Schopenhauer proves that a German philosopher does not have to be nearly unintelligible to appear profound. Unlike Hegel and Heidegger, Schopenhauer does not hide behind ambiguous words or phrases. To the reader, Schopenhauer's views are as profound as they are clear. Starting where Kant left off, he gives new meaning to the word will; he makes will the thing in itself. Both volumes are essential reading. The first offers his entire system. From epistemology to metaphysics, to a great essay on where his philosophy differs from Kant's, the first volume is the foundation for the second. The second volume is classic Schopenhauer; this is the acid-tongued curmudgeon most people think of when they bother to think of him at all. The sections on death and the metaphysics of sexual love are mind-blowing. As it is expressed in his masterpiece, The World as Will and Representation, Schopenhauer's genius and originality of thinking tower over the views of most thinkers being pushed in universities today.
In the dogmatic rigid world of academic philosophy, rarely are "outsiders" fully appreciated. Especially when capable of lucid and lively expository skills. Schopenauer's well known and explicit challenge of Hegel as the legitimate heir to Kant doomed him to a minor status in his lifetime. However, his insights and doctrines have provided much material incorporated by others, such as Nietzche, Freud, Jung. His recognition of the legitimacy of Oriental thought preceded Western appreciation as well. For those willing to devote the time to a thorough reading, a full and comprehensive world view emerges. The role of the unconscious, the dualities in the struggle between reason and emotion, the valuation of a pragmatic but compassionate ethic are some of the still worthy expositions in his opus. Allowing for some of the local references and historical context, a true and lasting example of real philosophizing as it was envisioned in classical Greek tradition.The pursuit of truth and knowledge as an end worthy of devotion. Maybe he was a bit of a cranky eccentric, but he was a true individual who dared to pursue his own insights to their logical conclusions.
Schopenhauer stands out as one of the most gifted writers in the history of philosophy. This book is long, but every paragraph is packed with insight. The only time he ever gets long-winded is when he is tearing into something or somebody that bothers him. Other than that, the book offers a profoundly pessimistic, insightful, witty, and sophisticated worldview that has influenced me profoundly. Volume two is a commentary that he wrote years later to flesh out the ideas developed in the first volume, and is every bit as insightful. We only have so much time to read, however, and volume one is a consistent whole. I do not recommend Safranski's biography, however, because it is incredibly melodramatic and wordy. I couldn't finish it. I believe that most people would find Schopenhauer's worldview to be paralyzing and unbearable; however, if you have a melancholy or brooding temperament, you will feel as if you have finally come home after all those years of disillusionment. As Schopenhauer frankly puts it: aging is a process of exchanging hope for insight.