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Checking the philosophy section at my middle-sized town's Borders, I found five volumes of Schopenhauer, surpassed only by Nietzsche, Foucault and one or two others. One for Wittgenstein, zero each for Locke, Berkeley and Hume...but four for Kant! And I don't suppose anyone reading this review is ignorant of the wide circle of S's fans. The above named Wittgenstein, famously, but Mann, Jung, Jayne Mansfield (personal knowledge), Bergson.....
In college learned that Schopenhauer is "part of the canon, though hardly canonized" as our author puts it. I went on to other concerns, but never lost a certain adolescent enthusiasm for our philosopher. In those days, biographies of most European philosophers were uncommon in English. The Cambridge series has set out to remedy this, with some successes. This is, in fact, the first good biography of S in English! I think this is pretty surprising for such an influential figure.(A century old hagiography by Helen Zimmern is still in print. Forget it.)The book inserts lengthy summaries of S's work as they appeared chronologically in the author's life. In doing so he explains the maturation and revisions in the author's philosophy. This was quite interesting to me. He also emphasizes that in the end S really thought of his simple-yet-intricate metaphysics as a kind of best guess, sort of like what Pierce called, what?, an "abduction", as I recall. The best theory to explain all the data. So Schopenhauer does have a kind of extra-theoretical justification for his system, but without introducing the explicitly pragamtic justification. I found that a little humble in a writer not known for humility. Having not read S in a while, it was fun to review. I thought the long digression on ghosts was a waste of time, and having ordered Parerga and read the original, so is it.
I'd been waiting fifty years for this biography, and I'm satisfied. Though more info on S is here than elsewhere collected, however, it leaves the man himself little more than the caricature he's always been. In addition to woman-hater and general misanthrope he becomes also an antisemite in this book. The reader can judge for herself, my own general impression of S was more of a biase against the Mosaic religions in general than antisemitism as we might think of it now. S was the epitome of the grand generalization on anything or anybody. In fact, given my youthful introduction to him, what I noticed most of all in his barbs were the antiGerman remarks (if these people are so great, why is he always making fun of them?) What still would be a great read however would be a period biography about S THE MAN. His friends, lovers, descriptions of surroundings, you know, the standard stuff. From what's available in English, I can't get a full picture of that so far.
I must add these editions are really cheaply produced. Glued together, paper over board covers, cheap bulked-out paper. Bottom line publishing. Too much to ask from this series, but would a few plates or photos be impossible? If I just wanted a resource, I'd wait for the paperback, if there is one. Actually be a better book.Schopenhauer: A Biography OverviewArthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) was one of the most original and provocative thinkers of the nineteenth century. He spent a lifetime striving to understand the meaning of living in a world where suffering and death are ubiquitous. In his quest to solve "the ever-disquieting riddle of existence," Schopenhauer explored almost every dimension of human existence, developing a darkly compelling worldview that found deep resonance in contemporary literature, music, philosophy, and psychology.This is the first comprehensive biography of Schopenhauer written in English. Placing him in his historical and philosophical contexts, David E. Cartwright tells the story of Schopenhauer's life to convey the full range of his philosophy. He offers a fully documented portrait in which he explores Schopenhauer's fractured family life, his early formative influences, his critical loyalty to Kant, his personal interactions with Fichte and Goethe, his ambivalent relationship with Schelling, his contempt for Hegel, his struggle to make his philosophy known, and his reaction to his late-arriving fame. The Schopenhauer who emerges in this biography is the complex author of a philosophy that had a significant influence on figures as diverse as Samuel Beckett, Jorge Luis Borges, Emile Durkheim, Sigmund Freud, Thomas Hardy, Thomas Mann, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Ludwig Wittgenstein.
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