English language books by or on Arthur Schopenhauer

If you’re going to read more on Arthur Schopenhauer, I suggest you start with his main works, followed by other primary resources (id est, books written by him), followed by secondary resources.

For ease, I’ve compiled a list of books currently available to the English language reader. Obviously, if you can read German, it makes little sense to purchase any of the translations, since the language the work was written in is better suited for Schopenhauer’s original thoughts.

For translations, I highly recommend those done by E. F. J. Payne, who is by far the most cited translator (from what I can tell from experience). While a number of other translations exist, browsing through them has left me unnecessarily flustered, due to their unnecessary complications. Schopenhauer is easy to read in German, and should be easy to read in English.

As far as a German version for the United States, I've purchased the five book Sämtliche Werke. A couple of the books are available individually, but not the full five book set. All five books will set you back around $120.

The first book(s) you’ll want to purchase is The World as Will and Representation, often cited as The World as Will and Idea. This work is composed of two volumes, Volume I and Volume II. The first volume is the main work, and the second is an expansion of Volume I. Volume II also includes the index to Volume I, making the purchase of the second somewhat important.

Schopenhauer also has another piece, On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, which should really be read first. However, since most college courses that look at Schopenhauer use The World as Will and Representation, this piece should definitely be read next.

Please note that my piece Arthur Schopenhauer’s Principle of Sufficient Reason covers this book in some detail, at least as regards the four roots, or laws, of the principle of sufficient reason.

Following this, we have the shorter pieces that Schopenhauer submitted to two Royal Societies of Sciences as answers to particular questions. Prize Essay on the Freedom of the Will, submitted to the Royal Norwegian Society of Sciences, was awarded the prize essay to the question. On the Basis of Morality, submitted to the Royal Danish Society of Scientific Studies, was not awarded the prize, even though it was the only entry. Both of these works deserve a reading.

Following this, we have Parerga and Paralipomena, which consist of two separate volumes. The first is composed of six long essays, while the second is composed of thirty-one short essays.

There are, finally, a number of translations that are currently out of print, or unavailable (at least, I have been unable to find them – any assistance in procuring these books would be extremely helpful and welcome).

  • Manuscript Remains, consisting of four volumes (as of approximately August 2008, available through Berg Publishing)
  • On the Will in Nature (translated by E. F. J. Payne)
  • On Vision and Colors

Cornell University recently (January 2007) released On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason and On the Will in Nature as one volume, taken from the Cornell University Library Digital Collections. The works are translated by Karl Hillebrand, and the actual volume quality is generally 'eh.' However, I include it here, since it's available for both purchase (eh) or online.

We next have secondary works, or works on Schopenhauer. My reading of these has been sparse, however, I do have a couple books, which I include here.

A further listing is quite possible, but as most should know, a reading of secondary works is nothing compared to a reading of primary works. After reading a number of his primary works, you’ll soon have quite a collection of secondary resources to peruse.

Chronological listing of works by Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 - 1860):

  • On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason (1813)
  • On Vision and Colors (1816)
  • The World as Will and Representation (1818)
  • On the Will in Nature (1836)
  • The Two Fundamental Problems of Ethics (1841)
    • On the Basis of Morality
    • On the Freedom of the Will
  • The World as Will and Representation (1844) [Revision and addition of Vol. II]
  • On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason (1847) [Revision]
  • Parerga and Paralipomena (1851)
  • On the World as Will and Representation (1859) [Third edition]

Sämtliche Werke consists of the following five books;

  1. Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung I
  2. Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung II
  3. Kleinere Schriften
    • Über die vierfache Wurzel des Satzes vom zureichenden Grunde
    • Über das Sehn und die Farben
    • Über den Willen in der Natur
    • Die beiden Grundprobleme der Ethik
    • Preisschrift über die Freiheit des Willens
    • Preisschrift über die Grundlage der Moral
  4. Parerga und Paralipomena I
  5. Parerga und Paralipomena II

Read more about these German version books.

Additonal secondary resource recommendations

coming shortly