PHIL 401 A: Advanced Topics In Philosophy

Meeting Time: 
TTh 9:00am - 10:50am
SAV 408
Colin Marshall
Colin Marshall

Syllabus Description:

401 – Philosophy of Schopenhauer

TTH 9-10:50am, Savery 408


Instructor: Colin Marshall (

Office Hours (SAV 382): Tuesdays and Thursdays 11-12, and by appointment.



Course description:

At his best, Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) is an inspiring and progressive philosopher. In beautifully crafted-prose, he denounces intellectual Euro-centricism, defends the moral worth of non-human animals, and insists that our deepest insights come from embodied and aesthetic experiences instead of abstract deliberation. At other times, Schopenhauer's writings are downright unpleasant, displaying the worst forms of intellectual pettiness, racism, and chauvinism. Visible in all these themes is Schopenhauer's principled philosophical pessimism: he claims that our world is the worst of all possible worlds.

In this course, we will read Schopenhauer's central philosophical work: The World as Will and Representation. This book contains the main claims of Schopenhauer's metaphysics, epistemology, philosophical psychology, philosophy of science, aesthetics, and ethics. Our aim in the class will be to understand and evaluate Schopenhauer's views. Some background in the history of philosophy (especially Plato, Spinoza, and Kant) will be helpful, but is not required.





Required text:

  • The World as Will and Representation, Vol. 1. C. Janaway (ed.), J. Norman and A. Welchman (trans.). Cambridge University Press, 2014.

Make sure to get Volume 1 of WWR, not Volume 2. You may also use the translations by E.F.J. Payne (Dover Publishing) or by R. Aquila and D. Carus (Pearson), though I recommend the Cambridge translation.


Optional text:

  • The Cambridge Companion to Schopenhauer. C. Janaway (ed.). Cambridge University Press, 1999.





Reading responses (25% of final grade)

No later than one hour before each class (starting on Oct. 2, ending on Dec. 2), post the following on Canvas:

  1. Exactly one sentence stating what you think is the most important claim in the primary reading.
  2. Exactly one sentence saying whether you accept that claim, and why.
  3. No additional sentences or run-on sentences!

Each reading response will be graded on a 2-point scale. Any reasonable response will get 2 points. A response will receive only 1 point if it goes over 2 sentences, if it is off-topic, or if it is superficial.


Presentation (10% of final grade)

Every member of the class will do at least one presentation. The presentation sets up that day's discussion by focusing on a specific sentence from the reading and raising questions about it.

In your presentation, you should:

  1. Identify what you think is the key claim from that day's reading (35 words or less). Write that claim on the board.
  2. On the board, identify 2 obstacles to understanding the meaning of Schopenhauer's claim. These could be ambiguities or pieces of jargon.
  3. Present what you think is the best way to understanding the claim.
  4. Present what you think is the biggest objection to Schopenhauer's claim, as you understand it.


Paper 1 (25% of final grade)


Your paper should pick a fight with some piece of secondary literature on Schopenhauer about one issue concerning Books I and II of WWR. Acceptable secondary literature includes:

  • Chapters from the Cambridge Companion to Schopenhauer
  • Any of the works listed under “C. Works about Schopenhauer” at (If you choose one of the books listed there, aim to only discuss one chapter from them.)
  • Any article from the Schopenhauer Jahrbuch (available in hard copy in UW libraries)
  • Approved pieces listed on You must get approval from me to write about anything on PhilPapers that does not fall into one of the three above categories.

The PhilPapers site is a good place to search for literature on a given topic.


Additional directions for Paper 1:

  • Length: 7-8 pages (~2000 words). You should write the number of words on your paper.
  • Your final paper should be prepared for blind grading.
  • A draft of your paper is due in class on Oct. 28. We will trade drafts, giving peer comments on Oct. 30. Missing either the draft or the comments will result in -5 points on the paper.
  • No more than half of your paper should be exposition.
  • Your writing should be clear and minimize jargon, and your paper should be focused and well-organized. Pick a small fight – you don’t have to disagree with everything in the piece of secondary literature you choose.


Paper 2 (40% of final grade)


You have two options for Paper 2:


All the directions for Paper 1 apply to Paper 2, except:

  • Length: 7-8 pages (~2000 words) for Option A; 12-14 pages (~3500 words) for Option B.
  • Instead of a draft, an outline of your paper is due in class on Dec. 4. Peer comments are due on Monday, Dec. 8. Missing either the outline or the comments will result in -5 points on the paper.




:( Late work and plagiarism policies :(


No late work will be accepted, except in cases of emergencies where documentation is provided.


Plagiarism on any assignment will result in a 0 for the course. It is your responsibility to know what counts as plagiarism.



Class Schedule



Thursday, Sept. 25

No Class


Tuesday, Sept. 30

Read: Schopenhauer's Prefaces (5-22)

Optional: Abstract of The Fourfold Root of Sufficient Reason (distributed electronically)


Thursday, Oct. 2

Read: Book I, §1-§6


Tuesday, Oct. 7

Read: §7-§9


Thursday, Oct. 9

Read: §10-§14


Tuesday, Oct. 14

Read: §15-§16


Thursday, Oct. 16

Read: Book II, §17-§23


Tuesday, Oct. 21

Read: §24-§27


Thursday, Oct. 23

Read: §28-§29


Tuesday, Oct. 28

Read: Book III, §30-§38

Paper 1 drafts due in class


Thursday, Oct. 30

Read: §39-§45

Peer comments due in class


Monday, Nov. 3, Noon

Paper 1 due on Canvas


Tuesday, Nov. 4

Read: §46-§51


Thursday, Nov. 6

Read: §52


Tuesday, Nov. 11

No class


Thursday, Nov. 13

Read: Book IV, §53-§55


Tuesday, Nov. 18

Read: §56-§59


Thursday, Nov. 20

Read: §60-§62


Tuesday, Nov. 25

Read: §63-§67


Thursday, Nov. 27

No class


Tuesday, Dec. 2

Read: §68-§71


Thursday, Dec. 4


Paper 2 outlines due in class


Monday, Dec. 8

Peer comments on outlines due by email.


Friday, Dec. 12, Noon

Paper 2 due on Canvas

Catalog Description: 
A study of philosophical topics at the advanced level. Topics vary.
GE Requirements: 
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Writing (W)
Other Requirements Met: 
Last updated: 
April 29, 2016 - 9:51pm