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    Teaser Paragraph: Publish Date: 06/11/2006 Article Image:
    By /index.php?/user/8-davidm/">David Misialowski (2006)

    All art constantly aspires towards the condition of music. — Walter Pater

    In 1863 Edouard Manet scandalized the art world by painting a picture of a picnic. This is it:

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    At the time, France was dominated by the rules of the Academie des beaux-arts, which stipulated that if you were going to paint pictures of women in that way, you'd better put them in some acceptable historical or allegorical context, like this work by the academic painter Adolphe-William Bouguereau:

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    The academy also liked somber or subdued colors, smoothed-out paintings (no visible brush strokes) and traditional themes. It was a bulwark of visual conservatism. Manet's risque picture was shocking, and when he tried to display it at an Academy-approved show, he was rebuffed.

    This was the start of something new. Manet's painting, as we shall see, is not an early example of impressionism, (though he later became an impressionist), but nevertheless it was a departure from "the rules". It was one of the opening gambits in a line that would lead to modernism.

    The weird thing about Manet's painting is that it didn't really tell any story. Back then, paintings were supposed to tell stories. The story of the Bouguereau work is found in its title, "Return of Spring". But what's the story of the Manet painting? Women sans clothes didn't generally hang out at picnics with men back then (or even now, alas) and so the whole work seems to be a formal exercise and strangely pointless. But it was an harbinger of the new art: paintings would not have to tell stories, but line, color, brushstroke, composition and other pictorial elements could be expressive in their own right, with recognizable subject matter secondary, arbitrary or even nonexistent. At the time, Emile Zola wrote: "Painters, and especially Edouard Manet, who is an analytic painter, do not share the masses' obsession with the subject: to them, the subject is only a pretext to paint, whereas for the masses only the subject exists."

    Zola's observation was condescending but nevertheless astute, and I shall return to it in future essays. Even then, he cut to the heart of the disconnect that makes so much of modern art unintellilgible to so many people: People are conditioned to look at these paintings in search of a subject, the way they expect a novel to be "about" something. But for the painters, the "subject" lies in the drama of the interplay of the pictorial elements in and of themselves: the analogy to a novel should be replaced by the analogy to music without lyrics.

    The rule-laden art aristocracy of the time made the impressionists outcasts, because they broke the rules. Whereas the rules favored somber and subdued colors, the impressionists wanted to paint the bright colors produced by sunlight. The rules said: show no brushstrokes; the impressionists flaunted theirs. The rules said: paint indoors, in a studio; the impressionists took their rainbow palettes and canvases into the open air and painted from real life. Here is the painting that gave birth to the term "impressionism":

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    The painting, "Impression, Sunrise", is by Claude Monet, from about 1873, and of it a critic sarcastically wrote, "Impression — I was certain of it. I was just telling myself that, since I was impressed, there had to be some impression in it ... and what freedom, what ease of workmanship! Wallpaper in its embryonic state is more finished than that seascape."

    The critic didn't like it, but his derisive emphasis on "impression" stuck, and those who painted in this manner co-opted the term and proudly called themselves the impressionists. The heyday of the impressionists was from the mid 1860s to the mid 1880s, and their legacy survives to the present, when many painters routinely employ impressionist techniques, which are now well understood. What was revolutionary then is old hat now. In fact, the reigning art aristocracy (for there is always an art elite) considers impressionism not avante garde but boring.

    The critic didn't like Monet's sunrise because his idea of what constituted art was, to borrow a phrase we've encountered in a different context on this Web site, theory-laden. If your theory is that art must be "finished", that it must mimic reality as closely as possible and that it must be restricted to a muted color palette, then your conclusion will be that Monet's work was bad. If you fail to share one or more of those presuppositions, then all bets are off.

    To be fair, the critic and others of the time probably supposed that painting "finished" works was harder to do, and required greater craft — and at the time, "craft" was held in much higher esteem in all fields then today, the era of mass production. Again, though, this idea incorporates the presupposition that if a painting is "harder" to make, then it is somehow "better" or of more "value". Apart from the fact that there's no particular reason to think this, one could ask: was the Monet work really "easier" to do than a "finished" version of a sunrise? The answer, surprisingly, probably is no. Anyone who has painted knows that once you learn the techniques of a fixed palette, smoothed-down brush strokes and the like, it's easy to replicate them. After all, there are only so many ways to paint a flesh tone in a studio setting, and how hard is it to smooth down paint to make the brush strokes invisible?

    When the critic wrote, "and what freedom, what ease of workmanship!" he could not know that these things would indeed later become valued properties of much art. He meant this as a criticism but later art critics would use such terms in praise. After all, why shouldn't painted works display freedom and ease of workmanship? Can't such properties denote the effortlessness of virtuosity, which comes only after years of practice? Is there not freedom and ease of workmanship in the work below, so many years before Monet, by Rembrandt?

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    Granted that this is a drawing and not a painting, but what's the difference? Drawing is painting and painting is drawing. The above is far from "finished" and it is certainly, in the way Monet meant it, an impression. So there really was nothing completely new about impressionism when it came on the scene. Rembrandt, as with so much, had anticipated this particular future.

    So the impressionists went outdoors and their works bloomed like colored flowers in spring. Rejecting the Academy-sponosored shows because those shows rejected them, the impressionist set up their own exhibitions. Below are some works from the 1870s and 1880s, by the pioneers of impressionism, and all of them should be viewed as at large a size as possible:

    Monet, who as we have seen painted the work that prompted the coining of the term impressionism, was famous for his impressionistic water lillies and his haystacks. Examples:

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    It's hard to imagine making so much out of some haystacks! But Monet did. He was struggling to capture the impression of the stacks under various lighting conditions as the day went by, and one must say he suceeded brilliantly. There is no known academic strategy to achieve similar results, and the academics would have considered it weird, wrong, to paint just haystacks anyway. Also, there isn't much of a "story" in these paintings, haystacks being famously taciturn. The story, if there is one, is about the interplay of light and shadow and color, and nothing more.

    The aforementioned Manet, whose potryal of the picknicking woman roused the wrath of the academics, adopted the impressionistic technique later on, and a prime example of late Manet is below:

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    Pierre-Auguste Renoir was a protypical impressionist, as can be seen in the work below. Later, however, he broke with impressionism. Compare the early and late Renoir:

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    Camille Pissarro:

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    Alfred Sisely (what a lovely work this is!):

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    Berthe Morisot (the first woman to undertake impressionism):

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    There were others, of course, and any number of painters experimented with impressionistic techniques, among them Van Gogh and Cezanne, but the latter developed their own mature styles that wandered far from impressionism, and art historians generally classify them (in the mania for classification) as post-impressionist painters. I'll discuss the work of these two founding fathers of modern art in separate essays.

