This is a sentence from Aphorismen zur Lebensweisheit by Arthur Schopenhauer.

Ich nehme den Begriff der Lebensweisheit hier gänzlich im immanenten Sinne, nämlich in dem der Kunst, das Leben möglichst angenehm und glücklich durchzuführen

My question is concerned with the part in bold. I think "dem" refers to "der Sinn" and "in dem der Kunst" is Genitiv. But I have never seen any usage of articles in a Genitiv. Is this a relative pronoun?

  • Perhaps this is off-topic, but I've noticed a number of questions here about philosophical texts, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, etc. Perhaps this is not the best material to study if you're learning German; at least get to the point where you can understand German Wikipedia before trying to decipher philosophical jargon. Similarly, I wouldn't recommend David Hume or Bertrand Russell for people learning English.
    – RDBury
    Mar 22, 2022 at 12:14
  • I'm still puzzled concerning your statement, that genitive omits articles more often than not: Hochschule der Künste (to remain at the same substantive), Profil des Vorderrads, Farbe des Kleids, Sinn des Lebens, Motto des Tages, etc. - all have the article. Can you provide examples?
    – guidot
    Mar 22, 2022 at 12:21
  • @guidot: I tried to address that in my answer below. If anything, your examples show that the article in the genitive is included more in German than in English: "wheel profile", "meaning of life".
    – RDBury
    Mar 22, 2022 at 12:41

3 Answers 3


This sentence omits the repetition of the noun "Sinn" (because these repetitions are considered inferior style). So the extendend sentence is:

Ich nehme den Begriff der Lebensweisheit hier gänzlich im imanenten Sinne, nämlich in dem [Sinne] der Kunst, das Leben möglichst angenehm und glücklich durchzuführen

Now, "dem" is the article belonging to "Sinn", in Dativ case, as demanded by the "in" preposition, and "der" is the article belonging to "Kunst", with "der Kunst, [...]" being a Genitiv construction as specification which sense ("Sinn") is meant here.

By the way, the Dativ noun form "Sinne" (with the trailing "e") is mostly found in older texts. Modern German normally drops that and uses "Sinn".

  • The Dativ "e" suffix still survives in certain set phrases, most commonly "zu/nach Hause", where "Haus" is the Nominativ form. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, it survives in the spoken language of older people (or at least people who still say "das Lied" instead of "der Song" ;))
    – S. G.
    Mar 23, 2022 at 7:10

You are absolutely correct in your first assumption: "dem" refers to "Sinn" and is Dativ. The "dem" is here not an article, though, but short for "d[ies]em" and a Demonstrativpronomen - a pronoun which points to another part of the sentence. A comparable role in English would play the "who" in i.e. "He, who is ...". One could replace "dem" with "diesem", "jenem", "welchem", etc..

The sentence parses out like this:

Ich nehme den Begriff der Lebensweisheit hier gänzlich im immanenten Sinne

He wants to talk about "Lebensweisheit" and explains what he means by that term.

nämlich in dem

The "dem" here represents the "im immanenten Sinne" from the main sentence. Translated that would be "namely the one which ...".

der Kunst

This indeed is Genitiv but inside a Dativobjekt. If you replace the Demonstrativpronomen with the part it refers to, like:

nämlich im gänzlich immanenten Sinne der Kunst

it becomes clearer how these parts hang together.

The remainder of the sentence is just a clarification, which art ("Kunst") exactly he is talking about.

A possible translation of the whole sentence could be (although my English wouldn't translate the "slightly antiquated" feeling of Schopenhauers phrasing):

I use the term "Lebensweisheit" here in a completely immanent sense: the art of living ones life as comfortable and happy as possible.


Just an extended comment: First, ignoring the grammar you can take in dem as a fixed phrase meaning "in that" (see Wiktionary).

Second, the inflections of der are highly overloaded in German. They can be articles, demonstrative pronouns, demonstrative determiners, or relative pronouns.

Third, the genitive of der is des for masculine & neuter, and der for feminine and plural. I keep getting an ad on YouTube with Die allerschönste Frau des Landes! (or something similar). The des is the genitive neuter of der and des Landes translate as "in/of the land". In general the genitive of the definite article is similar in meaning to "of the" in English.

  • 1
    I think your analysis in the first sentence is wrong. I am not sure whether “dem” is best analysed as an article (with the repeated noun implied) or as a demonstrative pronoun, but it clearly refers to “Sinn”.
    – Carsten S
    Mar 22, 2022 at 10:46
  • @Carsten S: I don't think in dem read as "in that" is inconsistent with dem being a demonstrative pronoun. In any case, I was trying to say that if you ignore what parts of speech are used and analyze them as fixed phrases then in dem and "in that" mean about the same thing. My second point wasn't meant to be related to the first.
    – RDBury
    Mar 22, 2022 at 11:51
  • Here, “in dem” is not a fixed phrase, it means “in dem Sinne”, see Ralf’s answer.
    – Carsten S
    Mar 22, 2022 at 12:08
  • @Carsten S: You're probably right but that's not how it looks to me. My translation: "Here, I understand the concept of life-wisdom entirely in the immanent (intrinsic) sense, namely that it is the way of leading life as pleasantly and happily as possible." I wouldn't actually say "in that" in English, but it's a step toward understanding the meaning.
    – RDBury
    Mar 22, 2022 at 12:30
  • The fixed phrase "in that" would better correspond to the single word "indem", having a similar grammatical construction. If you replace "Kunst, das Leben möglichst angenehm und glücklich durchzuführen" with a single noun, e.g. "Hedonismus", how would you analyze/translate that sentence? Mar 23, 2022 at 9:08

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