He twice stood unsuccessfully for Mid Bedfordshire , at the general election and the by-election , and instead took a job presenting the ITV current affairs television programme This Week. He made documentary programmes about subjects of social concern such as prostitution, sexually transmitted diseases , abortion and homosexuality illegal in Britain at the time. Roy Jenkins changed them and he was bitterly opposed by the Tories. But if you were liberal with a small L there was a menu of social change and I believed very strongly in that whole liberal agenda.
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It had a radical influence on my whole life. Indeed, it may be said that Schopenhauer provided a systematic vocabulary for those distinctively modern feelings, perceptions, and experiences that were to transform the artistic and intellectual life of the West from the s to the end of the First World War. Schopenhauer published the first edition of his major work, The World as Will and Representation, in , but it was not until the s, when he was in his sixties, that his work began to exercise any real influence.
No doubt the widespread disillusionment that followed in the wake of the revolutions of helped pave the way for the triumph of his relentlessly disillusioning philosophy. But it is also the case, as Magee argues, that the current disenchantment with positivism—as much in art and literary studies as in philosophy—has helped kindle a renaissance of interest in Schopenhauer as both a cultural influence and a thinker in his own right.
It is appropriate that Schopenhauer, who despised the academy and academic philosophy, should find as his latest champion a decidedly nonacademic man of letters. The Philosophy of Schopenhauer, incidentally, is dedicated to Gardiner. It is no exaggeration to say that many of the leading figures of that time—including Wittgenstein and Freud—cannot be understood without some appreciation of their debt to Schopenhauer.
It offers a reasonably thorough exposition of his main philosophical writings, concentrating on The World as Will and Representation. Magee has thus assembled a great deal of material, and most students of Schopenhauer will find it a useful, if not especially original, synopsis of his philosophy as well as a handy compilation of facts about his life and influence.
In many respects the biographical introduction and the appendices are the most valuable parts of the book. On the contrary, Schopenhauer had formulated the central tenets of his philosophy well before he became acquainted with Eastern texts. The important thing was that he arrived at such similar insights independently, for in his mind this argued for the fundamental truth of the ideas in question.
Schopenhauer himself wrote with such clarity and verve—his model is said to have been Hume—that his own works remain the best and most accessible entree to his thought. One may disagree with a lot that Schopenhauer has to say, but one is seldom at a loss to understand what he is saying, a claim that one would hesitate to make for many of his philosophical compatriots. Schopenhauer is famous above all for his pessimism.
As Magee shows, his biography supplies ample support for this dimension of his reputation. After his father died, apparently by his own hand, when Schopenhauer was in his teens, he joined the prosperous family firm as his father had wished, but he found it stifling and soon left to devote himself to learning.
Unfortunately, relations between mother and son were at the best of times cool, and now they broke down completely. He published it with great expectations and was bitterly disappointed when it went, virtually unnoticed. Then, after an extended stay in Italy, Schopenhauer moved to Berlin and made his single bid for a university teaching career. In a characteristically defiant gesture, he deliberately scheduled his lectures at the same time that Hegel—who was then at the pinnacle of fashion but whose philosophy Schopenhauer detested— had scheduled his.
The consequence was that no one came and the class had to be canceled. He continued to refine and elaborate his system, bringing out a second, greatly expanded edition of The World as Will and Representation in The week in culture. Recommendations from the editors of The New Criterion, delivered directly to your inbox. It also remarkably prefigures the novelties—substantive as well as stylistic— usually attributed to American pragmatism.
And given his lapidary prose style and romantic pessimism, it is perhaps not surprising that Schopenhauer would come to exercise a more pervasive influence on the arts and, through Freud, on psychology than on philosophy. In a figure that strikingly anticipates the insights of psychoanalysis, Schopenhauer compares the human mind to a body of water. Schopenhauer thus inverts the traditional, Platonic-Christian image of man, inaugurating an intellectual revolution that looks forward to Darwin The Origin of Species was published in and modern evolutionary theory.
As he wrote in the second volume of The World as Will and Representation, all philosophers before me, from the first to the last, place the true and real inner nature or kernel of man in the knowing consciousness.
Accordingly, they have conceived and explained the I, or in the case of many of them its transcendent hypostasis called soul, as primarily and essentially knowing, in fact thinking, and only in consequence of this, secondarily and derivatively, as willing My philosophy. If his reader were to reflect on the inexplicable urgings of his own will, writes Schopenhauer, he would recognize that the force that shoots and vegetates in the plant, indeed the force by which the crystal is formed, the force that turns the magnet to the North Pole, He will recognize them all as that which is immediately known to him so intimately and better than everything else, and where it appears most distinctly is called will.
