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Schopenhauer's Philosophy, Part 1

By Awet Moges (2006)

In The World as Will and Representation, Arthur Schopenhauer spoke as a Teutonic philosopher, with mighty prose and thunderous proclamations from the lofty heights of classic Sophia and utterly uninfected by the pretentious delusions of grandeur that afflicted his German contemporaries. His distinctiveness among the early 19th century thinkers inspired Nietzsche to call him the "un-German to the point of genius," (Beyond Good and Evil, p 204) and Thomas Mann in turn called him the "most rational philosopher of the irrational."

Schopenhauer possessed great literary and rhetorical skills in his presentation of a bewitching philosophical construct with perceptive metaphors and penetrating insights that have been echoed, reinterpreted and elaborated by subsequent thinkers and artists in the late 19th and 20th century, and indeed far beyond the tiny circle of the professors of philosophy. In the rogues gallery of intellectuals and artists we find Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, Freud, Richard Wagner and Mann, both Russian novelists Turgenev and Tolstoy, Proust, Zola, Mallarme and, most of all, Borges. The World as Will and Representation contained a philosophy starkly different from what Schopenhauer dismissed as the "meaningless verbosity of the newer philosophy school" (Gessammelte Briefe, p 29). Jargon-free writing made this masterpiece accessible to audiences outside of philosophy, and further cemented Schopenhauer's reputation as a major visionary.

Schopenhauer's philosophy describes a metaphysical portrait of reality, a "hermeneutics of existence" (Schopenhauer and the Wild Years of Philosophy, p 214), and solves the problem of existence. The solution to the riddle of the world is the appropriate connection between the outer and the inner experiences - and for Schopenhauer it is representation and will. We should not mistake his philosophy for an alternative interpretation that competes with those of the natural sciences, for it emphasizes the internal essence of the experiential life against the external world. The foundation of this metaphysics lies within the concrete, the physical and the tangible, because concepts, according to Schopenhauer, must have some foothold in the visual or the firm ground of reality wherein they were originally abstracted from. Otherwise, such concepts as the "absolute" or "the infinity of being" are little more than paper money: "With concepts of these sorts, the firm ground that supports the whole of our knowledge trembles as it were. Therefore philosophizing may occasionally and in case of necessity extend to such knowledge, but it must never begin with it." (WWR II p 85) Much like David Hume, Schopenhauer baptizes meaning at the altar of direct perception.

Schopenhauer's original contribution to philosophy is the assertion that will is more fundamental than thought in both man and nature. In a "single thought" (WWR I xii), Schopenhauer put forth a holistic/unified/unitary and systematic metaphysics that hearkened back to the old school philosophy of Spinoza and Leibniz. The scholar Rudolf Malter summed up this single thought: "the world is the self-knowledge of the will." The world, according to the language of reason, history and morality, is not the true world, for its sole essence, the very substance of the world, of life itself, is the will that roars underneath. This will is the ubiquitous instinct of the universe, consisting of forces, impulses and dark urges that are all dynamic yet purposeless, thus dispatching modes of explanation such as reason or logic to secondary status.

Besides not being in competition with the natural sciences, neither is the notion of the will merely a stop-gap measure for possible holes in reasoning. "We are as little permitted to appeal to the objectification of the will, instead of giving a physical explanation, as to appeal to the creative power of God. For physics demands causes, but the will is never a cause." (WWR I p 140) However, in spite of its omnipotence, the transcendence of the will is possible, and is termed as the "negation of the will". This is not to be confused with the transcendence of religion, the visions of God, but the very assumption of the attitude that "quiets" the imperatives of the will and goes beyond the default egoistic disposition of the individual.

Schopenhauer's philosophy is a version of transcendental idealism, and provides the solution to the "riddle of the world" where the physical world is composed of phenomena that exist only for "the subject of knowledge." After recognizing this, then, we can explain the possibility of the knowledge of synthetic a priori truths. Man's cognitive functions construct reality according to the four characteristics of the "principle of sufficient reason." The World as Will and Representation demands a healthy acquaintance of Schopenhauer's interpretation of the understanding, the principle of sufficient reason (PSR hereafter), which was the subject of his dissertation work On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason. In the WWR, Schopenhauer makes many references to this work, but since he obstinately refuses to repeat himself the reader is required to read that first and use it as a lifeline before plunging into the depths of the WWR. The Fourfold is decidedly Kantian where it extends the distinction between analytic and synthetic judgment to the assertion that thought is already conditioned by cognizing objects to be determined by other and distinct objects in four different ways. Essentially, the PSR means that there are four classes of objects in the world, and they are all representations. "Real objects" make up the first class, concepts the second class, space and time for the third and the fourth consists of human action. Schopenhauer listed four species of "groundings""
  • A cause is the ground of its effect: the understanding always assumes the law of causality that allows for the perception of a physical world, which seems to be the cause of our sensations;
  • A conclusion is grounded in a premise: reason, which consists of conceptual representations, secondary to representations of the understanding formed in and abstracted from perception, functions on the assumption that every judgment contains a justification;
  • A geometrical truth is determined by the nature of space: sensibility functions with the principle that all things are located in a space of Euclidean geometry and in a time of arithmetic;
  • The ground of every action is its motive: motives determine all human actions.
Since Schopenhauer's phenomenological method of philosophy bases abstraction in perception, then we should consider the PSR as the abstract expression of what is already evident in perception. Schopenhauer appears as a severe and rigorous skeptical empiricist in the Fourfold and presents a fully-fledged systematic idealism in the WWR. However, the PSR merely explains the "connections and combinations of phenomena, not the phenomena themselves." If everything in the world is mere representation, then we are incapable of drawing inferences from phenomena towards the nature of the thing in itself. Consequently, any knowledge of the thing in itself must be non-inferential.

