were the Baroness Stael, Klopstock, E«imarus, Madame Chevalier, Nelson, and Lady Hamilton. In Arthur's ninth year his parents placed him at Havre, under the care of a M. Gregoire, with whose son he was educated. Here he remained two years, and gained so thorough a mastery of the French language that on his return to Hamburg it was found he had forgotten German, and he was obliged to relearn it. He was then sent to school, and being destined by his father for a mercantile career, received a commercial education, in which the classics were almost entirely neglected.

Product Details

BN ID: 2940013365032
Publisher: Leila's Books
Publication date: 10/01/2011
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Sales rank: 1,095,812
File size: 347 KB

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