Spreading Schopenhauer: Professor's biography of philosopher reaches global audience

April 21, 2014

CartwrightPinned to the wall behind David Cartwright's desk is a faded newspaper clipping that reads "Schopenhauer till you drop."

The amusing quartet of words seems almost personally written for Cartwright, a man who has spent a great deal of his professional life researching and writing about the 19th century German philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer.

In fact, he's arguably one of the foremost experts on the subject. Cartwright's translations of Schopenhauer's essays have appeared in several books, prominent anthologies and scholarly journals.

On any given day, emails appear in the UW-Whitewater professor's inbox from philosophy junkies around the world who are hungry for history, tidbits and help with projects.

"Just this week I received an email from someone in Russia working on a Ph.D.," Cartwright said. "He wanted to know about Schopenhauer."

So too, do thousands of other people.

Cartwright's definitive English-language biography of Schopenhauer, published in 2010 by Cambridge University Press, is now being translated into Chinese and Turkish.

The 548-page biography took six years to write and research. It tells the story of Schopenhauer's life (1788-1860) to convey the full range of his philosophy.

"He is one of the most widely-read philosophers in the world," Cartwright said. "His writings are very good with little jargon. He deals with existential themes -- ubiquitous issues like death, destruction and misery in the world.

"He has helped me understand things better. I actually find his pessimism comforting."

Cartwright officeAnother of Cartwright's books, "Historical Dictionary of Schopenhauer's Philosophy," was recently translated into Persian.

Cartwright said he was surprised but gratified to see his works published in different languages. He credits the tremendous support from his colleagues in the College of Letters and Sciences for allowing him to follow his passion.

"If it means more people are studying and learning about Schopenhauer I am happy," he said.

-- Written by Jeff Angileri


Jeff Angileri

Sara Kuhl