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  Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)

His seminal work, The World as Will and Representation, published 1818, influenced Wagner and Tolstoy, among others.

We are not aware of any evidence that Schopenhauer was himself vegetarian, but his influence on later vegetarians was considerable.

from the Souvenir book of the 1957 IVU Congress in India:

schopenhauerARTHUR SCHOPENHAUER, the great German philosopher, wrote :

"The unpardonable forgetfulness in which the lower animals have hitherto been left by the moralists of Europe is well known. It is pretended that the beasts have no rights. They persuade themselves that our conduct in regard to them has nothing to do with morals or (to speak the language of their morality), that we have no duties towards animals; a doctrine revolting, gross, and barbarous."

I know of no more beautiful prayer than that which the Hindus of old used in closing their public spectacles. It was : 'May all that have life be delivered from suffering!' " [From On the Basis of Morality]

German philosopher, the author of The World as Will and Representation, one of the great philosophical texts of the nineteenth century. Although he had no genuine successors and founded no school, his influence was very widespread from about the middle of the century onwards, his most famous disciple being Richard Wagner, who believed that Schopenhauer had revealed to him the meaning of his own works and who then consciously pursued a Schopenhauerean line. In the present century, Schopenhauer's philosophy of will has been one of the influences behind the development of existentialism and Freudian psychology.

From The Ethics of Diet, a Catena, by Howard Williams, 1892:

Schopenhauer. 1788-1860 - The chief interpreter of Buddhistic ideas in Europe, and whose bias in this direction is exercising so remarkable an influence upon contemporaneous thought, in Germany in particular.

. . . and (what especially distinguishes him from most systematisers and formularisers of morals) his making Compassion the principal, and, indeed, the exclusive source of moral action; and it is his vindication of the rights of the subject species, in marked contrast with the silence, or even positive depreciation and contampt for them, on the part of ordinary moralists, which will always entitle him to take exceptionally high rank among reformers of Ethical systems, in spite of his exaggerations and short-comings in other respects. Dr. David Strauss (Die Alte und die Neue Glaube) thus write of his claims on these grounds:-

"Criminal history shows us how many torturers of men, and murderers, have first been torturers of the lower animals. The manner in which a nation, in the aggregate, treats other species, is one chief measure of its real civilisation. The Latin races as we know, come forth badly from this examination; we Germans not half well enough. Buddhism has done more, in this direction, than Christianity; and Schopenhauer more than all the ancient and modern philosophers together. The warm sympathy with sentient nature, which pervades all the writings of Schopenhauer, is one of the most pleasing aspects of his thoroughly intellectual, though often unhealthy and unprofitable, philosophy."

This, it is necessary to add, plainly is written in ignorance of the numerous writings of earlier and contemporaneous humanitarian dietists, to whom, of course, is due a higher, because more consistent and more logical, position than even Schopenhauer can claim, who, from ignorance of the physical and moral arguments of anti-kreophagy [anti-meat-eating] (it reasonably may be presumed), at the same time that he established the rights of the subject species on the firmest basis, and included them as an essential part of any moral code, yet with a strange, but too common, inconsistency, did not perceive that to hand over the Cow, the Ox, or the Sheep, &c., to the butcher, is in the most flagrant violation of his own ethical standard [a rather long way of saying that he was not a vegetarian]. While, then, the author of the Foundation of Morality cannot claim the highest place, absolutely; outside the ranks of anti-kreophagistic writers, a high rank may properly be conceded to him as one of the most eminent moralists who, short of entire emancipation, have done most to vindicate the position of the innocent non-human races. [Williams then quotes some lengthy extracts from Schopenhauer's writings]


"Thus, because Christian morality leaves animals out of account ..., they are at once outlawed in philosophical morals; they are mere "things", mere means to any ends whatsoever. They can therefore be used for vivisection, hunting, coursing, bullfights and horse racing, and can be whipped to death as they struggle along with heavy carts of stone. Shame on such a morality that is worthy of pariahs, chandalas and mlechchhas, and that fails to recognize the eternal essence that exists in every living thing, and shines forth with inscrutable significance from all eyes that see the sun!"

"Since compassion for animals is so intimately associated with goodness of character, it may be confidently asserted that whoever is cruel to animals cannot be a good man."

"The assumption that animals are without rights and the illusion that our treatment of them has no moral significance is a positively outrageous example of Western crudity and barbarity. Universal compassion is the only guarantee of morality."

"The world is not a piece of machinery and animals are not articles manufactured for our use. Such views should be left to synagogues and philosophical lecture-rooms, which in essence are not so very different."