email page print pageAll Topic Reviews
"Are You There Alone?""How Come Boys Get to Keep Their Noses?""My Madness Saved Me"10% Happier365 Days49 Up56 UpA Beautiful MindA Beautiful MindA Beautiful MindA Book of ReasonsA Can of MadnessA Child's Life and Other StoriesA Dangerous LiaisonA Fight to BeA First-Rate MadnessA Good Enough DaughterA Heartbreaking Work of Staggering GeniusA Lethal InheritanceA Lethal InheritanceA Life ShakenA Life Worth LivingA Little PregnantA Message from JakieA Million Little PiecesA Numerate LifeA Pocket History of Sex in the Twentieth CenturyA Slant of SunA Special EducationA Tribe ApartAbout FaceAddicted Like MeADHD & MeAEIOUAgainst Medical AdviceAgents in My BrainAileen - Life and Death of a Serial KillerAlgernon, Charlie and IAll Out!All Seasons PassAlphavilleAlways Too Much And Never EnoughAlzheimer'sAn Anthropologist on MarsAn EducationAn Unquiet MindAngela's AshesAngelheadAnna Freud: A BiographyAnnie's GhostsAnother Bullshit Night in Suck CityAnthology of a Crazy LadyApples and OrangesApproaching NeverlandAre You There, Vodka? It's Me, ChelseaAs I Live and BreatheAs Nature Made HimAt Home in the Heart of AppalachiaAt the End of WordsAvalancheBad BoyBad GirlBeautiful BoyBeautiful WreckBecoming AnnaBen Behind His VoicesBequest and BetrayalBereftBertrand RussellBlackoutBlanketsBloodlettingBodies in Motion and at RestBoneBorn on a Blue DayBoyBoy AloneBoyleBrain on FireBreaking ApartBreaking the SilenceBrokenBulimics on BulimiaBuzzCamus and SartreCharles DarwinChasing the HighCheeverCherryCity of OneCluesClumsyComfortComplications Compulsive ActsConfessions of a Cereal EaterConfessions of a Former ChildConfessions of a Grieving ChristianConfessions of the Other MotherConfidingConquering the Beast WithinContesting ChildhoodCrackedCrazyCry Depression, Celebrate RecoveryDamned to EternityDancing at the Shame PromDante's CureDaughter of the Queen of ShebaDavid Sedaris Live at Carnegie HallDays With My FatherDefeating the VoicesDementia Caregivers Share Their StoriesDepression and NarrativeDescartesDetourDevil in the DetailsDiagnosis: SchizophreniaDirty DetailsDirty SecretDivided MindsDivine MadnessDon't Get Too ComfortableDown Came the RainDress Your Family in Corduroy and DenimDrinkingDriving My FatherDrunkardDryEarly Embraces IIIEinsteinEinstein and OppenheimerElectroboyElegy for IrisElijah's CupElliott Smith and the Big NothingElsewhereEnough About YouEpilepticEvery Girl Tells a StoryEverything In Its PlaceExamined LivesExiting NirvanaFaces of Huntington'sFamily BoundFast GirlFearless ConfessionsFind MeFinding Iris ChangFirst Person Accounts of Mental Illness and RecoveryFirst Person PluralFixing My GazeFlanneryFolie a DeuxFor the Love of ItFortress of My YouthFrank Ramsey (1903-1930)Franz KafkaFraudFree RefillsFreudFreudFreudFriedrich NietzscheFrom Joy Division to New OrderFumblingFun HomeFuriously HappyGalileo Get Me Out of HereGirl in Need of a TourniquetGirl Walking BackwardsGirl, InterruptedGirl, InterruptedGirls on the VergeGoing BlindGoing Through Hell Without Help From AboveGraysonGrowing Up JungGuttedHalf a Brain Is EnoughHardcore from the HeartHead CasesHeal & ForgiveHeal & Forgive IIHeavier than HeavenHeinz KohutHeinz KohutHello from Heaven!Hello to All ThatHer HusbandHer Last DeathHigh PriceHole in My LifeHolidays On IceHolidays on IceHope's BoyHouse of Happy EndingsHouse of Happy EndingsHow I Stayed Alive When My Brain Was Trying to Kill MeHow to Lose Friends & Alienate PeopleHow to Make Love Like a Porn Starhow to stop timeHumeHunger Makes Me a Modern GirlHurry Down SunshineI Feel Bad About My NeckI Never Promised You a Rose GardenI Remain in DarknessI'd Rather Eat ChocolateI'd Rather LaughIf I Die Before I WakeImagining RobertIn Search of FatimaIn the Realms of the UnrealIn the Wake of SuicideInside TherapyInternInvisible No MoreIt Happened to NancyIt Takes a Worried ManJack Cole and Plastic ManJean-Paul SartreJohn