    What these works all have in common is that they are painted out of doors or in brightly colored settings, in full sunlight (or the rain, as they case might be), and incorporate the poetry of brushstrokes and a fresh conception of color. It's worth examining in more detail what that conception of color is.

    Somber, subdued, "realistic" colors had come to dominate the Western art tradition by the time the impressionists came along, but one should notice that "realistic" colors exist in a certain context. If you paint indoors, in a studio under controlled lighting conditions, then the colors around you will look subudued. But if you paint outdoors under full sunlight, things change. I suggest that the real bias at the time was not so much against strong color, but against painting outdoors, in real life, among the plebes and peasants. The art establishment thought that to do so was to debase oneself. The real, "lofty" themes of art weren't found among the hoi polloi, they thought, but in myth and history and religion. This was, of course, just another bias, but a self-protective one: If you can make people think that you belong to a priesthood of great art "secrets" and traditions to be passed on inviolate, then you are members of such a priesthood, with all the social and financial benefits that this status confers. I'd suggest that the Academy's aversion to the impressionists was not so much about aesthetics as it was about politics.

    The main thing that the impressionists did with color was to "unmix" it. In the priesthood, studio painting had a fixed strategy for producing colors, and it invariably involved the liberal use of black, white and gray to tame color, as if color were some wanton jezebel that presented a threat to public morals. Painters mixed colors into a toned-down sludge and then laid it on canvas in glazes and layers and washes in a carefully contrived way. Such an approach puts a premium on learned method and discourages spontaneity, creativity and the insight garnered from rapid response to quick observation.

    The insight of the impressionists was to banish black and gray from their palettes, and even much white. They argued that these weren't even colors: In what's known as the subtractive or painter's color pallette, if you subtract all colors you get white. If you add all colors you get black. And if you mix black and white together in equal amounts you get gray. So to make color more vivid, they decided to expel, to the greatest extent possible, black, gray and some whites.

    Let's take a brief detour into color theory. Here is the painter's color wheel:

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    The primary colors are yellow, red and blue. Primary colores are those that are self-sufficient: they contain no trace of any other color. In theory, all colors are built by mixing these three colors, along with some white or black. This can yield millions of different colors, a synonym for color being hue.

    Complementary colors are those that lie on the opposite side of the wheel from the primaries that they complement. The complement of yellow is violet, which in theory is an equal-parts (50:50) mix of the two other primaries, red and blue. The complement of red is greeen, which is a 50:50 mix of the other two primaries, yellow and blue. And the complement of blue is orange, which again is a 50:50 mix of the two remaining primaries, in this case red and yellow.

    Armed with this knowledge one can go on to harmonize a whole set of colors in a systematic way, by mixing and matching. Shade refers to how much colors are tamped down by adding black, and tint refers to how much they are lightened by adding white.

    I'll discuss color theory more in later essays, particularly the one on Van Gogh, but for now the point is that the impressionists had a couple of insights: banish shade (and to a much lesser extent tint) from their palettes, and separate colors into pure tones instead of mixing them together, so that they would be more vivid. The alternative idea, espoused by the Academy, was that colors should be heavily mixed and muted by black. Let’s look at two paintings, one by the previously mentioned academic painter, Bouguereau, and the other by one of the foremost impressionists, Camille Pissarro. In each case the subject matter is the same: a peasant girl. (The Pissaro work should be viewed at a size as large as possible.)

    By Bouguereau:

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    By Pissaro:

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    The difference between academic (approved) painting of that time, and the rebel impressionists, is on dramatic display here. For what it is worth (and we must admit that this is a contingent fact), history has not been been kind to Bouguereau or the academics that dominated mid-century France, and has been kind to the impressionists and Pissarro. The rececived wisdom today is that the Pissarro painting is the much superior work.

    Why think that? This evaluation is also theory-laden, weighted with a set of values that themselves can’t be proved to be true, but the idea is that Pissarro's work has more sophistication, individuality, flair and freedom; and also that it makes use, in a way that the Bouguereau piece doesn't (indeed, can't) of the substances and properties of paint qua paint. The Bouguereau piece, and all such academic pieces, it is now thought, crucially lack the presence of the artist. It is argued that the academics followed formula so slavishly that they extinguished their personalities — though, of course, this argument presupposes that personality in art is a good thing. Maybe it's a bad thing. The Islamic art tradition certainly seems to abhor individuality, and it has produced splendid works, as we'll see in a later essay.

    By contrast to Bouguereau, in the Pissarro piece we sense the very tremor of the artist's hand, the movement of his eyes. And, it is a feast of color, a cornocopia for the cones. It is full of broken colors, harmonized complentaries, and the fugitive play of light and shade captured by refusing to smooth down the brush strokes. Put simply, there is just so much more to look at in the Pissarro painting. One's eyes can linger for a long time just on the peasant girl’s lower legs and shoes, so alive and shimmering with color and energy. By contrast, the Bouguereau work is all surface. Everything there is to be seen, is seen at a glance. A different way to say this is that, from the perspective of using paint qua paint, the Bouguereau work is superficial - it presents no real visual challenge.

    To go a little further, Georges Seurat, was classified as a neoimpressionist, attempted to adapt the broken-color techniques of impressionism and scientize the process. He failed, of course, if in fact his goal was to establish a fixed, scientific method of painting, but succeeded in making some brilliant canvases, the most famous of which, probably, is below: Sunday Afternoon on the Island of the Grande Jatte.

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    The technique, called pointillism or divsionism, got rid of paint mixing altogether, along with black and gray, and reduced pigment to individual, minuscule points of pure color, yielding a shimmering effect. For example, look at the shadows in the grass and trees. The academic method of reproducing such shadows would have been to mix violet, green and some black into a uniform tone. The Seurat technique, which some have suggested was the logical conclusion of impressionism, was to paint the shadow by individual points of pure green paint and pure violet paint, with no black at all. Likewise, where sun falls on trees, pure points of yellow and green are arranged side by side.