An endless and ultimately purposeless striving, the will shows itself as much in the pull of gravity or the germination and growth of plants as in man. Reading ourselves into nature, we extend the name of the reality we know best to the reality of the external world. And it is just this bodily relation to the will that accounts for the weight or significance that we attach to our experience.
Nothing would move or attract or frighten us. But as bodily, willing creatures, the world continually impinges on us. And since we never get to the bottom of the will, we never get to the bottom of experience. Reality, including our own reality, remains in this sense an inexhaustible mystery, ever capable of surprising us.
But if the wish is fulfilled, we get to know from our joy, not without a feeling of shame, that this is what we desired…. Every apparent satisfaction only gives way to boredom or fresh desire. Therefore, so long as our consciousness is filled by our will, so long as we are given up to the throng of desires with its constant hopes and fears, so long as we are the subject of willing, we never obtain lasting happiness or peace. Together, they are the ultimate source of his pessimism and his view of human life as tragic.
What Schopenhauer proposes is less an emancipation of life than an emancipation from life. We celebrate the Sabbath of the penal servitude of willing; the wheel of Ixion stands still. Momentarily suspending the claims of desire or interest, aesthetic experience pleases man by intimating a completeness denied to him as a being-in-time.
Disinterested, we are exempt from the imperatives of desire and the will; we are, for the moment, free. But the episodic nature of aesthetic experience renders it incapable of providing any lasting solution to the problem of the will. Just how this is to be accomplished remains somewhat obscure.
Yet the renunciation of the will he envisions has exerted such an irresistible fascination on so many artists, writers, and thinkers because it promises to relieve one of individuality, of the burden of having to be oneself. But also conversely, to those in whom the will has turned and denied itself, this very real world of ours with all its suns and galaxies, is—nothing.
The answer came, not in poor, large-sounding words: he felt it within him, he possessed it. Death was a joy, so great, so deep that it could be dreamt of only in moments of revelation like the present. It was the return from an unspeakably painful wandering, the correction of a grave mistake, the loosening of chains, the opening of doors The traditional identification of him as a pessimist is largely irrelevant to a serious consideration of him as a philosopher.
For according to Schopenhauer, man is essentially will; and since he craves a satisfaction beyond the unappeasable urgings of the will, man must deny his essence in order to achieve happiness. The content was so often negative—corrosive, sarcastic, derisive, pessimistic, sometimes almost despairing— yet the manner was always positive, indeed exhilarating. These things involve us in a relationship with something or someone outside ourselves, a gratified extension of ourselves which is self-enhancing, and thus life-enhancing.
For Nietzsche, too, man is will incarnate, always striving, never satisfied. Goethe, who managed to live the world-affirming philosophy that Nietzsche preached, summed it up in an admonitory couplet that he wrote for Schopenhauer when the young philosopher was leaving Weimar for Dresden in Willst du dich des Lebens freuen, So musst der Welt du Werth verleihen.
It had a radical influence on my whole life. Indeed, it may be said that Schopenhauer provided a systematic vocabulary for those distinctively modern feelings, perceptions, and experiences that were to transform the artistic and intellectual life of the West from the s to the end of the First World War. Schopenhauer published the first edition of his major work, The World as Will and Representation, in , but it was not until the s, when he was in his sixties, that his work began to exercise any real influence. No doubt the widespread disillusionment that followed in the wake of the revolutions of helped pave the way for the triumph of his relentlessly disillusioning philosophy. But it is also the case, as Magee argues, that the current disenchantment with positivism—as much in art and literary studies as in philosophy—has helped kindle a renaissance of interest in Schopenhauer as both a cultural influence and a thinker in his own right. It is appropriate that Schopenhauer, who despised the academy and academic philosophy, should find as his latest champion a decidedly nonacademic man of letters.
The Philosophy of Schopenhauer
Neither of them was very religious;  both supported the French Revolution ,  and were republicans , cosmopolitans and Anglophiles. Heinrich gave his son a choice—he could stay at home and start preparations for university education, or he could travel with them and then continue his merchant education. Arthur later deeply regretted his choice because he found his merchant training tedious. He spent twelve weeks of the tour attending a school in Wimbledon where he was very unhappy and appalled by strict but intellectually shallow Anglican religiosity, which he continued to sharply criticize later in life despite his general Anglophilia. Heinrich became so fussy that even his wife started to doubt his mental health. Although it was possible that his death was accidental, his wife and son believed that it was suicide because he was very prone to unsociable behavior, anxiety and depression which became especially pronounced in his last months of life.