Stuart MillJourneys with the Black DogJust CheckingKafkaKantLa SierraLab GirlLast Flight OutLearning to FallLet Me Make It GoodLife As We Know ItLife InterruptedLife ReimaginedLimboLincoln's MelancholyListening in the Silence, Seeing in the DarkLittle PeopleLive For Your Listening PleasureLive Through ThisLiving in the Shadow of the Freud FamilyLiving With SchizophreniaLiving with SchizophreniaLockeLonelyLong ShotLook Me in the EyeLooking for The StrangerLoose GirlLosing Mum and PupLosing My MindLove Is a Mix TapeLove SickLove Times ThreeLove Works Like ThisLove You, Mean ItLuckyLudwig WittgensteinLyingMad HouseMad PrideMadame ProustMadnessMagical ThinkingMalignant SadnessManicMarcel ProustMarcus AureliusMary BarnesMaverick MindMe Talk Pretty One DayMeaningMelanie KleinMemoirMemoirs of an Addicted BrainMemoirs of My Nervous IllnessMen-ipulationMisconceptionsMiss American PieMockingbird YearsMomma and the Meaning of LifeMommies Who DrinkMonkey MindMore, Now, AgainMortificationMy Age of AnxietyMy Body PoliticMy Brain Tumour AdventuresMy DepressionMy Father's HeartMy First Cousin Once RemovedMy Flesh and BloodMy Horizontal LifeMy Life Among the Serial KillersMy Sister LifeMy Stroke of InsightName All the AnimalsNeural MisfireNietzscheNietzsche: The Man and His PhilosophyNinety DaysNo Hurry to Get HomeNo Impact ManNo More ShavesNolaNotebooks 1951-1959NothingOdd Girl Speaks OutOedipus WreckedOf Spirits & MadnessOn Being RapedOn the Edge of DarknessOn the MoveOne Hour in ParisOne Hundred DaysOphelia SpeaksPagan TimePassing for NormalPeople Who Eat DarknessPerfect ChaosPerfect ExamplePermanent Present TensePersepolisPlanet of the BlindPlaying with FirePlease Don't Kill the FreshmanPoisoned LovePollockPOPismPortraits of Huntington'sPoster ChildProzac DiaryPsychiatrist on the RoadPsychosis in the FamilyPuppy Chow Is Better Than ProzacQuitting the Nairobi TrioRaising BlazeReasons to Stay AliveRebuiltRecovered, Not CuredRelative StrangerRescuing JeffreyRestricted AccessRevengeRewind, Replay, RepeatRichard RortyRiding the Bus With My SisterRobert Lowell, Setting the River on FireRoom For JRosemaryRough MagicRunning After AntelopeRunning with ScissorsScattershotSchizophreniaSchopenhauerSecond OpinionsSectionedSeeing EzraSeeing the CrabSet the Boy FreeSex & Single GirlsSex ObjectShakespeareShe Bets Her LifeShe Got Up Off the CouchShut the DoorSickenedSilencing the VoicesSimone de BeauvoirSinging in the FireSkin GameSlackjawSlut!SmashedSome Assembly RequiredSome Kind of GeniusSometimes Madness Is WisdomSongs from the Black ChairSongs of the Gorilla NationSoren KierkegaardSpeak to MeSpeaking Our Minds: Revised EditionSpecial SiblingsSpentStandbyStick FigureStill LivesStretchSunset StorySurviving OpheliaSwing LowTales from Both Sides of the BrainTales of PsychotherapyTalk to HerTell Me Everything You Don't RememberTellingTelling Tales About DementiaThe Accidental BillionairesThe AddictThe Anatomy of HopeThe Anti-Romantic ChildThe Bastard on the Couch CDThe BeastThe Bell JarThe Best Seat in the HouseThe Big FixThe Body SilentThe Boy on the Green BicycleThe Boy Who Loved WindowsThe Buddha & The BorderlineThe Burn JournalsThe Camera My Mother Gave MeThe Cancer Monologue ProjectThe Center Cannot HoldThe Chelsea WhistleThe Churkendoose AnthologyThe Day the Voices StoppedThe Devil WithinThe DisappearanceThe Discomfort ZoneThe Doctor Is InThe Eden ExpressThe Family SilverThe Farm Colonies: Caring for New York City's Mentally Ill In Long Island's State HospitalsThe Fasting GirlThe First Man-Made ManThe First TimeThe Geography of BlissThe Glass CastleThe Good DoctorsThe Hillside Diary and Other WritingsThe Incantations of Daniel JohnstonThe Last AsylumThe Last Good FreudianThe Last Time I Wore a DressThe Liars' ClubThe Lives and Loves of Daisy and Violet HiltonThe Lives They Left BehindThe LobotomistThe Long GoodbyeThe Looked After Kid: Memoirs from a Children's HomeThe Loony-Bin