    Pointillism was certainly new (and took so long to execute that virtually no one excpet Seurat ever used the technique), but we should realize that while there is something new with impressionism, it is not altogether new. Long before the academics or the impressionists, Rembrandt, and others, used free, unsuppressed brushstrokes to capture impressions of light and form, and other painters before the impressionists were quite liberal and free in their use of bright color. A ancestor of the impressionists, whose work also influenced Van Gogh and Picasso, was Euguene Delacroix, and here is an example of his art, laden with rich color and free brushstrokes:

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    In the 20th century, academic painting would suffer the ultimate eclipse of being deemed banal, sentimental kitsch. Whether one agrees with this or not depends on one's conceptual scheme for evaluating art, a philosophical problem that I'll discuss in yet another later essay. In any event, notice again two things going on in the Pissarro work: first is the liberation of color, the suppression of blacks and grays; and second is the distancing of the subject from the means of conveying the subject. The academic work tells a story: peasant girl wearing a determined, purposeful expression, rising above the straitened means of her life. It's an idealization of peasantry, and arguably straightforwardly escapist. The second tells no story per se about the subject, or only vaguely so, but tells the story of color and brushwork themselves. The brushstrokes and color variations are everywhere, and so the whole canvas, and not just the figure, is important. The realization that color and brushwork (and line and volume and shape and other visual tropes) could tell their own story would take art down the path to nonrepresentationalism, to the idea of visual art aspiring to the condition not of literature but of music.
    Teaser Paragraph: Publish Date: 06/08/2006 Article Image:
    By Paul Newall (2006)

    The late Norman F. Cantor's Inventing the Middle Ages was first published in 1991. He set out to show

    Inventing the Middle Ages... how our current notion of the Middle Ages - with its vivid images of wars, tournaments, plagues, saints and kings, knights and ladies - was born in the twentieth century. The medieval world was not simply excavated through systematic research. It had to be conceptually created: It had to be invented.
    Cantor's fundamental claim was that "[a]ll works of history are in a sense autobiographical, particularly if the author is dealing with a historical personality that he finds sympathetic." It should perhaps be added the same holds for those found decidedly unsympathetic, and Cantor studied a host of eminent medievalists who fell into either or both camps. These included Maitland, Schram, Kantorowicz, Bloch, Halphen, Panofsky, Curtius, Haskins, Strayer, Knowles, Gilson and Southern, along with some lesser lights in the form of C.S. Lewis, Tolkein, Huizinga, Postan, Power and Mommsen. The notion at base is quite simple: the historical reality of how it really was - wie es eigentlich gewesen - is underdetermined by the available traces of the past and hence the historian must fill in the gaps. In doing so, however, he or she is liable to project backwards onto the past his or her own preconceptions, ideas and motives.

    What Cantor was able to do was illustrate this in a way that seamlessly blended biography, history, politics and philosophy into a carefully reasoned whole. Thus did Erwin Panofsky belong "to that generation of German Jewish humanists who envisioned themselves as connected to a chain of civility and learning that stretched back from Bismarckian and Weimar Germany through the millennia to the classical and biblical worlds that became fused in the Christian patristic culture of the fourth century A.D." Panofsky, like many of the others considered by Cantor, brought to the study of the Middle Ages a conviction of continuity - a thema in Gerald Holton's terminology - that allowed him to read Medieval times as a steady evolution of the classical liberal project.

    Many of these medievalists were writing before, during or shortly after the Second World War, and their work took on another dimension as a result. For Curtius, his European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages "grew out of a concern for the preservation of Western culture", threatened - as he and most of the others saw it - by Hitler and the Nazis. He attempted "to illuminate the unity of [the Western cultural tradition] in space and time" for in "the intellectual chaos" of the war years it had "become necessary" to do so. That probably no such unity actually existed was not the point: Curtius both believed that it did and wanted it to in order to serve as an antidote to the steady descent into fascism he was witnessing. Schramm's Otto III and Kantorowicz's Frederick II were both written in accordance with their belief that this great culture could be perpetuated only through strong, enlightened leadership, and they looked for a messianic figure in the present to do likewise, replacing the broken Germany of the post-Versailles Treaty years with a new imperialism based on the finest traditions of the Middle Ages. They got Hitler. Schramm thought that an imperfect neo-Medievalism was better than none and took his chances; Kantorowicz was Jewish and had to take his elsewhere.

    Tolkein and Lewis, whom Cantor grouped with Powicke as "The Oxford Fantasists", disliked the "modern" world and yearned for a return to (or remodelling on) a better age, one they saw in Medieval times. Bloch, hero of the Resistance, granted too much influence to the peasantry. Strayer and Haskins advocated Medieval law for the present, while Huizinga, Power, Postan, Mommsen and Erdmann saw in the Middle Ages a terror in one form or another (the repression of women for Power, decades ahead of other feminists) that had to be surmounted in order to arrive at a more tolerant, reasonable today. Thus the way we look at Medieval times was born of "learned research, humanistic theory, assumptions about human behaviour, and the ever-present ingredient of the personal experiences of medievalists" Once set, the prestige and power associated with the academic positions occupied by the great Medievalists ensured that their views were perpetuated.

    In sum,

    Inventing the Middle Ages... out of this array of constituents, there was solidified a cultural structure that comprised the fundamentals of the Middle Ages that we read in our textbooks, teach and study in our classes, and disseminate in libraries, museums, and the literary and visual arts. Nothing of consequence from the nineteenth century was found worthy of perpetuation in the way of interpreting and imaging of the Middle Ages. Discovering the meaning of the European Middle Ages is a phenomenon of twentieth-century culture.
    There are two lessons to draw from Cantor's book. The first is that the role of the individual historian is very much relevant to the overall study of history, which cannot be considered a solely empirical discipline. The historian is working with traces of the past that were recorded (in whatever form) by people with ideas, hopes, goals, ideological positions and influences just as the historian has still others as he or she selects and interprets them - two layers of theory-ladenness, as it were. The question of why a particular historian chose to emphasise some at the expense of others is one that can be addressed (at least in part) by biography - studying the historian instead of supposing that history is all about determining wie es eigentlich gewesen from the available evidence. This is clear in the obvious example of Galileo Studies, wherein some choose to use the Florentine with an apologetic motive and excuse the actions of the Church, even as others start with the notion that a vital conflict between science and religion could be demonstrated. However, that we can never get away from these thematic presuppositions when dealing in history leads to a whole new avenue of investigation: why does Fantoli read the Galileo Affair differently to Finocchiaro, say, and to what extent do the answers lie in their thinking and the circumstances of their lives, rather than (or in addition to) further study of the sources?

    The second point is that the so-called postmodern (actually anti-representationalist) critiques of traditional historiography barely (if at all) touch on this sociological dimension enumbrated by Cantor. His methodology does not seem to have significantly influenced either side of the current debate, which is puzzling because it would seem to be devastating for the empiricists and indicative of not going far enough for their opponents. Noting that a Catholic scholar may have approached the events in seventeenth century Rome and Florence with an apologetic motive is unsatisfactory because it only touches the surface: apologists are not identical, after all. What do individual historians bring to their work in sociological terms, beyond basic similarities? How deep does the "ever-present ingredient of the personal experiences" go? This is a question that should provide historiographers with many years of study, as well as indicating - as if it were needed - that history is far, far deeper than a misplaced hope in finding out how it really was way back when.
    Teaser Paragraph: Publish Date: 06/08/2006 Article Image:
    By Awet Moges (2006)

    (Continued from Part 1...)