The book is divided into 5 sections: 4 "books" and an appendix on Kantian metaphysics. The first two "books" deals with the dual aspects of the world as representation, and then as will, in the language of epistemology and metaphysics; and the latter two books resolves the aesthetic and ethical consequences. Book I contains a systematic account of the world of objects: where objects are objects of experience for a representing subject and consequently, there is no object without a subject, nor subject without an object. Book II unravels the riddle of the world, which indicates the inadequacy of the cognitions of the relations between representations, and the inner nature is missing; hence, the riddle is the inner nature of things, and lies beyond the orderly relations among representations.

Book I

Schopenhauer opens with the simple, austere and bold declaration of the world as "my representation", which actually means the world is given to ordinary perception, a world that consists of particular and concrete objects and is open for investigation. However, these objects are always representations for the subject, because the intellect of the subject conditions experience. That is why there is no such thing as an object without representations for a subject - which means a theory of independent, self-existing substance such as materialism is not only false but also already impossible from the get-go. Pure matter, independent of all attributes, may be conceivable, as an abstracta of an abstraction, but cannot be perceivable in experience. The statement 'the world is my representation' inaugurates transcendental philosophy where the representation always comprises both the subject and object.

The universal condition of everything that appears is the subject, a necessary presupposition, already presupposed by the forms of knowledge (space, time, etc). All knowledge of objects comes from phenomena, which is what appears for a subject. Therefore, there is no object in itself, an object existing independently of a subject. The subject's body is already an object of knowledge, and the subject-as-body is a representation. Representation presupposes (as well as contains) both the subject and the object, "for the division into object and subject is the first, universal and essential form of the representation" (WWR I § 7). From the Upanishads, Schopenhauer develops the insight that the subject of knowledge is the unknown knower and is distinct from all objects of knowledge, which means it is also independent of the principle of sufficient reason.

In direct experience the subject perceives "representations", and Schopenhauer describes two types: the intuitive (anschaulich) and the abstract ; the former is perception, and the latter consists of concepts. The universal forms of perception are the properties of space and time and are known a priori, which means they are always presupposed within every perception. Schopenhauer insists that time and space in themselves both belongs to the special class of representations that exist by themselves, and the PSR configures and entrenches representations.

In this exposition, Schopenhauer describes a phenomenology where perceptions are consciousness of objects, and the concept of causation is the only essential aspect of perception because the judgment that grants an object to another as its cause is the act of thought that is phenomenologically distinct from the independent and antecedent perception of the object itself. It then comes as no surprise that Schopenhauer is not charitable to other views - such as Kant's - where all judgments are derived from the logical functions of judgments (i.e., quantity, quality, relation) and all concepts of objects must include those categories.

The abstract representations - concepts - are derivative of intuitive representations because they are representations reflected, or "representations of representations". Concepts are neither perceptive nor individual elements in space and time, but since they emerge from reflection they are necessarily repetitions of the original world of perception and invented by reason as a convenience. A concept is essentially related to another representation, which serves as its ground of knowledge and this series of relations ends with a concept that has its ground in the knowledge of perception. Therefore, all abstract knowledge depends on the world of perception as its ground of knowledge. Those concepts that are related to other concepts are abstracta, while concepts that are directly related to knowledge of perception are concreta. Relation, virtue, beginning are some examples of abstracta; and examples like man, stone, or horse are examples of concreta. These abstractions are provisional short cuts that allow human beings to reason and use language. It is with abstraction that people are capable of perceiving the future and the past, and consequently, being self-conscious of the decisions to be made and being deliberate in actions.

Since concepts are essentially distinct from intuitive representations, Schopenhauer does not think we can ever perceive or truly know anything evident of the essence of concepts. They remain at the discursive level, or at abstraction, and stunted by their nature as generalizations, which prevent them from being an ideal representation. Schopenhauer uses the metaphor of a mosaic to a painting to refer to the relationship between a concept and the experience it refers. Then, the acquirement of language grants the ability to conceive thoughts through abstractions. Yet language can never truly represent experience exhaustively, which leads to the following conjecture: experience consists of extra-linguistic character. This implies that rational knowledge itself cannot truly add to our knowledge because its function is to render existing knowledge in a new form, a form that communicates ideas within a community. Incidentally, since concepts are by-products of reflection, they serve as obstacles in the creation of art - and Schopenhauer notes this in different artists: the singer, the composer, the painter, and the poet as well. With concepts, one can polish his technique in art, and no more.

