From beginner-friendly introductions to classic books by Schopenhauer, this page features books to suit any learning style. It’s important to note that there is no single best book on Schopenhauer. The best book for you will depend heavily on your preferred learning style and the amount of time/energy you’re willing to spend reading. For example, if you tend to find classic works of philosophy difficult to understand, you might want to start with a short, beginner-friendly introduction. If you prefer more depth, you can choose a more comprehensive introduction or read Schopenhauer for yourself.
It’s also worth noting that it is not a list of personal recommendations. Personal book recommendations tend to be highly subjective, idiosyncratic, and unreliable. This list is part of a collection of over 100 philosophy reading lists which aim to provide a central resource for philosophy book recommendations. These lists were created by searching through hundreds of university course syllabi, internet encyclopedia bibliographies, and community recommendations. Links to the syllabi and other sources used to create this list are at the end of the post. Following these links will help you quickly find a broader range of options if the listed books do not fit what you are looking for.
Here are the best books on or by Arthur Schopenhauer in no particular order.
Schopenhauer: A Very Short Introduction – Christopher Janaway
Publisher description: Schopenhauer is considered to be the most readable of German philosophers. This book gives a succinct explanation of his metaphysical system, concentrating on the original aspects of his thought, which inspired many artists and thinkers including Nietzsche, Wagner, Freud, and Wittgenstein. Schopenhauer’s central notion is that of the will–a blind, irrational force that he uses to interpret both the human mind and the whole of nature. Seeing human behavior as that of a natural organism governed by the will to life, Schopenhauer developed radical insights concerning the unconscious and sexuality which influenced both psychologists and philosophers.
Schopenhauer – Julian Young
Publisher description: Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) was one of the greatest writers and German philosophers of the nineteenth century. His work influenced figures as diverse as Wagner, Freud and Nietzsche. Best known as a pessimist, he was one of the few philosophers read and admired by Wittgenstein.
In this comprehensive introduction, Julian Young covers all the main aspects of Schopenhauer’s philosophy. Beginning with an overview of Schopenhauer’s life and work, he introduces the central aspects of his metaphysics fundamental to understanding his work as a whole: his philosophical idealism and debt to the philosophy of Kant; his attempt to answer the question of what the world is; his account of science; and in particular his idea that ‘will’ is the essence of all things….
Schopenhauer: A Biography – David E. Cartwright
Publisher description: In his quest to solve ‘the ever-disquieting riddle of existence’, Schopenhauer explored almost every dimension of human existence, developing a darkly compelling worldview that found deep resonance in contemporary literature, music, philosophy, and psychology. This is the first comprehensive biography of Schopenhauer written in English. Placing him in his historical and philosophical contexts, David E. Cartwright tells the story of Schopenhauer’s life to convey the full range of his philosophy. He offers a fully documented portrait in which he explores Schopenhauer’s fractured family life, his early formative influences, his critical loyalty to Kant, his personal interactions with Fichte and Goethe, his ambivalent relationship with Schelling, his contempt for Hegel, his struggle to make his philosophy known, and his reaction to his late-arriving fame.
The Cambridge Companion to Schopenhauer – Christopher Janaway
Publisher description: Arthur Schopenhauer (1788–1860) is something of a maverick figure in the history of philosophy. He produced a unique theory of the world and human existence based upon his notion of will. This collection analyses the related but distinct components of will from the point of view of epistemology, metaphysics, philosophy of mind, aesthetics, ethics, and the philosophy of psychoanalysis. This volume explores Schopenhauer’s philosophy of death, his relationship to the philosophy of Kant, his use of ideas drawn from both Buddhism and Hinduism, and the important influence he exerted on Nietzsche, Freud, and Wittgenstein.
The Essential Schopenhauer – Arthur Schopenhauer
Publisher description: The Essential Schopenhauer delivers the first comprehensive English anthology of the seminal philosopher’s writings. Edited by Wolfgang Schirmacher, president of the International Schopenhauer Association, this indispensible collection affords readers a uniquely accessible gateway into the monolithic thinker’s prodigious body of work. Just as the Harper Perennial Basic Writings series renders the work of Heidegger and Nietzsche accessible for English readers, The Essential Schopenhauer gives us unprecedented access to the complex ideas of this profound and influential thinker.
Essays and Aphorisms – Arthur Schopenhauer
This selection of thoughts on religion, ethics, politics, women, suicide, books, and much more is taken from Schopenhauer’s last work, Parerga and Paralipo-mena, published in 1851.
The World as Will and Representation – Arthur Schopenhauer
Publisher description: First published in 1818, The World as Will and Representation contains Schopenhauer’s entire philosophy, ranging through epistemology, metaphysics, philosophy of mind and action, aesthetics and philosophy of art, to ethics, the meaning of life and the philosophy of religion, in an attempt to account for the world in all its significant aspects. It gives a unique and influential account of what is and is not of value in existence, the striving and pain of the human condition and the possibility of deliverance from it. This new translation of the first volume of what later became a two-volume work reflects the eloquence and power of Schopenhauer’s prose and renders philosophical terms accurately and consistently. It offers an introduction, glossary of names and bibliography, and succinct editorial notes, including notes on the revisions of the text which Schopenhauer made in 1844 and 1859.
The following sources were used to build this list:
- Bibliography for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Schopenhauer
- Bibliography for the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Schopenhauer
- I want to start reading Schopenhauer. What book should I read first, and what is the best edition/translation of that book? Thank you
- What Schopenhauer should I read?
If you want to learn more about Schopenhauer, you can find a collection of free articles, videos, and podcasts here.
You might also be interested in the following reading lists:
- The Best Introductory Philosophy Books
- The Best Books on the History of Philosophy
- The Best Books on the Meaning of Life
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- Find the best philosophy books on a wide variety of topics with this collection of over 120 philosophy reading lists.
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A History of Western Philosophy in 500 Essential Quotations – Lennox Johnson
Category: Reference | Length: 145 pages | Published: 2019
Publisher’s Description: A History of Western Philosophy in 500 Essential Quotations is a collection of the greatest thoughts from history’s greatest thinkers. Featuring classic quotations by Aristotle, Epicurus, David Hume, Friedrich Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell, Michel Foucault, and many more, A History of Western Philosophy in 500 Essential Quotations is ideal for anyone looking to quickly understand the fundamental ideas that have shaped the modern world.