Philosophy Index

Arthur Schopenhauer

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788–1860) was a German philosopher.


Much of Schopenhauer's philosophy centers on the notion of “will”, which for Schopenhauer is the desire, effort and striving of the human spirit. He felt that the human will, the collection of one's desires, is the primary motivation for any human being. The will is fundamentally irrational and arbitrary, Schopenhauer says, and leads human beings to consequently act irrationally. Schopenhauer goes further: rather than merely say that the will is the collection of human desires, he affirms that it is a thing-in-itself — that the will has ontological status.

Schopenhauer's views generally conform to his talk about the will. In terms of ethics, he claims that the will's motivation can be divided into compassion, egoism and malice, and that compassion is the one that is properly moral. In terms of aesthetics, Schopenhauer claims that art is a temporary escape from the unending desire of the will, allowing one to briefly feel satisfied.

Animal Rights

Schopenhauer was notably concerned about the rights of animals. Animals, human or otherwise, were manifestations of the “will”. Because human beings and other animals share this in common, Schopenhauer views them as fundamentally the same, and as such, human beings should have respect and sympathy for animals in the same way that they would for other humans. In On the basis of morality, he writes:

Since compassion for animals is so intimately associated with goodness of character, it may be confidently asserted that whoever is cruel to animals cannot be a good man.

Selected Works

  • The World as Will and Representation (1818)
  • On the basis of morality


Name: Arthur Schopenhauer
Born: February 22, 1788
Died: September 21, 1860