Continuing as an epistemologist, Schopenhauer distinguishes reason from the understanding, which is the faculty of the mind that produces and compares representations of perception. These representations are objects of perception, which contains and presupposes causality because they are mediated through our sense organs and intellect. The formal and categorical framework of the mind conditions representations in perception. All perceived objects already conform to and are conditioned by the human senses and conceptual apparatus. Then all representations necessarily imply an object and subject, for they are always "object-for-a-subject". Each and every representation of perception presupposes the law of causality, or cause and effect, which is the sole function of the understanding. The modern reader is advised to interpret Schopenhauer's term, the understanding, as brain function, or what the brain is for and what it does in its every day activity as a biological organ.

Unlike the majority of philosophers, Schopenhauer does not hold reason in high regard. Reason is the higher function that creates, stores, and utilizes the abstract concepts, making thinking possible by dealing with abstractions in reflection. These abstractions are concepts that have been made possible by the ability (with the aid of language) to formulate a generalization of many particular instances, or philosophically speaking, the mental activity of abstracting concepts from the representations of perception. These concepts are objects of reason, conceived and articulated via language; i.e., a car is a general representation devised to stand for many individual objects of perception - say, a Dodge Durango; but the concept of car always leaves out many detailed elements of what is perceived or experienced in each particular case.

However, the perception-attuned function of the brain is primary, in both the evolution of the species and the development of the individual. As the "lower" function of perception, the understanding in the brains of all animals operates involuntary and independent of consciousness. For instance, all the concentration in the world can never ever raise consciousness to the level of biological functions, such as hair growth, or lymph glands manufacturing blood corpuscles, and regulate them. These functions are automatic, autonomous, and wholly inaccessible. Therefore, reason, while considered "higher," is actually secondary in the greater scheme of things.

The moon appearing larger at the horizon, the apparent motion of the beach while sailing past it, and others are some of the many examples of perception that turns out to be an illusion (the deception of the understanding). Yet the illusion remains entrenched, despite the most sophisticated appeal of reason, because the understanding is distinct from reason. Perception is immediate in two ways: instantaneousness (time) and direct contact (space). The immediacy of time seems, at the level of perception, not to have taken any time at all, despite our scientific knowledge that there is an elaborate process that actually takes time; and for the immediacy of direct contact, there is no awareness of any perceptual apparatus being in the way between us and the object of perception. The senses are taken for granted. The understanding, because its knowledge already precedes reason, is utterly inaccessible to reason.

However, "if in the representation of perception illusion does at moments distort reality, then in the representation of the abstract error can reign for thousands of years, impose its iron yoke on whole nations, stifle the noblest impulses of mankind; through its slaves and dupes it can enchain even the man it cannot deceive" (WWR I § 8 ). Errors have a greater staying power than illusion, and the very possibility alone charges the history of abstract thought guilty of inertia.

Given that logic (or more precisely, the propositions of logic) does not contain empirical content, it cannot contribute to experience or perception. Consequently, knowledge, for Schopenhauer, already exists prior to demonstration. Schopenhauer further elaborates this argument by claiming that the value of a philosophy lies within its insights, not the logical validity of its argument, for these insights consist of judgments, perceptions, choices or formulations that make up the premises. Granted, philosophy contains arguments that articulate its own position in order to persuade others of its truth/cogency, so they are only a method, a mode of communication, the form, never to be confused as the actual substance.

Like a good Kantian, Schopenhauer avoids naive empiricism when he insists that perception is not only limited to the senses, but also actually includes the intellect, because the intellect already presupposes causality. Thus, all perception is already conditioned by the intellect through its presupposition of causality, which means all experience demonstrably depends on it. This is why, contra Hume, the knowledge of cause and effect does not come from experience, for perception already contains causality. If causality precedes experience, which includes knowledge, then that means both the subject and the object also precedes experience as necessary presuppositions. Otherwise, we have to deal with Hume's unpleasant conclusions in the Treatise on Human Nature.

Schopenhauer describes the experience of empirical reality as representation and analyzable under the subject and object categories, but he does not think they are independent categories; they are dependent correlates. The old squabble between the advocates of realism and idealism overlooks the fact that both doctrinaires begin with pure abstractions, or objects that transcend experience. The realists postulate a transcendent object independent of all attributes, whereas the idealists counter with the transcendental subject wholly independent of all modes of apprehension. Both postulates are independent of experience, yet experience or all representations already include causality. This leads Schopenhauer to reject both idealism and realism (as well as any other loaded questions about the reality of the external world), for neither can maintain a relationship of the PSR between the subject and the object. Every attempt at explanation institutes a causal relationship between two entities, but if the entities are independent of experience and causality is already a necessary structural feature of experience then both of these attempts at metaphysical explanations are impossible by default.