    Book IV

    The fourth book, regarding ethics in general and particular context, is the "most serious" discussion, largely because it is the most relevant for everyone. However, Schopenhauer is perceptive enough to recognize how ineffective systems of morals are in the production of virtuous folk, just as poorly as aesthetic theories are capable of generating geniuses in art. Consequently, "philosophy can never do more than interpret and explain what is present... " (WWR § 53 p 271). The only true method of philosophy asks about the what, instead of the whence, the whither, or the why - what lies beyond phenomena, beyond the PSR, what is the inner nature of the world (p 274).

    Schopenhauer then launches into a discussion about time according to phenomena and explains how the "now" is the only actual aspect of temporal existence while the past and the future are mere phantasms. Like Epicurus, but with a more sophisticated argument, Schopenhauer argues against death as a source of anguish. While the idea of death inspires a holy terror in most people, if we realize that only the "now" matters - because the present is the only true form of the phenomenon of the will - then we can dismiss death as a "false illusion" and an "impotent specter", and both the past and the future are "empty mirages" (p 284). The fear of death relies on our anticipation of the future, and the future is an aspect of time. Death concerns us only as individuals, and since our existence as individuals is only an illusion from the world of appearance, therefore death has no ultimate reality.

    If the phenomenon is completely conditioned by the PSR, which entails necessity, then the will as the thing-in-itself is utterly free. But the freedom of the will as thing-in-itself cannot and does not extend directly to phenomena, and especially not in the highest grade of phenomena - man - for he is already conditioned by the form of all phenomena, the PSR. We consider ourselves a priori free, once we consider the number of potential choices available to us, but it is only after experience and reflection, a posteriori, that our action does follow our character and motives with necessity (WWR p 289).

    The appearance of freedom of individual action comes from the point of view of the intellect. the intellect knows the conclusions of the will after the fact, empirically. In other words, the intellect cannot predict the choices of the will. Rational deliberation takes place once a hypothetical situation is entertained, and oftentimes promotes a solution, but direct inclination usually leans towards another solution, and always overpowers rational deliberation once the opportunity of action actually arises. The intellect can only meditate between the possible solutions, and then it passively awaits the true decision of the will. From the view of the intellect, both choices are equally possible, and this potentiality inspires the appearance of the empirical freedom of the individual. Nevertheless, since the will is inscrutable and impenetrable, the intellect, which is little more than the examination of the motives of different point of views, cannot determine the will.

    The assertion of an empirical freedom of will depends on the presumption that man's inner nature is a knowing and abstract thinking entity, and consequently, this abstracta becomes a willing subject. Nevertheless, Schopenhauer thinks the will is the primary and original aspect, and knowledge is the by-product of the phenomenon of will - just an instrument. Then people are what they are according to their will, and they learn of themselves only through experience - experiencing what they are - and they discover their character after the fact. For the free will advocates, the individual wills what s/he knows, but for Schopenhauer, s/he knows what s/he wills (WWR p 293). Motives, however, can influence character through knowledge, and that is how a person's manner can change while his/her character remains the same. Motives can influence the will, alter its direction, but not change the will. Therefore, pace Seneca, willing cannot be taught, and always remains inscrutable. Motives themselves are concepts, abstract representations of reason, and through the conflict of several motives, the strongest emerges and determines the will with necessity.

    Schopenhauer also notes that the ability to discern motives, deliberation, is precisely not only what distinguishes the human from the animal; it is also what makes human existence much more agonizing and tortuous than the animal. The greatest suffering isn't limited to the immediate present as representations of perception, but as abstract concepts that haunt thoughts and cause mental anguish and suffering. The animal has no such troubles for it lives in the present.

    After elaborating on the intellect and the empirical character, Schopenhauer begins analyzing the third aspect of human behavior, acquired character, which is social - something articulated only within society - where someone is praised for having character or condemned for lacking any. But the acquired character is not like the empirical for it isn't unalterable or consistent. From the second book, where the will is described as a ceaselessly striving universal force, doubly omnipotent and omnipresent, and in human beings, the will underlies everything - actions, desire, beliefs, etc. The foundation of all willing is need, lack and once something is deficient or found to be dissatisfactory, striving ensues, and as long as this striving desire isn't satisfied, this is suffering; otherwise, the achievement of the goal is called satisfaction. But since satisfaction is always temporary, finite, and always yields to a new desire, then there is no final resolution of desire, no ultimate goal, and suffering is ineradicable. Therefore, all life is essentially suffering (WWR § 56 p 310).

    Even though from birth, life is a "continual rushing of the present into the dead past" (WWR § 57 p 311) human beings live vicariously, just as much as a soap bubble is blown as large as possible with the full knowledge that it will pop. To will is always to desire and, in extreme cases, to desire the perfect satisfaction is a matter of delusion. Both excessive joy and extreme pain are erroneous, delusions, for they are the anticipation of the future; but pain is essential to life - excessive joy comes from the belief that permanent satisfaction of the desires has been achieved, inasmuch the nadir of sorrow comes from the vanishing of such potential "perfect" satisfaction. Schopenhauer, along with the Stoics, suggests equanimity whether the situation is horribly adverse or exceedingly fortuitous.

    All happiness is essentially negative, for satisfaction is merely the absence of desire (WWR § 58 p 319) for gratification delivers us from a particular desire. This indicates that suffering is the immediately given, the positive aspect of willing. Schopenhauer points out that the great poems illustrate a struggle for unattainable happiness, and even once the hero, in the epic poem, actually achieves his monumental goal, happiness remains elusive and he remains no better off than before. In other words, true happiness, because it is impossible, cannot ever be the true object of art.

    There are three extremes of human life, Schopenhauer notes: the great passions, found in the historical characters that populate epics and drama; the life of genius, those who achieve pure knowing and comprehend the Ideas by emancipating knowledge from its slavery to the will; and the empty longing of the bored. People, at very rare times, if ever, do find themselves close to one of the aforementioned extremes but rush back to the average everydayness of life (p 321).

    When observing an individual's life in its entirety, at a distance, it becomes a tragedy, and up close where the trivial facts are magnified, it is a comedy (WWR § 58 p 322). As for the self-conscious person reflecting upon him/herself, Schopenhauer adds that "as if fate wished to add mockery to the misery of our existence our life must contain all the woes of tragedy, and yet we cannot even assert the dignity of tragic characters, but.. Are inevitably the foolish characters of a comedy" (p 322).

    That life is essentially suffering is reflected in the great work of Dante Alleghri, Inferno, where he easily acquires material for his description of hell. Unsurprisingly, when it came to heaven, Dante found the attempt far too difficult, for there is no Paradise anywhere in existence. Instead, Dante fell back on the attempts of other saints and offered a botched composite.

