Book Reviews

Parerga und Paralipomena by Arthur Schopenhauer – Book Review

Arthur Schopenhauer is famous for being the pessimistic philosopher avant la lettre. For him it was a quite reasonable question to ask yourself: wouldn’t I just be better off dead? He would answer this with the answer: yes. In this book, which is a compilation of multiple small essays, Schopenhauer goes into many different topics, like women, religion, philosophy and more. It should speak for itself that he isn’t all too friendly about these topics.

            For Schopenhauer, the world is suffering. If there is something of value in the world is in the fact that we suffer in this world. The only reason we don’t just kill ourselves, is because we have the will to live. This will is the most fundamental aspect of human beings. In order to be able to live with this suffering, we have to accept the suffering as an inherent part of human being. Nietzsche would later spin this around and create rather a heroic optimism instead of the pessimism that Schopenhauer proponed.

            Schopenhauer didn’t like women, which is evident by his 20-page tirade against, what he calls the inferior sex. He calls women large children who never become an adult, since they don’t possess the intellectual capacity to become an adult. He bases this on nothing other than assertions. His critique against women is rather funny than valuable in my opinion. His women issues came from his mother, who he hated (and she didn’t like him either); so basically, we can peek a bit into the mommy-issues of Schopenhauer. It feels good to know that even great philosophers can have mother-issues.

            I believe this book to be a great introduction into the work of Schopenhauer. His main work the World as Will and Representation is an immensely dense and hard book to read and understand (I have yet to embark on that journey). So, reading a bit of smaller essays which also represent his main ideas or at least give an incentive for further reading, was liberating and took away from the intimidation of reading his main work. Still, I’ll have to read a bit more before I dare myself to that book.

            If you want to read about the greatest pessimistic philosopher to have ever lived and inspired every emo teenager with a ‘hate for the world’, then this book would be a great place to start. I know it helped me to become interested in Schopenhauer and understand his views on things. Although I don’t agree in many of his views (I guess I’m more of a Nietzschean in that aspect (also I don’t hate women)), there are some essays which really gave me a deeper understanding of the subject and inspired some great thoughts of myself. And I guess that’s what a great philosopher does: inspire.

P.S.: I apologize for this short review. I have been neglecting this blog for the month of July since I finished my exams and have been taking some time off. I hope I can post consistently again, because I do love writing about many of these topics. I appreciate everyone reading this. It truly brings a smile to my face! Have a nice day!

By elenchusphilosophy

Philosophy student from Ghent, Belgium. I write about what I find interesting which is about nearly anything. Though my guiding question in life is how to be a good person.

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