However, representation does not exhaust the world completely, for the world includes something else. The self is "doubly conscious" of the world: on the one hand, externally, as representation; and on the other, internally, as will. This immanent metaphysics is the consequence of inheriting Kantian baggage. Schopenhauer institutes a basic distinction in metaphysics between representation and the thing-in-itself, even though he does not employ Kant's proofs and has arrived at the distinction by a different road.

Book II

There are two aspects of the world: representation and will, which is the thing-in-itself in appearance. The world as representation consists of individual objects that are spatiotemporally and causally connected. We know representation empirically, including its a priori forms. The world as will is the undifferentiated inner nature of all objects. We know the will immediately and intimately, in each individual case; and for other objects, this is known by philosophical reflection and inference. However, the world as the absolute and ultimate thing in itself is utterly unknowable in principle. Ergo, there is no contradiction when Schopenhauer claims the thing in itself as will.

Thus the answer to what exactly the essence of the world, or what it is in itself, is will, which is not to say that it is not representation, but a "presentation" of another aspect of the same world. A reality that consists of representation already includes a subject that represents objects. However, this subject can never be its own object, and is not located anywhere within either space or time. Thus, the subject, as the pure transcendental self of cognition, is, pace Kant, the a priori condition of the possibility of experience. Schopenhauer tries to marry this philosophical conception with the fact that every individual person is already entrenched within a material world by having the exclusive and private awareness of his/her own body. People are more than just mere transcendental selves. Thus, one knows oneself as embodied will. The understanding of the world as "will" is not to be confused with exposition, where causes are sought and investigated.

It is also important to understand that this "will" is not to be confused with the traditional meaning of the human will, which imports rationalistic baggage, because animals do not will something because they think it is good; for rather, it is good because it is something that some animal wills. Therefore, willing is more fundamental than rationality and is beyond consciousness. Moreover, we should avoid the misconception that individuals have a direct and unmediated access to the thing-in-itself whatsoever.
The Schopenhauer scholar Bryan Magee lists two conventional definitions of the word "will":
  • 1. Will as "Inner sense": acts of will (feelings, emotions, moods)
  • 2. Direct knowledge of empirically observed movements of physical objects in space and time that are known simultaneously and directly from within that is not mediated through the senses. Take away all the empirical, observable features from your body's movements and what is leftover are the acts of will. Therefore, the total sum of the observed data composes one aspect of existence. The second definition of the will includes all that the subject of knowing can know in its inner sense, not including the detached, neutral processes of conceptual thought.
Schopenhauer praised Kant profusely for making the revolutionary philosophical distinction between phenomena and the thing-in-itself, and for not attributing the cause of phenomena/sensations to the thing-in-itself because causation is limited to the phenomenal world alone. Nevertheless, Schopenhauer departs from Kant by insisting that we can form an idea of the nature of the thing-in-itself, since our experience is not limited to the perception of the phenomenal world of objects in space and time: we know ourselves, not only perceptually as external objects, but also "from within", as will or the will to live. The will is not to be the cause of phenomenal behavior of the external objects, for it is actually the same thing, both externally and internally.

Many scholars often interpret the will, as the individual's inner essence cognized in bodily action, as the will to live (Wille zum Leben). The entire body is will by being the manifestation of the means for achieving the ends for the organism. Some scholars think this phrase is misleading because it fails to include the sexual impulse, which plays a much greater role than consciousness; and moreover, the phrase implies a conscious intent to live, whereas the will actually operates by originating and shaping the organism before the emergence of thought, desire, intent, purpose. Since the will is more fundamental than reason or consciousness, it even precedes desire. "Against the mighty voice of nature, reflection can do little." (WWR I 281)

Given that the will is fundamentally one's own inner essence, and sheds light on existence and behavior, Schopenhauer thinks it is possible to extend this insight to the external world by a philosophical reflection. The will extends from the microcosm of the individual to the macrocosm; and thus, the entire universe itself is will. Given the idea of myself as thing-in-itself, I can deduce something about the nature of the physical reality. Although it is not possible to prove that reality is more than appearance, as something-in-itself, the alternative - the denial - collapses back into solipsism. If it is true that my body is, internally, Will in its true being, then, given that the physical reality is externally constant/homogeneous with it and belongs to the same unison of reality (external and internal), it follows that the same is true for everything in nature. It depends whether Schopenhauer is correct in asserting the will is actually the internal being of my body and behavior, instead of claiming it as the justification for extending this conclusion to other things in reality.

The obvious ramification of the will as the fundamental essence is its presence within humanity. Man is, at bottom, driven by "something" to maintain life, engage in sex, and participate in goals; but people pursue those goals according to purposes completely hidden from their consciousness. For instance, the will, in other words, "uses" individuals when they perceive a certain person to be an excellent object of sexual desire, all for the sake of perpetuating itself. Despite the apparent choice or conscious level of attraction, this indicates a fundamental impulse that predetermines behavior, the presence of a biological programming. The real focus of the will lies in the loins, the genitals, where nature relentlessly pursues the propagation of the species, and manifests itself to human consciousness/perception as the emotion of being "in love". Therefore, the individual's actions are not truly free, despite the consciousness' apparent role in "choosing" its actions.

