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The University of Southampton

PHIL3047 Schopenhauer

Module Overview

Schopenhauer is one of the great original writers of the nineteenth century, and a unique voice in the history of thought. His central concept of the will leads him to a pessimistic view of existence: he regards human beings as striving irrationally and suffering in a world that has no purpose. This condition can be redeemed by the elevation of aesthetic consciousness and finally overcome by the will’s self-denial and a mystical vision of the self as one with the world as a whole. He relies on the philosophy of Kant in the Critique of Pure Reason, but is in many ways progressive, an atheist with profound ideas about the human essence and the meaning of existence which point forward to Nietzsche, Freud and existentialism. He was also the first major Western thinker to seek a synthesis with Eastern thought. The module offers an examination of Schopenhauer’s epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, and aesthetics, as contained in The World as Will and Representation and other works.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • the central problems that Schopenhauer claims to have diagnosed.
  • the concepts and arguments that he draws upon.
  • how to relate those concepts and arguments to issues in other areas of philosophy, for instance to issues in ethics, metaphysics and epistemology.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Undertake, with adequate supervision, independent work, including identifying and using appropriate resources.
  • Work effectively to deadlines.
  • Extract key information from complex texts.
  • Take notes from talks and written materials.
Cognitive Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Interpret, synthesise and criticise complex texts and positions.
  • Present and debate ideas, both orally and in writing, in an open minded and rigorous way.


The syllabus may vary from year to year. Topics may include: • Idealism • Will, desire, action • Art and aesthetic experience • Free will • Morality • Pessimism • Affirmation and negation of the will to life

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • Lectures. • In-class discussion. • Individual consultation with the module co-ordinator during office hours or by appointment. Learning methods include: • Attending lectures and taking notes. • Participating in class discussion. • Meeting with the module co-ordinator. • Doing research for and writing textual commentaries. • Independent study and revision for exams.

Completion of assessment task22
Preparation for scheduled sessions24
Follow-up work24
Wider reading or practice24
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Arthur Schopenhauer (2010). The World as Will and Representation. 

Arthur Schopenhauer (2009). The Two Fundamental Problems of Ethics. 





MethodPercentage contribution
Commentary  (1500 words) 50%
Exam  (1.5 hours) 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Exam  (2 hours) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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