“In general, I make the demand that whoever wishes to make himself acquainted with my philosophy shall read every line of me,” Arthur Schopenhauer wrote in Chapter 40 of Volume 2 of The World as Will and Representation. “For I am not a prolific writer, a fabricator of compendiums, an earner of fees, a person who aims with his writings at the approbation and assent of a minister; in a word, one whose pen is under the influence of personal ends. … I have … written little, but this little with reflection and at long intervals; accordingly I have also confined within the smallest possible limits the repetitions, sometimes unavoidable in philosophical works on account of continuity and sequence, from which no single philosopher is free, so that most of what I have to say is to be found only in one place. Therefore, whoever wants to learn from me and to understand me must not leave unread anything that I have written. Yet without this people can criticize and condemn me, as experience has shown; and for this also I further wish them much pleasure.”
The non-academic English-speaker who has little German has had a rough time of it in meeting Schopenhauer’s expectations. While all of his major works have been Englished, these translations (almost all of them by E.F.J. Payne) have been distributed by a variety of publishers over a long period of time, and those without access to a university library are particularly challenged. So it’s a pleasure to welcome the latest volume from the Cambridge University Press uniform series of the philosopher’s works, On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason and Other Writings, published just last month. The enthusiast will be very glad to see that, along with a new translation of Schopenhauer’s dissertation, there are also new translations of On Vision and Colors and On Will in Nature, the first influenced by the young Schopenhauer’s friendship with the older Goethe and the second a treatise about the ways in which Schopenhauer’s metaphysical “will” operates through the physical world. These essays have been among the hardest to get a hold of, and now that we have these new translations (by David E. Cartwright, Edward E. Erdmann, and Christopher Janaway), we can look forward to meeting Schopenhauer’s expectations of us through the rest of the winter.
This volume is the third of six publications; remaining to be published in the Cambridge series are the second volume of The World as Will and Representation and the two-volume collection of essays and aphorisms, Parerga and Paralipomena. With luck we’ll have these before the centenary of the publication of WWR in 2018. They are a handsome series of books, carefully edited and designed, as befits their contents; and finally there’s a replacement for the Open Court edition of the Fourfold Root — while one wouldn’t want to be without Payne’s translation, the Open Court book is among the ugliest, worst-designed volumes in the history of academic publishing. And that, my friends, is saying a lot.