Given that the genitals are the real focus of the will, the life preserving principle, the sexual impulse is the strongest example of the affirmation of life; and for man, as a biological organism, procreation is every individual's highest goal. For nature, the preservation of the species is its only goal, and once the individual submits to the will of nature by procreating, s/he is superfluous.

"Nature... With all her force impels both man and the animal to propagate. After this she has attained her end with the individual and is quite indifferent to its destruction; for, as the will to live, she is concerned with the preservation of the species; the individual is nothing to her." (WWR I pp 329-330) If we are more than just biological units, and our essence is will, then the entire universe is will as well, which continues to manifest itself in billions of individuals (at least on earth) while constantly struggling, growing, fighting, eating, ecreting, breathing, dying; or, basically, suffering. Everyday we "awaken to a life out from unconsciousness, the will finds itself as an individual in a limitless and boundless world, among innumerable individuals, all striving, suffering and erring, and as if troubled by an old dream it hurries back to unconsciousness".

The inner necessity of the gradation of the will is expressed by an outer necessity in phenomena (WWR § 28 ), which means things are dependent on other things: men depend on animals for sustenance, animals on one another, and the plants on soil, water and other nourishments, the planet on the sun, and so on. This indicates that will lives on itself, because there is nothing else, and its cannibalistic state is perpetual. "Yet till then its desires are unlimited, its claims inexhaustible, and every satisfied desire gives birth to a new one. No possible satisfaction in the world could suffice to still its craving, set a final goal to its demands and fill the bottomless pit of its heart." Schopenhauer has unleashed a daemonic mythological fable from atheology.

The will never stops in its striving, nor does it ever become satiated. This terrifying force leads Schopenhauer to conclude it is purposeless as well as pointless. There is no redemption for the suffering of individuals. Life is completely deceptive, and if it makes promises, it never keeps its word. People are inclined to conceive of the world in rational terms by creating purposes in vain and continue under false pretenses in order to maintain the appearance of rationality. These pretenses serve as layers of contentment, but instead of containing happiness (which in itself cannot and does not exist) they are actually masks of emptiness, a yawning hole of nothingness. Only during moments of boredom, people are capable of seeing past the pretense and begin to realize the futility of their lives. Being bored is lacking fulfilled desires, as well as lacking immediate ones. When a person is pursing his/her desires, time rushes by. But when s/he is bored, time barely moves, and that reveals the existence of the individual being embodied in time. Most people are incapable of dealing with this, so they hurry towards something to fill the emptiness.

The wretchedness of the world and vicissitudes of humanity are evidence for pessimist beliefs, but pessimism is necessary due to the nature of the "underlying reality", the Will: for it is in constant search for a solution that is possible only by the very annihilation of existence. This accounts for pleasure as a negative, a lack, the cessation of suffering, which is the normal state of existence. Every part of the phenomenal world is driven to survive at another's expense so there is a universal war of all against all. Because desire can never bring contentment but increase desire, the Will is the source of suffering. We are condemned to an endless pursuit of satisfying desires, for "we blow out a soap bubble as long and as large as possible, although we well know that it will burst". However, Schopenhauer's pessimism is not a necessary consequence of his metaphysical insights, for it is possible to find a ceaselessly striving dynamic reality as delightful, despite the attendant miseries. This sort of pessimism is on the verge of nihilism, for it presupposes that there ought to be some type of order or external purpose in the world. Moreover, the disappointment ensues once no such purpose is found; however, the presupposition of order is the cause of this disappointment.

The lowest grade of the will's objectifications are the universal forces of nature. Considered as qualitates occultae, the laws of nature - the force of gravity - are neither the cause of an effect nor the effect of a cause, for they transcend causation (which in itself presupposes time, and is meaningful only within time) and as well as time, because the cause of a stone's falling is its nearness to the earth, which attracts the stone. If the earth is not there, the stone will not fall, but gravity is already present. Therefore, since the laws of nature are independent of causation, outside of the PSR, they are groundless.

Schopenhauer agrees with Malebranch's doctrine of occasional causes, where every natural cause is only occasional, where the will is given an opportunity to become objectificated by becoming visible in space and time, and partially dependent on phenomena. A piece of rock expresses gravity, solidity, electricity, chemical properties at a particular time that depends on causes or external impressions. However, the very inner being of these properties, existence of the rock in itself, has no ground, but is actually the "becoming visible of the groundless will". Therefore, each and every cause is an occasional cause.

Since the limits of science lie within the limits of explanation and the nature of phenomena, then the explanation by causation goes only so far. However, Schopenhauer avoids claiming the will as a cause, because its relation to the phenomenon is not configured by the PSR. "That which is in itself will, exists on the other hand as representation, that is to say, is phenomenon." (WWR I § 27)

Then each phenomenon obeys the laws that constitutes its form, and has a cause that is explained only within a definite time and space, always as a particular phenomenon, and never according to its inner nature (WWR I § 27). In this section, Schopenhauer argues against reductionism, which presupposes that physical objects are only the conglomerate of the "phenomena of physical, chemical and mechanical forces that have come together in it by chance" (WWR I § 27 p 142). He does not think natural science has any right to "refer the higher grades of the will's objectivity to the lower ones", (WWR I § 27 p 143) because in doing so, the reduction to the phenomena of physical and chemical forces makes the Platonic Ideas impossible.

