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Idealistic Studies

Volume 49, Issue 3, Fall 2019

Luke Wadhams
Pages 235-258

Boredom and Wonder in the Work of Arthur Schopenhauer

This article examines Arthur Schopenhauer’s theory of boredom. In traditional interpretations of this theory, boredom is understood to be a form of suffering and a key component in Schopenhauer’s argument for the claim that all life is suffering. While such interpretations are correct, I argue that they only capture a single feature of the experience that Schopenhauer describes. Schopenhauer also understands boredom to occasion a unique insight into the nature of reality, and boredom should thereby additionally be thought of as an epistemically significant emotion. To elucidate this epistemic quality, I interpret Schopenhauer’s concept of boredom as revealing the miserable condition of the world, where such revelation compels one to wonder about the nature of this condition, thereby founding a philosophical attitude. Through an evaluation of Schopenhauer’s conceptions of boredom and wonder, I demonstrate that Schopenhauer ultimately conceives boredom as crucial for the development of a philosophical attitude toward existence.

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