The Poet as Fate: Schopenhauer’s Literary Vision

Hauptsächlicher Artikelinhalt

James Dowthwaite


The claim that a thinker concerned with the development of a totalizing metaphysical system can be a literary philosopher may seem hard to justify. For Arthur Schopenhauer, the entire world is the representation or appearance of the will to life, the metaphysical essence of all being. And yet, because this will must always appear and always take form, it is only formally that we can grasp it, only in concrete instances. For this reason, the poet “shows us how the will behaves under the influence of motives and reflection. He presents us this for the most part in the most perfect of its appearances” (WWRII, 310). In this paper, I will argue that Schopenhauer founds a philosophical approach which comes to rest on literary foundations and which alights at key moments on the strength of his literary as well as his philosophical forebears. I will do this by means of looking at how Schopenhauer treats the concept of fate. It is my contention that the fatalism inherent in Schopenhauer’s ethics is a direct result of a fundamentally literary approach to the concept. This enables us to conceive of fate from a literary and not solely from a metaphysical standpoint. I will begin by outlining the place of the literary in Schopenhauer’s philosophy, including a brief account of those writers whose work he incorporates into his analysis, and then I will demonstrate its relation to his fatalism.


Dowthwaite, J. 2022. The Poet as Fate: Schopenhauer’s Literary Vision. Internationale Zeitschrift für Kulturkomparatistik. 5 (2022), 351-373. DOI: