THE WORLD AS WILL AND IDEA Volume 1
By Arthur Schopenhauer
Read by Leighton Pugh
20 hours 31 minutes
Schopenhauer was just 30 when his magnum opus, Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung, a work of considerable learning and innovation of thought, first appeared in 1818. Much to his chagrin and puzzlement, (so convinced was he of its merits) it didn’t have an immediate effect on European philosophy, views and culture. It was only decades later that it was recognised as one of the major intellectual landmarks of the 19th century. It proved to be a work that was not only to make an indelible impression on leading figures that followed him closely – Friedrich Nietzsche, Thomas Mann, Sigmund Freud – but also others well into the 20th century, including Carl Jung, Herman Hesse, Jorge Luis Borges, Karl Popper and Samuel Beckett. What was the Schopenhauerian proposition that made The World As Will and Idea so important? Absorbing views from Kant, and Buddhist ideas filtering almost for the first time through into Europe, Schopenhauer, (putting the concept of God aside) proposed that man was driven by ‘a will to life’; desire, craving, wanting – these were the elements that propelled him fiercely along life’s path, even though it causes him suffering. It is on that basis that Schopenhauer opens the work with the statement: ‘The world is my idea’. Man perceives the sun and the earth but can only relate to them through his own consciousness. He makes his own world. Though stamped as a pessimist, and certainly combative as a personality and a writer, Schopenhauer’s work – and The World As Will and Idea – doesn’t read darkly. Instead it is rich and challenging, as he surveys broadly philosophy, history, art, literature, music and culture generally. His opinions are strong and testing, but his breadth of knowledge invigorating. The translation recorded here is the classic rendering by R. B. Haldane. However, the numerous literary and philosophical references – Greek, Latin, German, French, Persian etc – in both the main text and the relevant footnotes are given here in English. Thus Schopenhauer’s major work can be absorbed and enjoyed directly – and especially in this intelligent, clear and committed reading by the actor and German scholar, Leighton Pugh. Schopenhauer has had a long and continuing influence – extending well into the 21st century and The World as Will and Idea is one of the great stepping stones of European which needs to be read. He added a subsequent volume late life, but Volume 1 is the major work.
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“Easy to follow, better than today’s fluff” Schopenhauer is wrong when he says this is a difficult book, that it needs to be read twice, or it’s necessary to have had read Kant’s “Critique of Pure Reason” in order to follow his arguments. The author writes such that if you don’t understand what he’s saying just wait awhile and he’ll explain it to you later on in another section of the Volume. When I read books like this, I long for today’s writers to be as entertaining, informative, and as challenging to my current beliefs as this book is.