The Wisdom of Life Book Summary - The Wisdom of Life Book explained in key points
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The Wisdom of Life summary

Arthur Schopenhauer

Schopenhauer's take on will and deliberation

4.4 (199 ratings)
17 mins
7 key ideas
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What is The Wisdom of Life about?

Schopenhauer’s The Wisdom of Life (1851) is a short philosophical essay about what constitutes human happiness. Starting with ancient Greek philosophers’ ideas on human happiness, Schopenhauer develops his own thoughts on what people need to be happy.

About the Author

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) was a prominent German philosopher. He rejected the idealism of his time in favor of a more practical materialism. Schopenhauer greatly influenced other intellectuals, including Richard Wagner, Friedrich Nietzsche, Leo Tolstoy and Thomas Mann.

Table of Contents

    The Wisdom of Life
    summarized in 7 key ideas

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    Key idea 1 of 7

    Life's blessings can be divided into three categories.

    Ruminating on the qualities and nature of human life is nothing new. But after the rumination comes the practical part. How, exactly, are you supposed to live your life for maximum benefit and happiness?

    Of course, the Greek philosophers got there first. Aristotle thought human blessings could be classified into three categories: blessings that are external to the self, blessings of the soul and blessings of the body.

    Aristotle was on the right track. There are three categories of blessings, but they don’t align with his conception of them.

    First and foremost, there's personality, or “what a man is.”

    Personality isn’t just your character; it also covers your health, strength, beauty, temperament, moral outlook, intelligence and education.

    These attributes are generally determined by nature, and as such they're very significant in governing human happiness.

    Most importantly, a person’s inner constitution, or “what he is made of,” plays the biggest role in shaping his well-being. Just think of health: it’s axiomatic that a healthy beggar is happier than a sick prince.

    Needless to say, for Schopenhauer, the greatest pleasures are those of the mind. As he puts it, “An intellectual man in complete solitude has excellent entertainment in his own thoughts and fancies, whilst no amount or diversity of social pleasure […] can ward off boredom from the dullard.”

    The second category is property, or “what a man has.”

    Material wealth can satisfy real and basic needs, but it won’t get you any further than that. It’s never going to truly satiate you or compensate for a lack of inner wealth. Happiness comes from elsewhere. That’s why rich people, though materially well off, aren’t particularly happy.

    Finally, there’s position. In other words, how you're thought of by others.

    An inwardly rich person, unlike a fool, will pay little heed to others’ opinions. She’ll just live her life.

    That’s the basics covered. Now let’s look at each blessing in more detail.

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    Best quote from The Wisdom of Life

    Because people have no thoughts to deal in, they deal cards, and try and win one anothers money. Idiots!

    —Arthur Schopenhauer
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    Who should read The Wisdom of Life

    • Academic and armchair philosophers
    • Anyone striving for happiness and wisdom
    • Lovers of nineteenth-century German philosophy

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