Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)


Schopenhauer’s philosophy has recently become once again highly recognized as particularly very important for the 20th century philosophy and its development, because Nietzsche’s philosophy which has been extremely highly considered in the second half of the 20th century presupposes Schopenhauer’s philosophical approach as its predecessor. Namely first of all, Schopenhauer made the World Will or will as the principle of philosophy and reality. By so doing, Schopenhauer completely shed the tradition of the European reason and opened the new vista for Nietzsche’s overhauling appraisal of the Western culture in its entirety, which no one before Nietzsche attempted. Secondly, Schopenhauer’s pessimism further made Nietzsche take the nihilism of the European values, its culture and history.
Schopenhauer is often quoted as the best example of pessimist, while Leibniz is considered that of optimist. Pessimism is an ontological doctrine which believes that the world in which we live is the worst possible world ‹ mundo pessimum‹ (or the world created and selected by God as the worst possible one). Since this doctrine implies the negative values of this world, it also have some ethical implications as it often associated with fatalism. Optimism in contrast, is the ontological theory which affirms that the world in which we live is the best possible world ‹ mundo optimum ‹ (or the world created and chosen by God as the best possible world among all possible worlds). Schopenhauer was not quite consistent in his pessimism. For example, should this world be the worst, why was he so afraid of dying (Schopenhauer quickly went to Italy, when cholera made an outbreak in Berlin. The major source of his pessimistic traits was due to the influence of Indian philosophy and in particular Buddhism. Schlegel’s translations of Buddhistic scriptures from Sanskrit were available for the first time in the West. According to Schopenhauer, although the world is the worst possible world, the philosopher can get out of this lot. In this sense, Schopenhauer’s pessimism, while the pessimism per se often implies fatalism, allows us to liberate ourselves from this miserable fate by pure philosophical contemplation. It is also of our interest to point out that Schopenhauer denied the value of suicide despite this world’s being the worst possible world.
Schopenhauer contended that the human-beings are distinguished from the other animals due to their possession of reason. Due to this reason we the humans are caught by the wonder of and pressed by the desire to search for the meaning of their life and death. From this wonder (thaumazén), according to Schopenhauer, the metaphysical needs arise. [Is this this reason used in the same meaning as in its preceeding philosophies? The answer is perhaps “no.” It is needed to elaborate this point.] These needs are unique to the human-beings, so we may very well say that the human-beings are “metaphysical animals.” Philosophy arises from questioning the phenomenon.
According to Schopenhauer’s The World as Will and Representation, philosophy may be divided into four branches:
1) To know the world which appears to us ‹‹‹Epistemology
2) To recognize the nature of the world ‹‹‹‹‹Metaphysics
3) To know the particular way of liberating oneself‹‹‹Aesthetics
4) To know the universal way of liberating oneself‹‹‹‹Ethics (contemplatio)
1) Theory of Knowledge or Epistemology
In his “subjective idealism” in the sense of tanscendental philosophy, Arthur Schopenhauer acknowledges himself as a Kantian. Since long, of course, it is known that sensations are our inner conditions. Kant made us known further that the forms of our knowledge, too, are not products of our abstraction or generalization of what we obtained through senses, but they are of the “subjective” origin and nature in the sense of the structure of our consciousness and not products of our receptivity from the object.
According to Schopenhauer, we can only recognize how a thing appears.Through our (transcendental) structure of our cognitive faculty called understanding and reason, we know how we represent a thing, i.e., we only know the phenomenon and the phenomenal world. Therefore, the world, i.e., the world we expereince, is nothing but what we represent.
Further, according to Schopenhauer, to understand the uniersal ontology (the ontology of nature as the phenomenal world), we are able to simply follow the Kantian theory of knowledge. The forms of our knowledge may be reduced ultimately to the principle of reason (= purpose or causa finalis or der Satz vom Grunde= the principle of reason).
This final cause or the principle of reason has four fundamental forms in accordance with the kinds of representation:
i. pure intuition (space and time)‹ratio essendi or principium rationis sufficientis essendi
(the principle of sufficient reason for being)
ii. sensory intuition‹ratio fiendi or principium sufficientis fiendi
(the principle of sufficient reason for change)
iii. will‹ratio agendi or principium sufficientis agendi
(the principle of sufficient reason for action)
iv. abstract concept‹ration cogniscendi or principium sufficientis cogniscendi
(the principle of sufficient reason for cognition)

