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Schopenhauer

Duration:
45 minutes
First broadcast:
Thursday 29 October 2009

Melvyn Bragg and guests AC Grayling, Beatrice Han-Pile and Christopher Janaway discuss the dark, pessimistic philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer.

As a radical young thinker in Germany in the early 19th century, Schopenhauer railed against the dominant ideas of the day. He dismissed the pre-eminent German philosopher Georg Hegel as a pompous charlatan, and turned instead to the Enlightenment thinking of Immanuel Kant for inspiration.

Schopenhauer's central idea was that everything in the world was driven by the Will - broadly, the ceaseless desire to live. But this, he argued, left us swinging pointlessly between suffering and boredom. The only escape from the tyranny of the Will was to be found in art, and particularly in music.

Schopenhauer was influenced by Eastern philosophy, and in turn his own work had an impact well beyond the philosophical tradition in the West, helping to shape the work of artists and writers from Richard Wagner to Marcel Proust, and Albert Camus to Sigmund Freud.

AC Grayling is Professor of Philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London; Beatrice Han-Pile is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Essex; Christopher Janaway is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southampton.

  • FURTHER READING

    Atwell, John E., Schopenhauer on the Character of the World: The Metaphysics of Will (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995)

    Atwell, John E., Schopenhauer: The Human Character (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1990)

    Cartwright, David E., Historical Dictionary of Schopenhauer's Philosophy (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2005)

    Cartwright, David E., Schopenhauer: A Biography (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004)

    Dauer, Dorothea, Schopenhauer as Transmitter of Buddhist Ideas (European University Papers, Series 1, vol. 15; Berne: Herbert Lang, 1969)

    Fox, Michael (ed.), Schopenhauer: His Philosophical Achievement (Totowa, N.J.: Barnes and Noble, 1980)

    McGill, V. J., Schopenhauer: Pessimist and Pagan (New York: Haskell House, 1971)

    Neeley, G. Steven, Schopenhauer: A Consistent Reading (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2003)

    Safranksi, Rüdiger, Schopenhauer and the Wild Years of Philosophy, trans. Ewald Osers (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1989)

    Simmel, Georg, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, trans. Helmut Loikandl, Deena Weinstein, and Michael Weinstein (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1986)

    Tanner, Michael, Schopenhauer: Metaphysics and Art (London: Phoenix, 1998)

    Janaway, Christopher and Neill, Alex, Better Consciousness: Schopenhauer's Philosophy of Value (WileyBlackwell, 2009)

    Janaway, Christopher, Self and World in Schopenhauer's Philosophy (OUP Oxford, 1999)

    Janaway, Christopher, The Cambridge Companion to Schopenhauer (CUP, Cambridge, 1999)

    Janaway, Christopher, Schopenhauer: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford Paperbacks, 2002)

    Young, J. P., Willing and Unwilling: A Study in the Philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer (Nijhoff International Philosophy Series), (Springer, 1987)

    Young, Julian, Schopenhauer (Routledge, 2005)

    Han-Pile, B., ‘Nietzsche’s Metaphysics in the Birth of Tragedy’, in European Journal of Philosophy, vol 14 n°3, p. 373-404

    Han-Pile, B., ‘Beyond Metaphysics and Subjectivity: Music and Stimmung’, in Epoche, 1999, n° 5, vol 1&2, p. 39-69

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