The Cambridge Companion to Schopenhauer
Christopher Janaway, editor. The Cambridge Companion to Schopenhauer. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1999, pages xiv + 478. $59.95 (hardback), $19.95 (paperback).
Schopenhauer is rarely studied today, yet a book wherein the main ideas of Schopenhauer are explained and discussed critically, as is done in The Cambridge Companion to Schopenhauer, is welcome for the insight it offers into Nietzsche's thought. Schopenhauer is, after all, the thinker who awoke Nietzsche from his dogmatic slumber.
Arthur Schopenhauer is unique in his influence on Nietzsche's intellectual development in that Nietzsche regards him as both a protagonist and an antagonist. Nietzsche's understanding of will, knowledge, morality, and asceticism are not as comprehensible as they could be without an understanding of these ideas as they appear in Schopenhauer's World as Will and Representation. Even Nietzsche's critique of pessimism and his understanding of nihilism require an understanding of Schopenhauer. Granted, Nietzsche disagreed with the way Schopenhauer applied these concepts, but Nietzsche read Schopenhauer's philosophy as something to learn from, as something to bounce his own ideas off of and as something to revel in.
In The Cambridge Companion to Schopenhauer, Christopher Janaway has collected thirteen essays and has arranged them in a manner that for the most part reflects the general structure of World as Will and Representation. The first essay serves as an overview of Schopenhauer's philosophy by examining the Schopenhaurean sense of self as it emerges and develops throughout World as Will and Representation. Then, the following nine essays of the collection cover the main topics in the four books that comprise World as Will and Representation, more or less in the order they appear in Schopenhauer's text. Three essays discuss Schopenhauer's ideas of knowledge, world, and the principle of sufficient reason; three essays focus on Schopenhauer's understanding of the will, the thing-in-itself, and Schopenhauer's connection to Eastern thought; two essays consider art and morality; and two essays deal with the issues of death and pessimism. The last three essays in the collection consider the way Schopenhauer influenced other thinkers, particularly the early Nietzsche, Wittgenstein (who strangely enough read Schopenhauer), and Freud. In the Schopenhauer/Freud essay, the author considers how Schopenhauer's sense of the unconscious influenced Freud's notion of the unconscious.
No doubt an understanding of Nietzsche's ideas of causality, appearance, and will came from Schopenhauer. While the essay by David Hamlyn on knowledge and the essay by F. C. White on the principle of sufficient reason do not deal with Nietzsche directly, an understanding of these basic concepts contributes to an understanding of Nietzsche's ideas of knowledge, causality, and appearance. Janaway's essay on will in Schopenhauer helps illuminate Nietzsche's understanding of will, and Janaway's essay on pessimism exposes Schopenhauer's interpretation of the wisdom of Silenus and provides us with a better understanding of Nietzsche's early thought as well as with an understanding of what Nietzsche broke with in Schopenhauer's philosophy yet still incorporated into his thought. Even the essay on morality by David C. Cartwright and the essay on death by Dale Jacquette contribute indirectly to an understanding of Nietzsche's thought.
One essay that will be of special interest to Nietzsche scholars is Martha
Nussbaum's, entitled "Nietzsche, Schopenhauer and Dionysus." While this
essay was previously published in
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Arion, its inclusion in this collection is appropriate. Nussbaum
provides an excellent reading of The Birth of Tragedy in relation
to both Nietzsche's appropriation of Schopenhauer's views of art and
appearance, while also exposing Nietzsche's rejection of Schopenhauer's
idea of pessimism. For scholars interested in Nietzsche, Nussbaum's
essay alone makes this collection of essays worthwhile.
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