Schopenhauer, Arthur

Legendary and historical figures

The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (1788–1860) was interested in Eastern philosophy, and he helped popularize it in Europe. Through reading Schopenhauer’s work, the German composer Richard Wagner was encouraged to make his own study of Buddhism. The idea both men had of Buddhism was rather vague and to some extent highly idealized, however.


«If I were to take the results of my philosophy as the standard of truth, I would have to consider Buddhism the finest of all religions.»1

Arthur Schopenhauer, Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung, 1819


«Buddhism is a hundred times as realistic as Christianity – it is part of its living heritage that it is able to face problems objectively and coolly; it is the product of long centuries of philosophical speculation. The concept ‘god’, was already disposed of before it appeared. Buddhism is the only genuinely positive religion to be encountered in history, and this applies even to its epistemology (which is a strict phenomenalism). It does not speak of a ‘struggle with sin,’ but, yielding to reality, of the ‘struggle with suffering.’ […] The two physiological facts upon which it grounds itself and upon which it bestows its chief attention are: first, an excessive sensitiveness to sensation, which manifests itself as a refined susceptibility to pain, and secondly, an extraordinary spirituality, a too protracted concern with concepts and logical procedures, under the influence of which the instinct of personality has yielded to a notion of the ‘impersonal.’ These physiological states produced a depression, and Buddha tried to combat it by hygienic measures.»2

F.W. Nietzsche, The Anti-Christ, 1895


1 Quoted in Peter Abelson, Schopenhauer and Buddhism, Philosophy East and West, Vol. 43, No. 2, 1993, p. 255.

2 F. W. Nietzsche, The Anti-Christ, ed. by Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1924, p. 69.