i. Pure intuition (of space and time) as ratio essendi is the principle of organizing the relationship of the sensorily given in the order of space and time.
ii. Sensory intuition as ratio fiendi is the principle for material substance by means of efficient causal necessity.
Everything appearing in the phenomenal world necessarily occurs and is organized by causality, whereby such necessary changes “postulate” the material substance or matter. How real and objective the principle of causality may appear in its working in the phenomenal world, this principle of causality does not apply to the thing in itself beyond the phenomenon (as is the case of Kant’s philosophy) . It applies solely to the phenomenal world and explain it as the condition of the material substance (in the phenomnenal world). While in the inorganic world this causality is mechanical, the cause applied to the living organism appears as its stimulus as its necessary condition, thus as its purpose even at its lowest stage.
iii. Will as ratio agendi is the principle of motivation. The motive is, according to Schopenhauer, conscious to us, the human-beings, and yet this motive appears as the “cause” in relation to the human-being, thus the human-being also appears as the being without freedom.
a) the mechanical cause, b) the stimulus and c) the motive do relate themselves to and “represent” three different kinds of action although in reality, they do not represent the different necessities, but these necessities of “cause” are one and the same kind.
The human behavior is motivated necessarily by a certain motive which precedes. This motive determines our will. Therefore, Schopenhauer held that the freedom of will doest not really exist, but is a merely is a human illusion.
iv. The abstract concept with its relationship as ratio cogniscendi is the principle which determines the fact that knowledge, or a judgment in more particular, must have a sufficient reason in order to be true. To combine or disjunct concepts (as a judgment by a ceratin principle or a law) is the task of reason. This reason alone as the faculty for abstract thinking and as the faculty of science distinguishes humankind from the other animals.
Understanding (which is ultimately subordinated to reason) on the contrary is the faculty to elevate sensation to intuition and “produce” objects in the phenomenal world. Further, according to Schopenhauer, understanding in its function is common to the human-beings and the other animals. While understanding is “productive,” reason is “passive” or “receptive,” although reason is the faculty of mediating representations and that of the language and judgment.

2) Metaphysics
Schopenhauer maintains that the objective knowledge is contained within the limit of our representation, i.e., is related exclusively to the phenomenal world. Thus, everything recognizable is a phenomenon. The phenomenon must be given through the so-called pure, formal intuition of space and time and is governed by the categories, by the basic principles and eminenly by causality. Therefore, following Schopenhauer, space, time and causality may be characterized as the “screens” of the phenomenal world, which is to be distinguished from the world of the thing itself. Among those three elements, space, time, and causality, however, one must be distinguished form the other two as unique. For we recognize this principle alone beyond the phenomenon. This is the pure form of time. This pure time distinguishes us, the human-beings, from the thing itself in general. Schopenhauer further elaborates this time and identifies it as no other than our own consciousness. Here, for example, we may be able to evidence in Schopenhauer’s philosophy the profound insight into the nature of time in relation to the human consciousness. This insight of Schopenhauer into the pure time strangely anticipates the further development into the central theme of Henri Bergon on the one hand and Husserl and Heidegger on the other in the twentieth century philosophy.
On the one hand, in my pursuit of knowledge, I appear as phenomenon of my body, the object among other objects of the material phenomenal world.
On the other hand, at the same time, I possess the immediate consciousness of my self, by means of which I am able to grasp the genuine essence of my own self. Thereby I know myself as Will that is not in the domain of the phenomenal world, but in the domain of the thing in itself.
Will is far more than a mere representation. Will is something primordial in my self, something genuinely real. This reality appears to me in the phenomenal world as my body. Thus the relation between will and intellect is the relation between the primary and the secondary, that between the “substance” and the “accidence.”
Further, the relation between will and intellect appears to be the relation between the internal and the external, the relation of reality and phenomenon.
The act of will is followed by the action of the body, or we may say that they are one and the same in the world of appearance. The same is given in two different ways, namely will is seen from the inside, while the body is seen from the outside.
The body may called an objectified will.
While I am appearing as a body, I am will in reality. Through an analogy with this relationship, we should know reality. The universe is a makranthropos and the knowledge of our own essence is the key to the understanding of the universe.
As my body is the visibility or appearance of my will, the universe is the visibility or appearance of the world will. The human will is an expression of the highest stage of the development of the principle which works as “power” in nature. To name this power or principle “will” is denominatio a potiori, i.e., a denomination by the superior. It is not possible to inquire into the depth of the reality. Both that which reveals itself as will and that which remains after the denial of will cannot be known to us at all.
The world in itself is Will. This primordial Will cannot be categorized by any of our predicates that modify the things through our subjective determinations. For example, we cannot talk of this Will such that it is determined by causality or motivation, that Will is singular or plural, or that Will is under the forms of space and time.
This primordial Will is groundless (grundlos), i.e., it cannot be explained by or reduced to anything else. this primordial will is a blind drive. It is an unconscious drive to existence. This primordial Will is one and all (to hen kai pan). It reveals itself e.g. as gravity, as magnetism, as the drive to live, and as the natural healing power. These all are nothing but the World Will (der Weltwille). The singularity is retained in the purposefulness of corporeality of everything. The hidden, unexplainable nature of thing is this world Will. For example, even among the unorganic things, e.g. the essence of stone is the will to fall. The essence of the lung is the will to breathe. The teeth, the throat and the intestines are the objectified hunger. the various characteristics which the World Will produces itself materially constitute a series of stages of increasing perfection. They constitute the World of Eternal Ideas. These Ideas stand between the primordial will and the infinite individuals.
The most universal power of nature which is life force is the low bass in the symphony, while the higher stages of the plants and the animals are middle sounds and that of the humans are expressing leading, meaningful melodies. In the human brain as its organ, the World Will made a torch to represent the world. In order to actualize its Will with consideration, the world Will lit the torch in the human brain, whereby the Will created intellect as its implement. Schopenhauer even contended that the brain and intellect are one and the same. The brain is no other than the will to know just like the stomach’s being the will to digest. Schopenhauer does not recognize mind as a nonmaterial entity independent of matter.