The knowledge of the will as the thing-in-itself, despite all the myriad differences between the manifold individuals and the multiplicity of phenomena, explains the interrelatedness, connection, or harmony of everything, and the subsequent gradations of the Ideas. Schopenhauer calls this suitability, and defines two aspects: internal (the inner economy of the organisms) and external, where the entire world, all phenomena, is the "objectivity of the one and indivisible will" (WWR § 28 p 158). The inner suitability indicates the ordered composition of the individual organism, as well as its manifestation as the purpose of its species. The external suitability indicates the relationship between inorganic and organic nature as well as that of between individual organisms.

The inner teleology of nature is manifest in the foresight of animals that behave in anticipation of future events (the beaver erecting a damn, spiders and ant lions creating snares for their prey, birds that build nests for its future younglings, etc.), all testify the phenomenon of the unity of the one will in agreement with itself. (WWR § 28 p 161)

Instead of Kant's thing-in-itself, which he arrived at by inferring from what is grounded to the ground, the will signals Schopenhauer's departure from Kant. The final section of the book, criticism of Kantian philosophy, reveals the differences between these two thinkers in a more pronounced way, and will be discussed in the fifth section.

Book III

"Philosophy has so long been sought in vain because it was sought by way of the sciences instead of by way of the arts."

Schopenhauer is the first thinker to grant art the highest philosophical rank and constructs an aesthetic metaphysics in book III. Contra Kant, Schopenhauer claimed that the aesthetic experience, instead of revealing to us our moral vocations, is the vehicle for escaping the conditions of the Will. Like the message of the great modern religions, perfect resignation is the "giving up of all willing, turning back, abolition of the will and with it of the whole inner being of this world and hence salvation" (WWR § 48 p 233). The function of the arts is the "expression and representation" of the Platonic Ideas. The more efficient the Will manifests or "objectifies" itself in an Idea, the more valuable it becomes; since the art form reveals the nature of reality - a standard Neoplatonist claim that art represents Ideas by virtue of representing the imagined essential as opposed to the imitation of the inessential material.

In this Book Schopenhauer's aesthetics is the attempt to subsume a modified form of Platonism within the esoteric version of Kantian metaphysics outlined in the first two Books. Briefly, the genuine aesthetic experience is the precursor of the apprehension of metaphysical truth. Philosophy consists of articulating in abstracta inasmuch what the artist does in concreta. Thus, philosophy is the articulation of concepts. Both the arts and philosophy are engaged in the same task, and both "work at bottom towards the solution of the problem of existence" (WWR II p 406). Schopenhauer concedes that, given its "ineluctable generality of concepts", philosophy can never provoke as well as art.

The third book opens with a further exposition of the Ideas as the definite grades of the objectification of the will, the original unchanging forms of all natural objects as well as the natural laws themselves (WWR § 30). Although the ideas are "present" in countless examples and instances, their relation to particular instances is that of an archetype to its copies (WWR § 30). All particular concrete individuals in space and time are nothing more than the Ideas filtered through the PSR. However, Schopenhauer maintains that while all the instances and aspects are beholden to the PSR - plurality and change - the Ideas are wholly independent of the PSR, and outside of knowledge, for they remain immutable. The only way for the Ideas to become an object of knowledge is through the destruction of the individuality of the knowing subject.

Schopenhauer admits that the Ideas of Plato and Kant's thing-in-itself are not the same thing, for the former was merely "immediate" while the latter was the unobjectified will. The Idea "retains the first and most universal form...of the representation in general, that of being object for a subject" (WWR § 32 p 175). This characterization is the only form of knowledge, and so, it is "the most adequate objectivity possible for the will" (WWR § 32 ibid).

Schopenhauer beautifully describes the relentlessness of the desires of the will, irrespective of whether the person is pursuing pleasure or fleeing pain, for everyone is "constantly lying on the revolving wheel of Ixion, always drawing water in the sieve of the danaids, and is the eternally thirsting Tantalus" (WWR § 37 p 196). At least such relentlessness is not immutable, for there are breaks or momentary repose - and that is the moment of "pure contemplation, absorption in perception, being lost in the object, [and] forgetting all individuality" (WWR § 37 p 197).

The temporary suspension of the will takes place when a person contemplates the aesthetic as a pure, will-free subject of knowing, and in doing so, the pleasure of the beautiful is achieved. During the moment of aesthetic experience, the striving of the will slows down, and momentarily frees the subject from the constant suffering. In a nutshell, everyday life is restless torment and the aesthetic experience is the momentary respite. Schopenhauer did not stop here, for he also recognized that the aesthetic dimension of experience contained a means of perceiving beyond the veils of reality. With typical chutzpah, Schopenhauer goes beyond Kant's conservative formulations with the assertion that art is cognitively superior to either empirical perception or the sciences, and that the intelligibility of art depends on the accuracy of metaphysical insights. However, it would be a mistake to read this section on aesthetic as a critique of the arts themselves, for Schopenhauer merely offered a conception of the value of art, and nothing else.

