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

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Brief summary

The Wisdom of Life by Arthur Schopenhauer is a philosophical work that explores the meaning of life. Schopenhauer argues that a life of wisdom consists of minimizing pain and maximizing pleasure, and that happiness comes from within rather than external factors.

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    The Wisdom of Life
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    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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    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.

    The Wisdom of Life Review

    The Wisdom of Life (1890) by Arthur Schopenhauer offers profound insights on how to live a meaningful and fulfilling life. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • It presents practical wisdom that can be applied to various aspects of life, helping readers navigate challenges and find true happiness.
    • The book explores the nature of human desires and offers insights on how to find contentment amidst our ever-changing desires and aspirations.
    • Through introspection and self-reflection, Schopenhauer encourages readers to question societal norms and think critically about the purpose of life.

    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

    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.

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    The Wisdom of Life FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Wisdom of Life?

    The main message of The Wisdom of Life is a philosophical exploration of how to find meaning and purpose in life.

    How long does it take to read The Wisdom of Life?

    The reading time for The Wisdom of Life varies depending on the reader, but it's a short book. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Wisdom of Life a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Absolutely! The Wisdom of Life offers insightful reflections on human existence and explores the concept of happiness. It's definitely worth adding to your reading list.

    Who is the author of The Wisdom of Life?

    Arthur Schopenhauer is the author of The Wisdom of Life.

    What to read after The Wisdom of Life?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Wisdom of Life, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus
    • Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant
    • Meditations on First Philosophy by René Descartes
    • The Ethics of Ambiguity by Simone de Beauvoir
    • Being and Time by Martin Heidegger
    • Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche
    • Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche
    • Time of the Magicians by Wolfram Eilenberger
    • The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud
    • As A Man Thinketh by James Allen