The Pleasures of Poodles to a Pessimist

Renowned for his pessimism, German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) didn’t think very highly of his fellow human beings.  Shunning the company of “the common bipeds” that were his peers he had a loyal fondness for, of all things, poodles.  Increasingly antisocial with age, Schopenhauer believed wholeheartedly that “almost all of our sorrows spring out of our relations with other people”[1].  His response to this was to turn to his dear pets for solace, compassion and empathy.

Schopenhauer owned a series of poodles throughout the later part of his life, naming them all “Atma”, the Hindu word for the supreme universal soul from which all other souls arise.  His favourite “Atma” seems to have been a brown poodle that he owned towards the end of his life; Schopenhauer adored this dog above any person, even bequeathing a considerable sum of money in his will to ensure that the dog would be properly cared for after the philosopher’s death.

In his On The Basis of Morality, Schopenhauer assures us that “compassion for animals is intimately associated with goodness of character” and celebrated the bond between humans and animals in his writings.  “To anyone who needs lively entertainment for the purposes of banishing the dreariness of solitude,” he tells us, “I recommend a dog, in whose moral and intellectual qualities he will almost always experience delight and satisfaction”[2].

Lonely, gloomy, isolated from his contemporaries, Schopenhauer found much needed cheer and compassion in his dear pet poodles, certain in the fact that “whoever has never kept dogs does not know what it is to love and be loved”[3].


[1] Schopenhauer, Arthur. The World as Will and Representation. Vol. II. Trans. E.F. Payne. London: Oxford University Press, 1988.

[2] Ibid.  Ideas Concerning Intellect Generally and in All RespectsParerga and Paralipomena.  Vol. II.  Trans. E.F. Payne.  London: Oxford University Press, 1982.

[3] Ibid.  Manuscript Remains: Counsels and Maxims. Ed. A. Hübscher. Berlin: 1971.