TripThe Madness of Our LivesThe Making of a PhilosopherThe Making of Friedrich NietzscheThe Man Who Couldn't EatThe Man Who Shocked the WorldThe Man Who Tasted ShapesThe Marvelous Hairy GirlsThe Maximum Security Book ClubThe Me in the MirrorThe Memory PalaceThe Mercy PapersThe Mistress's DaughterThe Naked Bird WatcherThe Naked Lady Who Stood on Her HeadThe Night of the GunThe Noonday DemonThe Notebook GirlsThe NursesThe Only Girl in the CarThe Orchid ThiefThe Other HollywoodThe OutsiderThe Philosopher's Autobiography The Philosophical Breakfast ClubThe Philosophical IThe Pits and the PendulumThe Pornographer's GriefThe Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner The Professor and the MadmanThe Psychopath TestThe Quiet RoomThe Red DevilThe Rescue of Belle and SundanceThe Ride TogetherThe Rules of the TunnelThe Secret of LifeThe Shaking Woman or A History of My NervesThe Shared HeartThe Shiniest JewelThe Siren's DanceThe Statistical Life of MeThe Story of My FatherThe Strange Case of Hellish NellThe Summer of a DormouseThe SurrenderThe Talking CureThe Thought that CountsThe Three of UsThe Undoing ProjectThe Vagina MonologuesThe Velveteen FatherThe Winter of Our DisconnectThe Woman Who Walked into the SeaThe Years of Silence are PastThe Yellow HouseThe Yipping TigerThick As ThievesThinThis Close to HappyTiger, TigerTits, Ass, and Real EstateTo Redeem One Person Is to Redeem the WorldTo Walk on EggshellsTransforming MadnessTrue CompassTruth & BeautyTruth Comes in BlowsTuesdays with MorrieTweakTwitch and ShoutUltimate JudgementUndercurrentsUnholy GhostUnlikelyVoices of AlcoholismVoices Of Alzheimer'sVoices of CaregivingVoices of RecoveryVoluntary MadnessWaiting for DaisyWar FareWashing My Life AwayWastedWaveWe're Not MonstersWeather Reports from the Autism FrontWeekends at BellevueWhat Did I Do Last Night?What Goes UpWhat I Learned in Medical SchoolWhat's Normal?When a Crocodile Eats the SunWhen Breath Becomes AirWhen Do I Get My Shoelaces Back?.....When It Gets DarkWhen the Piano StopsWhen You Are Engulfed in FlamesWhere Did It All Go Right?Where is the Mango Princess?Where the Roots Reach for WaterWhile the City SleptWhile They SleptWho Was Jacques Derrida?Why I'm Like ThisWildWill's ChoiceWinnicottWinnieWish I Could Be ThereWith Their EyesWomen Living with Self-InjuryWomen, Body, IllnessWrestling with the AngelYou Must Be DreamingYour Voice in My HeadZeldaZor
Arthur Schopenhauer was not an especially happy man in his middle and later years, and neither was he an especially happy or contented youth. In fact, from our modern-day perspective, he would probably be described as morose, erasable, and quarrelsome. He was never able to break into the academic world or hold a position of the kind he thought himself worthy. He lived most of his life on an inheritance. He loved the company of women, but his several marriage proposals were rejected and two children he probably fathered died in infancy. He achieved public acclaim (of sorts) only toward the end of his oft-troubled life.
Yet for all of this, his work had, as he himself predicted, a more powerful effect on future generations than on his own. (For example, Nietzsche and Wittgenstein are said to have been influenced by Schopenhauer.)
For those of us who trudged through his ponderous World as Will and Representation -- probably only if required reading in college -- Cartwright's meticulously studied and carefully articulated biography of the philosopher will explain a lot, and implies more, about the philosophical positions we hoped to winnow out of the challenging verbiage. In addition to copious details of Schopenhauer's own personal wanderings, Cartwright provides the social, political and everyday-life context of those days in Europe (especially the first half of the 19th century), and the effect of these tumultuous influences on the presumably inherited temperament of Schopenhauer himself.