    Schopenhauer also goes after optimism, and found it a "wicked way of thinking, a bitter mockery of the unspeakable sufferings of mankind" (WWR § 59 p 326). While it is true that entropy is irreversible, that nothing lasts forever, people live as if they will never die. Schopenhauer is remorseless when he insists the true and sole hope of humanity is to achieve the insight that existence, as an individual, is worthless. Despite being an atheist, Schopenhauer recognized the truth of the major religions (Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism) that ordinary existence is overrated, that their ascetic practices actually denies the purposeless will by stifling the desires and needs of the body. The ascetic is just one step away from self-renunciation, which is actually a more powerful version of the aesthetic experience that serves as a repose from the will. Once the tyranny of the desires of individuality is abandoned then one gains a viewpoint on the world that recognizes the fundamental unity between the subject and the external world. "The double sided world is the striving of the will to become conscious of itself so that, recoiling in horror at its inner, self divisive nature, it may annul itself and thereby its self affirmation and then reach salvation" (John Atwell). Prosaically stated, cognitive self-awareness turns into self-destruction.

    The first and most basic/primary affirmation of the will to live is the affirmation of the physical body, where the will manifests itself through action (WWR § 62 p 334). It follows that the principle morality of the majority is egoism, for their will to live predetermines the choices they make and conditions the actions. The concept of what is wrong describes when the individual extend the affirmation of his will far enough that it becomes the denial of the will in others. What is "right" is merely the negation of "wrong," which is original and positive. Ergo, what is right is merely the lack of denying another's will for the sake of the affirmation of one's own will (WWR § 62 p339).

    Temporal justice resides in the state, or precisely within its power of punishment, and is intended to prevent such actions from recurring in the future. The conception of retaliation implies time, and so, temporal justice is fundamentally concerned with the future. On the other hand, eternal justice is free from human institutions, free from chance or change, and "infallible, firm and certain" (WWR § 63 p 350).

    A person who lives in the moment, utterly within the folds of the veil of Maya, sees only phenomena, individual and particular objects, innumerable dichotomies: pleasure is distinct from pain, the murderer is distinguished from the victim, yet the person seeks justice or retribution. Mired within Maya, the superficial person, a prisoner of the will, is incapable of realizing that wickedness is actually an aspect of the will to live, for s/he thinks such evil must be opposed to nature. In other words, the veil of the Maya is the metaphysical underpinning of the principium individuationis, the principle of individuality.

    Yet at the bottom of his/her consciousness there lies an "obscure presentiment" that there is a connection between him/her and everything else, and this very connection inspires a "dread", a fateful terror that undermines their presumptuous individuality. Once the illusion of such temporal happiness and other temporary pleasures cracks and shatters, the global miseries and relentless suffering of life is grasped, and then the optimistic faith of redemption is finally exposed as a pretense, a very effective self-deception that is necessary for the will to live. Beneath the pretense, there are no dichotomies, for the will encompasses both pleasure and pain, both the sadist and the masochist, the tormentor and the prisoner, cause and effect, for it "buries its teeth in its own flesh". Schopenhauer notes the great insight of the Upanishads, where the formula for each individual is as follows: "tat tvam asi" (This art thou).

    Eternal justice surpasses the temporal limitations of phenomena, the particular instances of suffering, far beyond all individuality. While it remains inaccessible for most people, myth can translate the profound truth of eternal justice into native language, within the bounds of the PSR, in the form of religious teachings, especially those of Vedas and Buddhism. Christian ethics, in particular, indicates a special class of knowledge consisting of virtue and nobleness where retaliation is conspicuously absent. It is worth noting that "eternal justice" is often misunderstood and falsified by the individual once s/he fails to realize that the offender and the offended are one, and instead, desires to return the pain of the offended to the guilty party. Yet Schopenhauer is careful to detect a distinction between common revenge and the mania of retaliation that also stakes the individual's life with that of the perpetrator. The goal of common revenge aims at punishment in order to mitigate suffering, while the avenger goes far beyond self-love in order to prevent such outrageous acts from happening ever again (WWR § 64).

    Whatever is agreeable to the will and achieves its goals is considered as good. When something is taken as good, such as good food, good books, good weather, good people, we are indicating two things at once: agreeable, the immediate satisfaction of the will in each case, and useful, the delayed satisfaction that concerns the future (WWR § 65). When we call someone "just," we are identifying a person who, in the affirmation of his will, never denies the will that manifests itself in another person (WWR § 66).

    On the other hand, we attribute detrimental objects as bad, and in abstract cases, evil, when that object detracts from the striving of the will. When a person goes too far in the affirmation of his/her own will to live by denying the will in other individuals, and demands their abilities to serve his/her will or else they will be eliminated, he is called "bad," even though the source of such activity is egoism. The excess of affirming one's own will to live and the slavish devotion to one's own individuality that demarcates his/her own person from all others are "two fundamental elements of bad character" (WWR § 65).

    The wicked takes pleasure at the suffering of the others disinterestedly, and the extreme cases are instance of cruelty. The suffering of another is no longer a means to the ends of the malicious person, but an end in itself. Wickedness is similar to vengeance, but vengeance at least has the semblance of right, that if the same action of revenge is mandated by the law, and sanctioned by a society, then it would be just punishment.

    Despite the omnipresence of the veil of Maya, guilt or the pangs of conscience take place because deep within the consciousness of the person, s/he knows that everything is one, and the distinction between the sufferer and the tormentor is a superficial one, even though space and time separate him/her from all other individuals. Guilt is an "inward alarm" of the wicked's own actions, and contains a faint sentiment of the intensity of the will, of the potency of the death grip the wicked has on his own life, and, simultaneously, the recognition of the misery of the oppressed and that s/he remains a part of the same force that inflicts pain upon itself. The stronger the person's affirmation of life, the further s/he is from the surrender and denial of that self-same will.

    The person who offers help, support, and approval is considered as good, and relatively so. Nevertheless, when a person has a character of benevolence, friendliness and charity, on account of their choice of conduct to the will of others, they are also called good as well. Yet Schopenhauer does not consider "absolute good" as anything but a contradiction, for it is the highest good, the final satisfaction of the will where, once achieved, no new willing takes place, for the satisfaction has become imperishable. Once the will is satisfied, the cycle of desire and satisfaction restarts, and craving begins anew, making the "absolute good" an impossible fantasy.

    Schopenhauer insists that morality absent of reason is mere moralization, and persuades nobody. The only motivation comes from self-interest, but virtue never comes from such origins. Therefore, abstract knowledge can never produce authentic virtue. Faintly echoing Plato, the concept of virtue lacks the tangible effect of the intuitive knowledge, and virtue can never be taught. All abstract knowledge is capable of is identifying the motives, and perhaps redirect the will, but never the will itself.

