Arthur Schopenhauer and Psychiatry 200 Years After the Publication of The World as Will and Representation (Idea)

Rev Colomb Psiquiatr. Apr-Jun 2020;49(2):121-126. doi: 10.1016/j.rcp.2018.05.003. Epub 2018 Jul 10.
[Article in English, Spanish]


In 2018 the academy will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the publication of the seminal work of Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860): The World as Will and Representation (Idea). Schopenhauer is known as the "philosopher of pessimism" and as the "psychologist of the will". His thinking is formally absent in the psychiatric education curricula, which could be enriched by the philosopher's work. Regarding psychiatry's theoretical foundations, Schopenhauer: a) anticipated several issues of species' origin and evolution, which are used in the contemporary understanding of disease development; b) anticipated some attributes of the psychodynamic and cognitive unconscious when referring to the irrational features of the will; c) foresaw the current concept of the embodied mind, which emphasizes the role of the body's structure and dynamics in cognition instead of that of a transcendental reason; d) proposed a simplified and heuristic model of mind, comprising the senses, understanding and reason; at a pragmatic level, particularly concerning psychotherapy, the philosopher e) stated that all human actions spring from three fundamental sources: egoism, malice and compassion; he also speculated about the role of unconscious repression in the genesis of mental illnesses; and finally, f) emphasized the ubiquity of suffering and the insatiability of desire, which unavoidably leads to egocentrism. In this regard he highly valued contemplation of art and nature as a way of dissociating knowledge from desire, and thus allowing the development of compassion and asceticism. This was considered by the philosopher to be "denial of the will", and a path for individual salvation and well-being. In contemporary psychiatry, this metaphysical proposal may be reformulated in terms of promoting cooperation and healthy austerity as a non-specific component of most psychotherapies and educational models. Schopenhauer's thinking may enrich psychiatric training and personal well-being.

Keywords: Embodied mind; Filosofía; Hinduism; Hinduismo; Mente corporizada; Philosophy; Plato; Platón; Psiquiatría; Psychiatry.