Arthur's father was an upper middle-class Dutch businessman, and apparently intended for his only son to pursue that same career. The family's wide travels of Arthur's youth may have been, in part, designed to expose him to various cultures and languages. And the boy did in fact become fluent in English and French, the latter so much so that he mentioned that he had to relearn his native language after a lengthy stay in France. Yet he perhaps appreciated England above all other countries (though the time he spent at a school there were not altogether pleasant for him), and he regularly read English newspapers and followed English current events throughout his life.
When Arthur was 17, his unstable and rarely-satisfied father was found in a canal, his death likely due to suicide. As Cartwright portrays the father just prior to the incident, "he was inclined to loud outbursts and strange behavior. He would pace his room at night" (p. 88). The loss of his father, and the suspicions of suicide, troubled Arthur. (He would later write essays in defense of the right to suicide, even though this act was against the law in some countries and universally condemned by the Church.)
In contrast to her business-oriented husband, Arthur's mother had literary interests and was a successful author during her own productive years; after her husband's death, she achieved the respect as a writer that Arthur himself seemed never to be sure of for his own writings. It seems that Arthur secretly admired his mother's success even while voicing derision of her writing --along with her skills as a mother and wife -- to his friends.
Having completed his major work, World as Will and Representation, when still less than 30 years of age, Schopenhauer never deviated from the insights and positions he took up in that work; later editions were only expanded to permit clarifications, not revisions.
Cartwright's penetrating glimpses into Schopenhauer's personal life are sprinkled with significant connections to the philosopher's writings and philosophic positions, and although the book, as a biography, tends to focus on life events more than those works and positions, the substance of Schopenhauer's world view becomes increasingly clear throughout the book. (Chapter 10, "The Frankfort Philosopher," delves authoritatively into Schopenhauer's works.)
Today many would not find Schopenhauer's then-novel insights altogether unfamiliar -- the emphasis on self-consciousness in the "creation" of the world in which we find ourselves, the power of the instinct-like quality of experience that trumps a simple intellectual grasp of reality, the foundational duality of motivation to act, and the act itself. Cartwright's biography of the man shows that many of these ideas did not spring entirely new out of Schopenhauer's isolated creative genius but were seeded by his studious contemplation of Kant and others (even the Eastern mystical traditions). Yet much of Schopenhauer's work was creative genius and, significantly, conflicted in many respects with the religious views of his own Europe in those times. (Perhaps this helped set the stage for Nietzsche's arrival on the scene.)
Cartwright's biography is so comprehensive and so packed with facts, dates, details, conversations, transcribed or summarized letters, side-stories and the like, that it would be presumptuous for a reviewer (and non-philosopher) to single out any main thrust -- the whole stands most sturdily on its own and to emphasize one or several features would be to neglect the whole. Each reader will find his or her own "most interesting" details or ideas on which to reflect.
For me, Schopenhauer's almost incomprehensible contempt for Hegel, along with repeated and unsuccessful attempts to best the older philosopher, was strangely intriguing. Occasionally Schopenhauer sought out -- generally without success -- an academic career. In an early attempt at one university, his arrogance (I think of it as such) caused him to insist on setting the day and time of the class he would teach to be the same as that of a class taught by Hegel. Although Hegel, being on the approval committee, could have swatted away this upstart's demand, he courteously consented to the schedule. Even so, Schopenhauer's class was a flop -- his course attracted only a few students while Hegel's concurrently run course was packed. No doubt Schopenhauer irrationally blamed Hegel for this, rather than the fact that he, a relative unknown, had chosen to compete with a widely-respected, well-established professor.
Among the numerous instances of Hegel's personal life that I found fascinating are included his several-decades long outrage over a lost lawsuit with a woman; he may have pushed her to the ground (in 1821) after group of loudly-chatting women refused to vacate the area around his apartment door. In any case, she was awarded damages for life, and Schopenhauer was obliged to pay. Upon her death (in 1842) his satisfaction turned poetic: he scrawled the anagram "Obit anus, abit onus" on a copy of the woman's death certificate. ("The old woman dies, the burden flies.")
At 548 pages of text -- not including the preface and a lengthy index -- this biography is not light reading, yet it is satisfying and, in some senses, enlightening: To feel the real-life roots of an abstract philosophic system makes the foliage seem less dense. Considering his own ideas about the inseparability of experience from philosophical understanding, Schopenhauer himself would no doubt be very pleased.
© 2010 Keith Harris
Keith Harris, Ph.D., is Chief of Research for the Department of Behavioral Health in San Bernardino County, California. His current interests include the empirical basis for mental health research, behavioral genetics, and the shaping of human nature by evolutionary forces.