    The only possible means of virtue is the reorganization that the inner nature of all individuals are the same. That is why there is no difference between the pious inquisitor who burns the heretic and the assassin who earns his pay by killing a high profile target. People delude themselves with customs and dogmas as the chief reason behind their deeds, but good actions are exceedingly rare, for they do originate in a "direct and intuitive knowledge that cannot be... arrived at by reason" (WWR § 66 p 370). Here, Schopenhauer admits the limits of philosophy and claims that the concept can only express the conduct in the abstract, but never supply the intuitive knowledge itself. More interestingly, Schopenhauer shrewdly points out that since it isn't necessary for a sculptor to be beautiful in order to create beautiful art, nor isn't it necessary for the moralist to possess the very virtue he theorizes, and the philosopher doesn't have to be a saint. I leave the ironic conclusion for the reader to draw him/herself.

    Whereas the wicked is incapable of seeing past the distinction between himself and another, the altruist immediately recognizes that his individuality is a "fleeting, deceptive phantom" (WWR, § 66 p 372) and intuitively knows that his essence (inner being) is the same as that of others, and extends this "essence" to all other living creatures. Thus, he will refrain from causing suffering to anyone, and forgo himself comfort and pleasures in order to alleviate the sufferings of others. The veil of Maya does not deceive the just, for he recognizes himself in every creature.

    Good conscience is the satisfaction felt at the completion of a disinterested action, which takes place only with the recognition that one's own inner being in itself is also another's. If egoism merely limits the interests to the phenomenon of a particular individual, then shared inner being enlarges the interests to all living things, and nurtures a calm and serene perspective. The egoist will be suspicious of everything, and puts everything in one basket - his/her well-being - and constantly be anxious. Therefore, the direct path to salvation is the formula of the Veda - "this art thou!"

    Love is essentially compassion and nothing else. The Italians call pure love pieta, which is also the word for sympathy. Unlike Kant, who claimed that all good and virtue originate in abstract reflection (duty and categorical imperative) compassion is the sincere participation in the other's suffering and includes the disinterested sacrifices required. Schopenhauer distances himself from Kant when he argues moral laws are not independent of institutions and customs.

    Schopenhauer defines "weeping" not as a positive instance of pain, but sympathy with ourselves, when we cry we are repeating the pain during reflection. "Thus we pass from the felt pain, even when it is physical, to a mere mental picture ...of it; then we find our own state so deserving of sympathy that, if another were the sufferer, we are firmly and sincerely convinced that we would be full of sympathy and love to help him" (WWR § 67 p 376).

    The difference between the egoist who is wedded to the principium individuationis and the person who is aware of the inner nature of everything is that the former knows only particular objects and their relations to him/herself, and renews motives of his/her will, and the latter quiets the will by shuddering at the pleasures that affirms life and turns away (WWR § 68 p 379). Most of us desire the end of such suffering, but the veil of Maya is very potent, for its illusion of hopes and pleasure restarts the cycle of the will and traps us. Those of us who are no longer fooled by temporary reprieves will withdraw from the vicious circle and denies the inner nature of all things by becoming an ascetic. In this renunciation, the ascetic stops willing, resists bodily impulses of thirst, hunger, sex, avoid making new attachments, and becomes utterly indifferent to everything.

    The first stage of asceticism is found in the Gospels, where we are commanded to love others as we love ourselves, return hatred with good actions, patience and the endurance of all insults and injuries without resistance. At the next stage, the Christian saints and mystics added complete resignation, voluntary poverty and utter indifference to all earthy matters, which will resolve in the annihilation of the will while in the throes of the contemplation of God. Meister Eckhart's Theologia Germanica is a profound example of the denial of the will-to-live. However, a more sophisticated example is found in the Vedas, Puranas, and other poetical works of Hindu literature where the love of others is extended to all life, resistance to animal food, and, among others, a "deep unbroken solitude spent in silent contemplation with voluntary penance and terrible slow self-torture for the complete mortification of the will..." (WWR § 68 p 388).

    That the biographies of the saints are full of conflicts, temptations, and failure should reflect the fact that their struggle with the will to live is a perpetual one, a constant wrestling match with the indefatigable force of the universe. Usually, these sort of enchanting temptations are seen as the devil's snares, and the more intense the will is, the more obvious the conflict, and thus, the more profound the suffering. However, if and only if the sufferer stops and observes the entirety of his life as a series of sufferings, and goes beyond the surface level where those individual sufferings were caused, from the individual to the universal where his pain is merely an instance of the whole, he is brought to resignation and becomes revered.

    Schopenhauer insists that this portrait is no "philosophical fable", but the actual inner, direct and intuitive knowledge of the great saints of Christians and the distinctive Hindus and Buddhists, despite the superficial differences between their dogmas. Therefore, the conduct of the ascetic comes from their intuitive grasp, not their professed dogmas. Although there is a huge chasm between this intuitive knowledge and the abstract kind, philosophy can bridge such and only the philosopher can articulate the concrete truths of intuition in abstractions, through reflection (WWR § 68 p 383).

    Suicide, Schopenhauer is careful to note, is not identical with resignation, for it is actually an instance of the affirmation of the will. Where resignation gives up the pleasures of the will, rather than its sorrows, the suicide is expressing dissatisfaction with the conditions of his/her life and ends his/her own life. Since the thing-in-itself is not affected, and suicide is merely the termination of the life of an individual, Schopenhauer considers it a futile and foolish act. (WWR § 69 p 400) Since the individual cannot stop willing or stop suffering, he quits life. Yet the act of suicide actually affirms the will itself. The only thing that can abolish the will is knowledge, which means the road to salvation is the unchecked manifestation of the will for the sake of discovering the inner nature of phenomena.

    Although freedom belongs only to the will itself, and not phenomena, once the will arrives at the knowledge of its own inner nature, it gains a 'quieter' and that eliminates motivations or at least subsumes them into the background. Even though the self-suppression of the will comes from knowledge, yet the denial of the will cannot be planned. This great insight comes from out of the blue instead, and as the actual example of the freedom of the will it transforms the individual's entire inner nature, and turns him/her into a new person. Here, Schopenhauer applauds the Catholic Church's distinction of grace or salvation and the natural man. Where Adam as the affirmation of the will forever cursed everyone with original sin as suffering and death, Christ symbolizes the freedom of sin as the denial of the will to live. Thus, we ought to interpret Christ not as the individual in the Gospels, but as the universal personification of the quieter (WWR § 70 p 405).

    Schopenhauer closes the first volume with an objection that he cannot redress: the denial of the will is a transition from existence to nothingness (WWR § 71 p 409). He asserts that the idea of nothing is relative, and is a reference to a particular something that it negates. Of course, the idea of an absolute nothing cannot even be conceived. Therefore, the idea of nothing is always a relation to something else.

