Schopenhauer and the Theoretical Concerns of Cross-Cultural Philosophy
In nineteenth-century German reception of the East, Arthur Schopenhauer is well known for his crucial, influential, and thought-provokingly bold use of Indian thought. Throughout his work he reiterated that Hindu and Buddhist philosophies offered profound ideas that transcended cultural and temporal boundaries and were echoed in great European thinkers such as Plato and Kant. His own philosophical system, he argued, arrived at the same epistemological, metaphysical, and ethical conclusions that Hindu and Buddhist thought presented in a more religious context and metaphoric language. Within the “Hindu” corpus he continually referred to the Vedas, the Upaniṣads, and the Bhagavadgītā, among which he held particularly the Upanisads in high philosophical regard and considered them the comfort and solace of his life and death.
In addition to influencing subsequent thinkers, artists, and writers such as Nietzsche, Wagner, and Hesse, Schopenhauer's understanding of Hindu and Buddhist philosophies proves to have tremendous potential to engage scholars of different disciplines, approaches, and methodologies. His admiration of and affiliation to Vedānta and Buddhist thought inspire a number of “comparative universalists,” from Max Hecker to Dorothea Dauer, who are inclined to find fundamental agreements between Schopenhauer's system and Hindu and Buddhist worldviews. “Comparative relativists” from J. J. Gestering to Richard White examine Schopenhauer with a more critical eye, highlighting the incompatibilities between his thought and Hindu-Buddhist ideas, and exposing his mis-understanding and misappropriation of them.