‘my philosophy is like Thebes with a hundred gates: one can enter from all sides and through each gate arrive at the direct path to the centre’
Schopenhauer’s two essays On the Freedom of the Will and On the Basis of Morals form his complete system of ethics. Their doctrines, continuous with those in his major work The World as Will and Representation, are presented here in more accessible, self-contained form. Schopenhauer argues, in uniquely powerful prose, that self-consciousness gives the illusion of freedom and that human actions are determined, but that we rightly feel guilt because our actions issue from our essential individual character. He locates moral value in the virtues of loving kindness and voluntary justice that spring from the fundamental incentive of compassion. Morality’s basis is ultimately metaphysical, resting on an intuitive identification of the self with all other striving and suffering beings. These essays, newly translated here with an introduction and notes, contain a critique of Kant’s ethics, and advance a position that was in turn the target of criticism by Nietzsche.