"Knowledge in general belongs to the objectification of the will at its higher grades." (WWR § 33) Therefore, knowledge is subservient to the will, and consequently, representation serves as a means for the will. Schopenhauer shrewdly describes the exception to this restriction of knowledge when the subject disintegrates its individuality and pries knowledge loose from the will, and becomes a "pure, will-less subject of knowledge" (WWR § 34). This anarchic knowledge is also independent from the constraints of the PSR. The ability of the mind to focus completely on the object of perception will lead to the dissolution of the individuality and devolve to a pure subject, a "timeless subject of knowledge" (WWR § 34), or a "clear mirror of the object" (ibid, p 178). Once the subject is free of the will, the object is no longer an individual thing but the Idea or the "immediate objectivity of the will" (ibid, p 179). Since the perceiving individual is limited to knowing particular objects, for he knows objects in particular locations and at particular moments, from a series of cause and effect, then only the pure subject knowledge can know Ideas.

While the other fields of knowledge (science, history, mathematics) are beholden to the PSR, art is concerned with what exists independently of all relations, yet is truly essential and contains the actual content of phenomena, incorruptible, eternally true: the ideas, which are the immediate and adequate objectivity of the thing-in-itself, the will (WWR I p 184). Schopenhauer thinks art is a second type of knowledge, completely independent of all relations, and yet retain the essential and true content of the world. Basically, art is the work of the genius. This knowledge in art repeats the Ideas apprehended through pure contemplation, which is the "way of considering things independently of the PSR" (WWR § 36 p 185). While the PSR is rational, and completely essential for practical life, the method that wrenches free from such rationality is that of the genius, and is valid in art alone (WWR I p 185). Only the Genius has the ability of pure contemplation, which is being completely absorbed in the objects, sever his service to the will and be in a state of pure perception and eventually, the comprehension of the Idea. Once the individual will - the personal interests and goals - are dropped, the pure knowing subject emerges.

Even genius has its limits. If the genius is deficient in his grasp of the PSR (consequently the sciences and rationality) his individual genius will be severely curtailed. On the other hand, the genius' singular brilliance is due to a "preponderance of knowledge from perception through the senses and the understanding over abstract knowledge" (WWR § 36 p 19). A Dionysos instead of an Apollo. The genius tends to grasp the Idea in things, which transcends the knowledge of relations or the connection of things, and see the one thing that represents its entire species adequately. "The individual object of [the genius'] contemplation... Appears in so strong a light that the remaining links of the chain ...to which the belong, withdraw into obscurity" (WWR § 36 p 194). This ability exaggerates the genius' perception to extremes, and consequently, his actions as well. Striking a moderate balance, the golden "means" is utterly a foreign concept...

Schopenhauer often visited patients at the mental hospital, and his experiences resulted in amazingly prescient insights in psychology. One of them was a relationship between the genius and madness, not because of some defect of reason, but the "unusual energy of that whole phenomenon of the will" (ibid). Schopenhauer also argued against the distinct demarcation between the sane and the insane, because the mad are not deprived of either of the faculties of reason or the understanding. Many of the insane Schopenhauer had visited in lunatic asylums possessed great gifts, but he noted that the root of their maladies lie in the memory where a naturally continuous thread is shattered. Among the individual portions of their memories that took place, the gaps in the broken chain have been patched over by the imagination, which turn the fictional episodes into a "fixed mania" or momentary fancies. The more intense the insanity is, the worse off the memory. Here, Schopenhauer offers an explanation for why madness takes place: if the person's suffering continues beyond the moment it took place and is located with his memory, and has become utterly unbearable, then nature in the throes of self-preservation destroys the thread of memory. This insight moves very close to those of early psychology, particularly that of Freud.

Only the genius has the capacity for utter and absolute objectivity. He can lose himself in his own perception by becoming the pure knowing subject, escape the ubiquitous will, and consequently, the knowledge that always accompanies the will. The utmost concern of the genius is the Ideas, the eternal forms of the world, of phenomena, and through perception the genius knows ideas, for they are not abstractions. Thus, the genius require a healthy amount of imagination to see beyond the immediate objects of perception - the representations - and toward the archetype. The genius uses art to communicate others the Idea he has apprehended, grasped, or glimpsed. On the other side of the spectrum is your Average Joe/Jane who lives in the present, pursuing a life of comfort and ease. S/He is incapable of directing his/her attention to anything other than what has immediate relations to his/her will, and is quick to satisfy him/herself with the abstraction of the object of perception.