    The permanent solution to misery is once there is a naked, honest and complete awareness of the abject wretchedness of life the person loses the desire for existence and gratification. This takes place with the saint or ascetic who doesn't have any concerns with life or prosperity. The will to live, through him, has denied itself, or is greatly reduced to a faint whisper that no longer maintains a concept of reality composed of spatiotemporal objects. Upon his death, this whisper will vanish as well as the world/reality of his consciousness. Therefore, since this concept of world/reality is merely the Will's delusional artifact of itself, it comes to an end once the Will ceases to desire.

    Yet even if I, as a manifestation of the will, including reality-for-me, vanishes upon death, irrespective of achieving the level of the ascetic, the Will continues in the life of others. Then, given the ascetic's death, his particular grade of Will expires, whereas the ordinary Joe's death does not entail the expiration of his grade of Will. Therefore, suicide is pointless and self-defeating, for it is a superficial complaint about the current conditions based on one particular grade of Will. If all men became ascetics, will everything cease? Sometimes, Schopenhauer seems to hint that something inconceivable to most excepting the ascetic (mystical contemplation) will be left. Schopenhauer admits that whatsoever remains after the complete abolition of the will is nothing. Yet, the same also goes for those where the will has turned against itself - "this very real world of ours with all its suns and galaxies, is - nothing" (WWR § 70 p 412).[

    Appendix: Critique of Kantian metaphysics

    Schopenhauer devoted the final section of the first volume to a thorough critique of Kantian metaphysics. The critique was intended in order to highlight the greatness of Kant and the quote by Voltaire said it all: It is the privilege of true genius, and especially genius who opens up a new path, to make great mistakes with impunity. Plato and the Hindu are the other intellectual muses, but Kant is the chief golden calf Schopenhauer genuflects before in the majority of the World as Will and Representation, and at the end of the book, he wields the hammer of Uru to clear away the rusty flakes. It is much easier to point out the faults and errors in the work of a great mind than to give a clear and complete exposition of its value (WWR p 415).

    Interestingly, Schopenhauer often laments Kant's decision to edit his great work, The Critique of Pure Reason, in an overreaction to the charges of naïve idealism. As explained in Book I, representation is compatible with Kant's transcendental idealism, where the spatial, temporal forms are how the objects in experience are (re)presented, and the basic structure of the concepts we think and judge with and the category of causality are the reflection of the structure of our perception or concept of reality. Nonetheless, when Kant argued that TI prevents us from having any knowledge of the thing-in-itself, Schopenhauer disagreed and insisted that our experience of willing is actually the mode of access to the nature of reality that complements our spatial/temporal/causal framework for representing objects.

    The chief reason for the disagreement between Kant and Schopenhauer lie with their choices of method: Schopenhauer agreed with Kant to the extent that we do have transcendental knowledge of the fundamental conditions of experience, but did not share in Kant's convictions that transcendental knowledge is dependent on transcendental proofs or arguments. That is why Schopenhauer says we are not bound by Kant's conclusions about the limits of knowledge and advocated a more practical method that dances close to Hume's empiricism and Husserl's phenomenology where direct experience indicates a dual approach to understanding it: the representations of spatiotemporal objects, and the capacity to will. Kant's method of discovering the fundamental principles of knowledge as a special sort of reflection is mistaken, for we can know this through direct and immediate scrutiny of our experience.

    "An essential difference between Kant's method and that which I follow is to be found in the fact that he starts from indirect, reflected knowledge, whereas I start from direct and intuitive knowledge. He is comparable to a person who measures the height of a tower from its shadow; but I am like one who applies the measuring rod directly to the tower itself." (WWR I pp 452-453)

    Thus Schopenhauer's transcendental philosophy dispenses with transcendental proofs. Schopenhauer continues: "Philosophy, therefore is for [Kant], a science of concepts but for me a science in concepts, drawn from the knowledge of perception, the only source of all evidence and set down and fixed in universal concepts" (ibid, p 453). Once Kant abandoned the realm of perception, he errs magnificently especially when he insisted that all the abstract categories of logical theory must be present in our knowledge of objects.

    The main charge Schopenhauer lies at Kant's feet is the complete lack of any distinction between abstract and discursive knowledge and intuitive knowledge (WWR I p 473). Yet, later on Schopenhauer then criticizes Kant for making that very distinction. Recall the famous dictum, "thoughts without content are empty; intuition without concepts are blind", which means there is no possible cognition of objects unless the two are combined. Schopenhauer says Kant blundered by bringing "thinking into perception", meaning an object is not perceived meaningfully until it is thought. Nevertheless, we do not think in order to see an object, for no reflection is required at all. Yet Kant actually says that the concept emerges spontaneously, not deliberately.

    Schopenhauer is quick to dismiss Kant's categories as a sham; given the sole function of the understanding is causality. Moreover, Schopenhauer argued that all twelve categories are reducible to causality. This seems problematic, for we cannot think about causality without the notion of substance. The thought of something being caused already includes a substance of some kind. We are also incapable of thinking of causality without the assumption that all substances must behave in the same way under the same circumstances. we cannot think of causality without having the notion of quality. One could argue that Schopenhauer did not reject the categories altogether, but instead he took causation as the function that connects separate perceptions of distinct objects, a function that conditions perception of objects. The categories or the capacity of making judgments is secondary to perception because they are aspects of reason, which is in itself entirely parasitical on the originary cognitive activity of perception.

    Animals do have knowledge of objects via perception, despite lacking the ability of making judgments. Therefore the forms of judgments are structured by reflection, a secondary cognitive activity.

    "Forms of categorical judgment is nothing but the form of the judgment in general", i.e., the form of the abstract expression of the knowledge of objects, which is founded on perception. "Disjunctive judgments spring from the law of thought of the excluded middle... therefore entirely the property of reason." (WWR I p 459) They show the basic form of the activity of comparing objects in the abstract. Schopenhauer concludes that all forms of judgments and the categories are the inherent structures of the activity of abstract thought, to which Kant might have conceded that the expression of abstraction is secondary to perception of the object, but he would have argued that we are capable of making judgments because of the synthetic nature of our conscious perception of objects - that which forms sensations as well as the conceptual structure.

    Schopenhauer's most enduring criticism of Kantian philosophy is on causation. For Kant, the knowledge of the determinate temporal order of objective states of affairs depends on the knowledge of causal laws, whereas for Schopenhauer the knowledge of the temporal succession is independent of any such condition because it is already immediately given. This issue about the relation between the phenomenology of our experience of temporal order and the transcendental conditions of our experience remains unresolved today.

