A vitally important--and woefully neglected--work

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Guest's review of Arthur Schopenhauer,E.F.J. Payne, The World as Will and Representation - Volume 1

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Arthur Schopenhauer,E.F.J. Payne, The World as Will and Representation - Volume 1

“A vitally important--and woefully neglected--work”

Written on: 06/04/2012

Schopenhauer's impact on Westtern thought cannot be exagerated. For Samuel Beckett, he was “one of the few that really matter.” For Thomas Mann, his stature as “psychologist of the will” made him “the father of all modern psychology.” Kierkegaard called him an “undeniably… significant author” who “has interested me a great deal and I have been surprised to find an author who, despite a total disagreement, touches me so much.” Tolstoy called him “the most brilliant of men,“ and says that in his writings one finds ‘the whole world in an incredibly clear and beautiful reflection.” Freud called him a “great thinker” and a “bold thinker,“ and says of him that he was “above all” of his (Freud’s) forerunners. For Jung, he was “the great find …from my [early] researches” whose “picture of the world had my undivided approval.” Czeslaw Milosz said of him that he was “a philosopher to whom I owe a great deal. His books are on my shelf, for dipping into from time to time…What is he for us now, when we tally the experiences of the twentieth century? If only we had heeded his warnings.” In his “Autobiographical Essay” Borges claimed “I have read him many times over” and “were I to choose a single philosopher, I would choose him. If the riddle of the universe can be stated in words, I think these words would be in his writings.” For Witold Grombrowicz, his thought “is a grandiose and tragic vision which, unfortunately [for his popularity], coincides with reality.” Wyndham Lewis said he was “the philosopher who has given the fullest and most intense interpretation of what must be the unchanging philosophy of exact science.” He was read and admired by Turgenev, Checkhov, Melville, Thomas Hardy, Darwin, Joseph Conrad, Proust, Joris-Karl Huysmans, D.H. Lawrence, Wagner, Mahler, Santayana, Einstein, Erwin Schrodinger, Wittgenstein, Karl Popper, Thomas Bernhard, and others as well. Tolstoy, Wagner, and Karl Popper’s father all had portraits of him hanging in their studies.
And yet, Schopenahauer, the philospher who warned against the excesses of the will, who taught that all life--human, plant, and animal--are of a piece, who spoke out against slavery and other injustices, animal cruelty, the abuse of nature, and who urged his readers to recognize suffering as the prime fact of life, reamains, sadly and outrageously, largely unread today. How much he can teach us, perched as we are, on the brink of so many potential disaters (environmental, social, political, and economic).
And on top of all this, he's a fantastic writer--always sharp, witty, withering and ruthless where such are needed, and brilliant in his metaphors and similes.
This is a big book and a very taxing read, but one that never stops rewarding the diligent reader.

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