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Schopenhauer and the wild years of philosophy – Rüdiger Safranski (isbn 0674792769)

This is the first of three biographies of philosophers by the German writer Safranski. I got all three (this one, Nietzsche en Heidegger) to review, the other two I have yet to read. I hoped to learn more about the philosophy of the pessimistic German philosopher Schopenhauer (1799-1860), but this thick book (+500 pages) is mostly filled with biographical information. Schopenhauers early years, the relation with his mother, sister, the philosopher Goethe (a friend of his mothers), love-affairs; how Arthur (and Safranski usually refers to him) was an original, but underrated (yet over-self-confident) philosopher who only in the later years of his life got the success that he longed for. Before he really got used to that, Arthur died at a respectable age. The main themes of Schopenhauers philosophy I got from an encyclopedia of philosophers, but knowing them, they are can also be found in the book of Safranski. They are the (superhuman) “will” which is the cause of all and the rest is “imagination”, as in the Eastern doctrine of “maya” (“illusion”).

All in all a nice read, but only if you are mainly interested in biographical information and not for people (like myself) who want to learn about the philosophy of Schopenhauer. Safranski does display himself a wellread philosopher who totally understands Schopenhauer, because in a few chapters he not only speaks about Schopenhauers contemporaries and influences in depth, but he also explains parts of their and Arthurs philosophy in understandable terms. Still, you can’t use this book for reference, since the index has only names… A biography, not much more, but certainly nothing less.

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