Even the most obstinate, stubborn and insensitive philistine is capable of experiencing aesthetic pleasure. The subjective aspect of aesthetic pleasure is the experience of the sublime. If the observer moves from the knowledge of the relations that obey the will and towards aesthetic contemplation, then the observer experiences the feeling of beauty. This takes place only once the observer wrenches himself loose and free from serving the vicious desires of the will. The transition from the feeling of beautiful to the sublime involves the transcendence of all interests of the will.

The aesthetic presentation is a certain disinterested knowledge that takes place once the observer loses him/herself in the object and ceases to think or feel as, be an individual, and then the observed representation becomes a representation of an essence. However, the aesthetic representation differs from the perceptual representation, in the sense that establishes the centrality and moral purpose of aesthetics. Like Kant and Hegel, Schopenhauer claims art is the presentation of appearance as pure appearance, once art apprehends the Idea by muting the will.

The opposite of the sublime is the charm, where we are lured into the illusion that satisfaction in human life is possible by inducing a false sense of fulfillment. Charm, or attraction, is the excitement of the will in the form of satisfaction or fulfillment, whereas the sublime feeling emerges from the transformation of something unfavorable to the will into an object of pure contemplation (WWR I p 207). On the other hand, attraction, by stirring his will, prevents the beholder from pure contemplation that is necessary for the sublime.

Schopenhauer dismissed the realist's prejudice that the artist's ability to create art depends on how well s/he imitates nature, because that fails to explain how the artist can recognize what is beautiful. The only way the artist can create according to the standard of beauty is if he anticipates the beautiful prior to experience, before he begins the creation of art. This a priori anticipation is a different sort of knowledge than the forms of the PSR, where the universal forms of the phenomenon explains the "how" of appearances, which in turn develops the fields of mathematics and the sciences. The a prior knowledge of the artist, which "makes the beautiful possible," is concerned with the content of phenomena, not the form - the what instead of the how. By anticipating the beautiful, the artist recognizes the Idea of the particular thing, and "understands Nature's half spoken words" (WWR § 45, p 222). If the artist merely created the objects of art solely based on his experience, then greats like Shakespeare invented all the characters in his play solely from his experience of people. Schopenhauer finds this too far-fetched and incredulous, and insists that the genius creates according to the anticipation of the beautiful, even though some experience is necessary.

For Schopenhauer, the function of art is to provide us the cognition of platonic ideas through the representation of individual phenomena that "instantiate" them, and the phenomenal world instantiating the platonic ideas composes of four distinguishable grades. At bottom is the lowest grade of the will's objectification, the inorganic elements of nature - earth, water, air - which is what architecture does best. None of the other arts can equal architecture's command of the natural elements - the open air, space, light, material, - and moreover, there are no symbolic representations. The second grade of the will's objectification is flowers, trees, plant life, and painting is the appropriate medium. The third grade is animal life, where the two-dimensional nature of painting is insufficient, and sculpture can capture the physical body of the animal, especially its mass, weight, bulk, balance and poise.

The three-dimensional sculpture cannot truly represent human life - the feelings, emotions, characters and relationships require a fourth dimension - time - and all these attributes may be captured in a lyric poem, but the full scale panorama of human life is best expressed in drama, which itself can incorporate poetry. The great tragedies of ancient Greece and the plays of Shakespeare are excellent examples. "Human beauty is an objective expression that denotes the will's most complete objectification at the highest grade... namely the idea of man in general" (WWR, § 45, p 221). Nothing else inspires the purely aesthetic contemplation as fast, and as directly as the image of the most beautiful human being.

The Idea that the great works in poetry expresses is the "man in the connected series of his efforts and actions" (WWR, I p 224). Through poetry, the will expresses itself most clearly of all the representational arts. The summit of poetic art is tragedy, because it describes the most important aspect of life - the terrible side of life - much better than anything else, and ever beautifully. Tragedy encapsulates "the unspeakable pain, the wretchedness and misery of mankind, the triumph of wickedness, the scornful mastery of chance and the irretrievable fall of the just and innocent..." (WWR, § 51, p 253).

At the highest peak of aesthetics Schopenhauer places music, for it does not copy or repeat anything of phenomena - it actualy surpasses the world of perception itself - nor does it copy the Ideas themselves, for it is the copy of the will itself. Therefore, music is much more potent than all the other arts. True music is purely abstract, and doesn't represent anything in the world of phenomena, and therefore it doesn't present the cognition of the Platonic ideas through concrete particulars. Music bypasses both the Platonic ideas and representations of phenomena altogether. If all this is the case, then movies are at least at the level of drama, for they are frozen plays, ideally captured and maximized by the most appropriate camera angle, and augmented by special effects where needed, etc.

Since music does not express phenomena, for it is the inner nature of every phenomenon, the will itself, then it never express a particular emotion or passion - a specific sorrow or joy - instead those emotions themselves, their essence are expressed in music. Because music expresses the quintessence of existence, as opposed to the individual and particular instances, it is the universal and homogeneous language, as well as the oldest, and intelligible to all people, yet impossible to translate into another medium. Schopenhauer credits melody as the disclosure of all the deepest secrets of human willing and feeling, and the invention of such is the work of genius.

(Continued in Part 2...)


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