chapter  1
7 Pages


It is sometimes said of Schopenhauer that he was not a very systematic thinker. There is a sense in which this judgment is undeniable. Many of the discussions of individual issues in his works tend to wander, and it is not always easy to see how different arguments fit together. Moreover, the impression of lack of system has been encouraged both by the way in which Schopenhauer presented his views to the public and by the way in which the public, or at any rate the Anglo-Saxon public, has received them. On Schopenhauer’s own side there is the fact that he tended to revise his main works and to add to them in successive editions. There is his phenomenal learning that leads him to make frequent references to many aspects of western and eastern thought, both philosophical and non-philosophical. There is his polemical style and his special antipathy to his German contemporaries, especially Hegel, and those whom he called the ‘professors of philosophy’; it was a style both of thought and writing which, whatever its cause, offended many in his own time, and has continued to do so since. There is the fact that essays on specific subjects play what is perhaps a much larger part in his philosophical output than is the case with many other major philosophers. This last point has affected also the way in which the public has received Schopenhauer’s views. The essays contain thoughts on a great number of subjects, and some of the thoughts are very striking indeed. They have, however, created the impression that Schopenhauer was just a man of ideas, of aphorisms, and of thoughts on sundry aspects of life, some of which are in a curious way anticipatory of later ideas.