The Wisdom of Life and Counsels and Maxims

Prometheus Books (1890)
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Abstract

"The Wisdom of Life and Counsels and Maxims," by philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, offers a more accurate and realistic outlook on life than his student, Friedrich Nietzsche. While many disagree with Schopenhauer's renunciation of life, there is much to agree with in this book. Schopenhauer doesn't see a whole lot to celebrate in this vale of tears. His general view in "The Wisdom of Life and Counsels and Maxims" is summed up thus: Life is hell. Try to find a room furthest from the flames. If you tend towards a sunnier view of things then you're very likely to find this book by the grandmaster of philosophical pessimism unduly cynical. But if you've pretty much had it with the world and seldom meet a man (or woman) you wouldn't rather see the back of, you'll be delighted to find a fellow traveler and find wit and solace in Schopenhauer's acidic view of this "wonderful gift of life." Though riddled with hard-nosed realism and misanthropy, "The Wisdom of Life and Counsels and Maxims" is positively entertaining and enjoyable. Schopenhauer's style is fluid, prosaic, and imaginative, unlike most German philosophy. In lieu of modern world events, it is probably more relevant a work today than ever before. Schopenhauer discusses an array of subjects, such as the emptiness of those things commonly pursued by the masses (money, status/position, vanity, sensual pleasure, etc.), and those most commonly ignored by most (temperance, good health, character, individuality, and developing one's mind). Small, fleeting pleasures notwithstanding, Schopenhauer casts an unflinchingly jaundiced eye on the experience of human life and doesn't sweeten the pill. For its bracing honesty alone, this book deserves its reputation as one of the greatest philosophical manuals of how to best live our lives ever written.

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