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Essay on the Freedom of the Will

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  463 ratings  ·  28 reviews
The winning entry in a competition held by the Royal Norwegian Society of Sciences, Schopenhauer's 1839 essay brought its author international recognition. Its brilliant and elegant treatments of free will and determinism elevated it to a classic of Western philosophy, and its penetrating reflections still remain relevant.
Schopenhauer makes a distinction between freedom of
Paperback, 128 pages
Published May 6th 2005 by Dover Publications (first published 1839)
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Kyle van Oosterum
Jan 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
This is the probably the best and most intellectually sober defense for determinism, i.e: that we have no free will whatsoever. Probably what makes this essay all the more powerful is that it was written in a scientifically "naive" time and it relies on arguments which are compelling because of how intuitive they are. Schopenhauer, the intellectual influence on Nietzsche, determined that it is impossible to cleanse ourselves of the temporal coloring of our lives; how the past and present will ne ...more
Schopenhauer is kind of a boss. He took the idea of the "free will", read pretty much everything that anyone ever wrote about it, and then came to the conclusion that essentially everyone was an idiot except for him. Not really -- he has serious respect for some philosophers, but mostly for their ideas, not for them. In less than 90 pages, Schopenhauer sort of takes the cake for proving why "free will" is a silly concept. His argument hinges on a few assertions that may seem dated, but most are ...more
Nov 04, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013, philosophy, reviewed
It never ceases to amaze me when philosophers come so near Vulcan status, dispassionately examining a particular notion, only to suddenly burst through the walls like the Kool Aid man and say something like, "Bitches, amirite?"

But, though Schopenhauer does show periodic sexism, that's not his particular undoing here. His undoing comes long after that; it comes in his conclusion where, just as he's carefully pouring out the last of the Kool Aid to his adoring sycophants, he loses control, slaps
Jul 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
I love Schopenhauer's exasperated tone. He struggles with what he perceives to be the idiocy of people who can't understand how obvious it is (to him) that the universe is deterministic in nature. His gratuitous swipe at Hegel in his survey of previous philosophical thinking on the subject is hilarious.
JP Morgan
Aug 26, 2008 rated it really liked it
This gave me a pretty clear understanding of the necessity of cause and effect in the will. It left me searching for some meaning in my experience of free choice for which he reccomends one reads Kant. I'd say my separation between experience and reality is widening and that I'm begining to find peace with it.
Feb 17, 2012 rated it liked it
This book convinced me that free will is impossible in principle.
Jul 19, 2017 rated it it was ok
This was a refreshing and honest treatise. Lately, I have been pondering if we have free will and what consciousness is. I read some modern books on this (Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, amongst others) and it seems to me that even though our modern day knowledge about these subjects - thanks to neuroscience and cognitive psychology - is much much further than the knowledge natural philosophers like Descartes and Spinoza had access to, the issues are still not solved. I even think that with all thes ...more
Allan Yeo
May 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
Schopenhauer reintroduces the lack of the freedom of will in a reasonable length. Not skipping examples and definitions, he presents a clear portrayal of how his will is within the chain of causality, ironically departing from the laborious style of writing from his self-professed influence, Kant. The prose is clear and insertions of latin phrases apt and appreciated, elucidating meaning from its paragraphs appears to be as tiresome as casual conversation with an old friend at a cafe.

Aug 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
This essay has been an interesting insight into the human mind and its process of decision making. The beginning has somewhat of a learning curve (at least for me) but nothing too discouraging, as everything is well explained, and Schopenhauer can keep it interesting throughout the entire read. Mind you, this is an essay and so, he comes fairly quickly to making his point, backing it up with solid logical reasoning and ending in the last few chapters with an illustration of the context of the fr ...more
David F.
Mar 29, 2014 rated it it was ok
Heavy prose but practically a model of clarity compared to philosophers like Kant or Wittgenstein. Schopenhauer argues that free will is no better than an illusion. His arguments are a bit dense in their prose but reasonably coherent in their logic. He is careful to define his terms and most of his definitions seem solid. Unfortunately, I found his reliance on assertions that various points are self-evident and the occasional circularity of some of his arguments to be serious weaknesses.
Jan 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
Schopenhauer wrote this dissertation in the occasion of the Norwegian Royal Academy`s competition of establishing the freedom of will, in which he won the first prize. He proves that the man`s freedom to move his limbs in not enough to point out the freedom of will, which is a more complex notion. His distinguished conclusion is that neither humans nor animals posses such a freedom, for their actions will always be the same in a given situation in which they find themselves repeatedly. ...more
Ian Miley
Jan 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
Schopenhauer states clearly his "scientific" view that if one accepts some basic laws of the universe, one cannot believe in a "free" will. While life is a more complicated physical structure than most in our universe, it still follows the laws of gravity, inertia, inter molecular forces and other forces. Thus a human can be predicted.

