Summary of Schopenhauer’s The Wisdom of Life

Updated: Oct 14

In the past series, we discussed some major themes of Schopenhauer’s The Wisdom of Life (public library).

It is here worth noting that this text is only a small sample of his life’s work, coming thirty years after his magnum opus, The World as Will and Idea (undoubtedly to be discussed at length in the future!), but this work came at the end of his life and proves to be a great synopsis of his philosophy.

Our first post, Schopenhauer on Happiness, can be summarized in his words:

“What a man is contributes much more to his happiness than what a man has.”

In our second post, he stresses the foundation of good health for a life of meaning:

“Health outweighs all other blessings so much that one may really say that a healthy beggar is happier than an ailing king.”

In our third edition, Schopenhauer discusses the sincerity with which we must follow our own path:

“From his surroundings he asks nothing but leisure for the free enjoyment of what he has got, time, as it were, to polish his diamond.”

And finally, in our fourth post regarding the great folly of concerning yourself with the opinion of others:

“By a peculiar weakness of human nature, people generally think too much about the opinion of what others form of them; although the slightest reflection will show that this opinion, whatever it may be, is not in itself essential to happiness”.

Though published in Germany in 1851, Schopenhauer’s words possess a timeless wisdom that we can apply to our own lives. The study of great thinkers of the past gives us a better understanding of ourselves and the world in which we live. Each book becomes a new tool for our tool belt, possessing ideas to help us best navigate this life and optimally deal with the difficulties we inevitably face. Philosophy serves as the immune system of the mind, and just as white blood cells helps us ward off disease, a sound philosophy will save us from much unnecessary suffering.

In the final pages of this text, he succinctly summarizes the whole of it:

“The truest fame, the fame that comes after death, is never heard of by its recipient; and yet he is called a happy man. His happiness lay both in the possession of those great qualities which won him fame, and in the opportunity that was granted him of developing them–the leisure he had to act as he pleased, to dedicate himself to his favorite pursuits. It is only work done from the heart that ever gains the laurel.”

I wish you a lifetime of such work!

Next up, we stay within the same time period but head across the Atlantic to Concord, Massachusetts, to study Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, and see if we cannot learn what it has to teach.

If you want to read Chris’s latest book on personal development, check it out here.

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