3) Aesthetics
The essence of the aesthetic attitude consists in the pure contemplation that is liberated from the control of the World Will. Intellect among a few philosophical and artistic geniuses succeeds in liberating itself from the ultimate control of the Will. Intellect here can become purer and deepen itself into the question of “what” i.e., the essence of thing rather than that of “why,” “for what,” “where” and “when.” Intellect in the humans like in the other animals serves as a means to the Will, while among the philosophical and artistic geniuses, intellect liberates itself from the particulars, from all the sufferings of the human existence and contemplates the Ideas in their purity. Thus, the person with such an intellect can elevate oneself above the control of the world will.
Poetry is the higher than the plastic arts. The highest form of poetry is, according to Schopenhauer, tragedy. However, among various genres of arts, the highest form of art is music.
While the other forms of art imitate Ideas, music imitates the Will itself. Therefore, Schopenhauer called music the unconscious metaphysics.

4) Ethics
There is pessimism (the belief that the universe was created as the worst possible) in the basis of Schopenhauer’s ethics. Schopenhauer demonstrated the blindness and the irrationality of the world ground or the World Will by portraying the undescribable sufferings and irremediable miseries of life. The world contains more sufferings and pains than pleasures. The world is the worst possible world. Will is the purposeless effort or conation (conatus in Latin = powerful dirve) among the beings which are lower than the animals. The drives for pleasure among animals are unfulfilled and the unsatiable desires for pleasures and the unchanging will for happiness among the humans are unfulfilled or denied by trapping the humans in miseries and poverty . What we call the pursuit of pleasure is, according to Schopenahuer, nothing but the avoidance of pain. In the face of undescribable miseries in the world, it is utter stupidity and hopeless self-deception for the human being to be optimistic. It is indeed true that it is better nonexistence than existence. Those irremediable sufferings to the humans are the proper punishment for the original sinn. For the individual creates onself her/his particular existence from its own free will. To save oneself from such a primordial, profound sinn, from the total miseriy and unrescurable unhappiness of our existence is only possible by the Second Act of the transcendental freedom, that is, the total refurbishing of our own nature. Because it is supernatural in origin, it is correct that the church calls it the born-again or the grace.
Therefore, according to Schopenhauer, the presupposition for morality is to clearly recognize 1) that the world is fundamentally evil, 2) that all the individuals are not real and ultimately a mere phenomenon or illusion (due to the influence from Buddhism).
Thus, the human-being can liberate oneself from such egoistic self assertion by the following two knowledge, namely a) by realizing that all the normal human efforts to avoid sufferings and to escape from the control of the will are totally meaningless while all pleasures are in reality utterly unattainable, b) by explicitly comprehending that all the human individuals are mere phenomenal expressions of the World Will.
It is indeed sympathy as the moral sentiment that is the only genuine moral drive in the humanity and this morally sentiment called sympathy can counterweight against the individual’s selfish egoism and is the source of moral justice and genuine love for all. Only by means of sympathy, the human-being is capable of discovering oneself in the other and is capable of feeling the other’s sufferings as one’s own. The only higher virtue than this popular sympathy may be found in one’s Absolute Renunciation of Will, that can be found among Christian ascetics and Asian jogi. By renouncing the Will, the wareness as the pure contemplation is not a motive but the means to quiet the Will. Thus the human-being will be able to overcome and liberate oneself from the control of the Will. Thus the genuine ecstacy is attained. By this pure contemplation, the human-being is able to live in the Nirvana or the genuine reality.
Schopenhauer was the first in the West that accepted influences from Indian philosophies. The greatest successor of Schopenhauer’s philosophy is Nietzsche. Nietzsche succeeded Schopenhauer’s philosophy and totally new tradtion in the Western philosophy not only through his not finding the principle of philosophy in reason, but in non-rational Will, but also in his development of radical nihilism, in which Nietzsche asserts that nothing in this world (the Western World and its metaphysics according to Nietzsche) is valuable and meaningful, insists that the world and the Western Civilization is completely empty and has no hope for the future in itself. Therefore, the Prophet Zarathustra announces the dawn of the new, creative Morality and Culture. Not only Schopenhauer’s influence on Nietzsche is decisive, but also Schopenhauer’s attention to and his analysis of the body reminds us of phenomenological approaches to the problem of the body by Merleau-Ponty and Jean-Paul Sartre. Schopenhauer has been underestimated for a long time, but now his philosophy shall be rediscovered, shall be shed light on and shall be more profoundly re-evaluated as Nietzsche has been re-evaluated (or over-evaluted by the French postmodernists?).

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