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PHIL6065 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

Module Aims

• Introduce you to the central ideas of Schopenhauer’s philosophy through a reading of selected parts of The World as Will and Representation. • Situate Schopenhauer’s philosophy in relation to its influences, especially Kant. • Explore through philosophical argument the cogency of Schopenhauer’s central conception of will, his epistemology, aesthetics and ethics. • Enable you to form a critically informed understanding of Schopenhauer’s key claims and ideas.

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.


The syllabus may vary from year to year. Topics typically 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.

Wider reading or practice25
Preparation for scheduled sessions30
Completion of assessment task40
Follow-up work20
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

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

Arthur Schopenhauer (2010).  The World as Will and Representation vol 1. 


Assessment Strategy

For MA students taking this module, expectations will be significantly higher than those for year 3 undergraduate students attending the same lectures, and the assessment criteria will accordingly by stricter. In particular students will be required to demonstrate extremely high levels of detailed and accurate exposition, critical engagement, organisation and presentation, with scholarship that draws on appropriate primary literature.


Business case or Essay plan


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (4000 words) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Resubmit assessments 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Linked modules


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