However, some have criticized that at a quantum level, we are at a loss to find any basic laws that govern the behavior of quantum particles.
John Ellis
Feb 23, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This may be the best book that I’ve read on the subject of the problem of free will. My glowing declamation does, however, come with a caveat – Schopenhauer wanders too far into materialistic determinism for my taste (I write that with the understanding that he believed materialism and idealism to be correlative. This is, after all, simply a Goodreads “review”). My confusing statement aside, this book should be read by anyone interested in the debate about free will.
Rubem Pimentel
Jan 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Really nice, but quite complicated at the end. It's better to read carefully his definitions at the beginning because then he will 'mix' it with some of Kant's definitions and those quasi final pages are hard to grasp (even for himself: "...up to a region which lies higher, but is not so easily accessible to our knowledge."). A really interesting book which gives you an explanation to: "A man can do what he wills, but cannot will what he wills."
Jul 14, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great piece by Shopenhauer, in his entertaining arrogant pessimistic style. His thesis is quite convincing, but in my opinion contains a few flaws and he jumps to conclusions too fast sometimes (perhaps because he explains those things more eleborate in his main works), but overall a very interesting and easy-to-read essential work of philosophy.
Je ne suis pas du tout convaincu par la thèse de l'auteur.
Sanja Ireland
Sep 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Miguel Teles
Oct 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
4 and 1/2 stars.

Everything perfect despite his assumption of the unchangeability of an inborn character and the last 10 pages with his final Conclusion.
Jonny Berglind
Aug 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
Andrew Simmons
Sep 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Easily my favorite book on the topic. Well argued and concise.
Torsten Bastuck
Ein wirklich aufklärendes Buch, das mit einfachen, logischen Gedanken einen neuen Blick auf die von uns so joch geschätzte Freiheit geben kann.
Jul 14, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Een klassieker, zeker. De moeite waard, zeker. Maar zou ik het nou iemand aanraden? Niet zo zeker.
Igor Stojanov
Nov 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The author has very persuasive argument on the lack of free will. We as humans are born with a certain inborn, timeless and unchangeable character. A character which we can not choose, but one that we discover through the actions that we take each day. This character possesses a will, and can do as he will, but can't will to will a different action. In that sense, we don't possess the power to freely will.

Schopenhauer claims that the law of causality can be applied to humans as well. What is di
Nov 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
For those that don't know, Schopenhauer entered this essay into a philosophy contest and won. Having read it myself I can say that he really earned it.
Sep 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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Jason Kirk
Jan 18, 2014 rated it liked it
Arguments for the meaning, import, and moral imperative of free will have come a long way since 1839. Nevertheless, Schopenhauer's Essay -- for all its heavy leaning on feeling, appeals to self-evidence, and circular argument -- still pays off, primarily for its vertiginous vigor on the subject. (Quoted from #SmallBooksMonth )
Greg Gauthier
Dec 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Schopenhauer is a great intro to determinism

This was my first encounter with Schopenhauer, and I must say, he is quite readable. Though he reiterates himself a bit too much, his line of reasoning is clear, well supported, and extremely well structured. I especially enjoyed the survey of fellow contemporary and classic thinkers opinions on the topic of free will, as he saw them. I recommend this to all serious beginners in Philosophy.
George Marx
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Dec 10, 2015
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Arthur Schopenhauer: Essay on the Freedom of the Will 1 2 Nov 27, 2018 10:23PM  

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Arthur Schopenhauer was born in the city of Danzig (then part of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth; present day Gdańsk, Poland) and was a German philosopher best known for his work The World as Will and Representation. Schopenhauer attempted to make his career as an academic by correcting and expanding Immanuel Kant's philosophy concerning the way in which we experience the world.

He was the son o
“In order to elucidate especially and most clearly the origination of this error (...) let us imagine a man who, while standing on the street, would say to himself:

"It is six o'clock in the evening, the working day is over. Now I can go for a walk, or I can go to the club; I can also climb up the tower to see the sunset; I can go to the theater; I can visit this friend or that one; indeed, I also can run out of the gate, into the wide world, and never return. All of this is strictly up to me, in this I have complete freedom. But still I shall do none of these things now , but with just as free a will I shall go home to my wife".

This is exactly as if water spoke to itself: "I can make high waves (yes! in the sea during a storm), I can rush down hill (yes! in the river bed), I can plunge down foaming and gushing (yes! in the waterfall), I can rise freely as a stream of water into the air (yes! in the fountain), I can, finally boil away and disappear (yes! at a certain temperature); but I am doing none of these things now, and am voluntaringly remaining quiet and clear water in the reflecting pond.”
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