- Willing and Nothingness: Schopenhauer as Nietzsche's Educator
Considering how many English language studies of Nietzsche's thought exist, it is quite remarkable that more has not been written on the question of the influence that Arthur Schopenhauer, his self-described "educator," had on his philosophy. The essays in this important volume go a long way toward filling this vacancy in Nietzsche (and Schopenhauer) scholarship. Christopher Janaway has assembled an impressive group of articles that, taken together, effectively reveal the complexity and depth of Nietzsche's Schopenhauerian inheritance. This collection is both focused and comprehensive. These essays deal with almost all of the major points of agreement and contention between these two philosophers without exaggerating the influence of Schopenhauer on Nietzsche.
In his introduction and contributing essay, Janaway highlights some of the general ways in which Schopenhauer exerted an influence on Nietzsche throughout his philosophical development. Janaway argues that despite Nietzsche's steadfast rejection of Schopenhauer's metaphysics there are important ways in which he remained indebted to his mentor even in his later works. For instance, though Schopenhauer embraces the mystical ideal of freeing the intellect from the will, it is his view that in the phenomenal realm the intellect is essentially an instrument of the will. According to Janaway, this claim that the intellect must be "rooted in a living, striving entity" had a profound [End Page 133] influence on Nietzsche's later thought, especially on his 'perspectivism' (35). The second essay in this volume, contributed by Maudemarie Clark, makes the similar claim that Nietzsche's ideas regarding truth and knowledge are grounded in the naturalistic conception of intellect he inherited from Schopenhauer. Clark claims Schopenhauer's philosophy, once divested of its more extreme metaphysical aspects, can be understood as a form of empiricism in which all knowing is "rooted in affect" (74). This is an idea that Clark also takes to be at the heart of Nietzsche's perspectivism.
Other essays deal with two issues that were of primary importance to both Schopenhauer and Nietzsche: aesthetics and morality. Ivan Soll compares their respective aesthetic theories and argues that their views regarding the significance of art are not as dissimilar as Nietzsche himself claimed. They both see art "through the lens of life" and as a way of responding to the suffering that characterizes human existence. However, whereas Schopenhauer sees art as a means of denying the will to life, Nietzsche sees it as means of affirming life in the face of suffering. Like Soll, David Cartwright argues that Nietzsche embraces Schopenhauer's stance on the pervasiveness of suffering in human life. From this standpoint he examines both Nietzsche's criticisms and appropriation of certain elements of Schopenhauer's moral philosophy. Cartwright cleverly argues that Nietzsche's scathing critique of Schopenhauer's asceticism and morality of Mitleid actuallyrelies upon Schopenhauer's methodology and incorporates elements of his pessimism.
Pessimism is dealt with in more detail in the essays by Kathleen Higgins and David Berman. Higgins claims that Schopenhauer's and Nietzsche's basic conceptions of will are actually quite similar. Both philosophers understand and interpret life in fundamentally voluntaristic terms. However, the two philosophers part ways when it comes to how will is characterized. Schopenhauer's pessimism and Nietzsche's relative optimism, Higgins claims, spring more from a difference in the temperament of the two thinkers, rather than a difference in their conceptions of will. In his essay, David Berman reinforces Higgins' view that Schopenhauer and Nietzsche share the same basic understanding of will even though their evaluations of it differ. However, Berman claims that Nietzsche came to see Schopenhauer as a closet epistemological optimist whose purported pessimism was "being used to protect and insulate him from the world's pain" (190). It is Berman's view that Nietzsche's self-proclaimed recognition of Schopenhauer's pessimism as a kind of "self-deceived" optimism actually cleared the way for Nietzsche to develop his philosophy of power and life affirmation. Whereas Schopenhauer retreats into the false comfort of resignation and denial, Nietzsche's...