These days, some of us may find ourselves in agreement with Arthur Schopenhauer’s philosophy that at its core, the universe is not a rational place. The 19th century German philosopher saw the world as a place filled with endless strife, and that we human beings might as well minimize our natural inclinations in favor of more tranquil frame of mind. Some might view Schopenhauer as the ultimate pessimist, but the man actually advocated an artistic, moral, and ascetic way of life to overcome the fundamentally painful human condition. In other words, ditch the cell phone.
To that end, Schopenhauer was not a fan of the human race, and that’s probably why he preferred to live alone. Except for a deep attachment to his dogs, that’s exactly how he lived for 27 years of his life. From his student days at Gottingen until the day he died, Schopenhauer owned a succession of intelligent, loyal dogs, and though each was a different color, they all had in common two things: They were all named “Atma,” the Sanskrit word for the ‘true self’ (something the philosopher searched for his entire life), and they were all Poodles.
Urban legend holds that Schopenhauer chastised his dogs for not being more human-like. He would say, “You are not a dog. You are a human!” If the dog “wee’d” on the carpet, Arthur would redress the dog as “You, sir!” He even admitted to not getting angry if someone called him a dog, a venomous insult of the day. Still, how bad can a bloke be if he has sixteen engravings of his dogs in his bedroom?
Still, Schopenhauer did help popularize the breed in Frankfurt, and even commissioned a death mask of one of his last dogs. Fitting that the main beneficiary in his last will and testament was the last of his Poodles, Atma.
Image: Arthur Schopenhauer with one of his Poodles by Eric Drass