    The Kantian scholar Paul Guyer indicated (in The Cambridge Companion to Schopenhauer) three of Schopenhauer's objections to Kant's treatment of causality, that it marginalizes immediate perceptual knowledge for the sake of conceptual elements of the understanding:

    1. The sequence of perceptions are events and our knowledge of the sequence of these perceptions cannot and do not depend on the causal laws that entails change in these represented objects.
    2. The knowledge of the succession of states of affairs contain some earlier events that did not cause the later ones, so, the knowledge of succession does not depend on the knowledge of causality.
    3. Kant's treatment of causation: Schopenhauer said that if the knowledge of temporal succession wasn't immediate, but actually depends on the knowledge of the laws that determine the speed and timing of those successions, then we must have nearly unlimited knowledge of the causal laws.

    Guyer defends against the first two objections to rest on a misunderstanding of Kant's argument, and a failure of distinguishing between the phenomenological method and Kant's transcendental method. Nevertheless, he admits that a reconstruction of Kant's position must deal with the aforementioned third objection.


    The philosophy is, of course, not free from criticism, and the following instances are among the best.

    The mathematical critique:

    The will is supposedly "singular", or more precisely uncountable because numbers in arithmetic, which is an operation of the intellect, apply solely to the world of appearances. This limitation implies that numbers are inapplicable to the essence of reality. Now, since the Will is uncountable or numbers are inapplicable then it does not follow that it is singular. Schopenhauer could have said that since causality does not apply to reality itself, then it can no longer be considered as the "cement of the universe" and that the unity of the cosmos does not depend on the external relations between its components. Other philosophers have attacked the singular conception of the will. In Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche points out that the very word "will" is merely a concept that implies unity-as-a-word, while referring to something very complicated - a plurality of sensations, often conflicting and struggling - that either affirms or negate. A thousand pinpricks of quanta fluctuating at all times...

    Knowledge of the will via inner sense:

    If the thing-in-itself is will, and we know this through "inner sense" given that there are less phenomenal forms between the thing-in-itself and the knowing subject, then this presupposes that a lower number of phenomena reveals the true nature of reality better or truer than a higher number. Schopenhauer does realize this difficulty in his later writings.

    Moral judgment of existence:

    Another problem is the entire metaphysical interpretation of existence as will: it seems plausible that an alternative rendition could be cast differently, where the will is not necessarily an evil force, but a dynamic force of power, of difference, something worth affirming. Instead of the solitary hermit who starves himself into unconsciousness, the brave and the defiant warrior who struggles against the overwhelming odds of fate could actually withstand the heaviest burden, a Sisyphean hero who pauses and wipes his brow. Affirmation as the inverted attitude of pessimism remains possible, even if the will is insatiable as the present is a continuous vanishing. Schopenhauer is easy prey for Nietzsche's criticisms, where the fatal error of subjecting existence to a moral judgment has merely repeated the error of the past metaphysicians. "A pessimist who negates both God and world but stops before morality - who affirms morality and plays his flute, affirms laede neminem morality: excuse me? Is this really - a pessimist?"

    Music as the copy of the will:

    Could the copy of something so purposeless and evil ever be anything but the same? How can music possess an anesthetic quality that "quiets" the raging torrent, when it is already a copy of that inferno? Perhaps Schopenhauer should not have eliminated the representation aspect of art when it comes to music.


    There are two readings of a text: the surface, where the actual words of the text are analyzed, and the symptomatic, where the problematic that enlighten or regulate the actual meaning of the text is identified and clarified. The text's problematic is the horizon of the text, of its thoughts, the "forms in which problems must be posed". This horizon is the limit of the language and the concepts that were available for Schopenhauer at a certain historical period. What makes symptomatic readings very insightful is its transcendental status, for the problematic constitutes the definite condition of the possibility of the theoretical structure of the text. Schopenhauer was limited to the concepts and the language that is derived from the problematic that was already present.

    However, given the mastery of the German language and the relentless precision of the thought, identifying what Schopenhauer meant by looking at what he did not say seems a fruitless exercise. As a "thoroughly explicit writer", Schopenhauer maximized the style and the significance of his language in order to deliver the philosophy. In the introduction to Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, George Simmel is correct that a "creative interpretation" of Schopenhauer is not possible, unlike Kant, Spinoza and Leibniz and others.

    Volume 2 contains more technical elaborations and extensions. There are several reasons why Schopenhauer's philosophy is breathtaking and a fascinating reprieve from the staid and stodgy crap peddled in the universities. He wrote very clear, simple, directly, and never without force, always animated and suffused with personality. On top of such loquacity, he also was erudite, possessing a remarkable grasp of the classics. Schopenhauer arrived at the same conclusions as the eastern thinkers but through the road of the western philosophers, and was the very first to actually represent their insights to the western audience but clothed in the garb of philosophy rather than mystic balderdash. The philosophy's central concern was with existence, the tragedies and the problems of life, which is far more significant than the scholastic quibbles of ivory tower residents. Instead of chickening out like most thinkers by painting an all-harmonious portrait of the universe that resolved the petty differences into a shallow smudge, Schopenhauer took the actual sufferings of people seriously, all the brief instances of passions, emotions, all the eating, the fighting, the drinking, etc. He corrected the mistakes of the last great thinker, Kant and made several advances beyond his epistemology by claiming that inner experience is the key to knowing the thing-in-itself. Schopenhauer replaced Kant's labyrinthiine program of concepts with a plausible model of the understanding: the principle of sufficient reason. The theory of aesthetic seems more penetrating than those of the other philosophers, except probably Nietzsche's, and possibly because he did not succumb to the temptation of reducing art to superficial functionalism. Schopenhauer's sense of morality and philosophy of religion retains much of the insights of the major religions, yet he was a staunch atheist, and the first of all philosophers to be openly so. The previous ones, Hobbes and Hume, could not afford such political suicide, so they kept quiet or spoke cryptically. Most importantly, the pessimist's philosophy anticipates a great deal of Darwin and Freud and Einstein, where he recognized that nature always favored the species over the individual (because the species is everything and the individual, nothing), that the sexual impulse was omnipotent, that the consciousness was a latecomer to the scene of evolution - just the tip of the iceberg of the psyche - and that everything in the universe is fundamentally a force, since energy and matter are indistinguishable at the subatomic level. Finally, Arthur Schopenhauer was none other than the greatest philosophical influence of the two major thinkers of the 20th century, Nietzsche and Wittgenstein. In order to understand both, we must read Schopenhauer.

    After completing the first edition, Schopenhauer summed up the reception of his book: "I dispatch [the world as will] calmly resigned to the fact that it, too, will fully endure the fate which truth has suffered at all times, with only a brief victory celebration between the two prolonged periods where it is condemned as paradoxical and disparaged as trivial" (Preface, first edition). The paradox is that in his era the metaphysicians of the absolute actually resurrected the thing-in-itself and, in doing so, they regressed from the transcendental critique to transcendent sophisms. Instead, Schopenhauer turns from transcendental philosophy but away from transcendence and towards a nihilistic conclusion where existence, or being, is essentially the blind will, utterly purposeless. The triviality is the obvious reductionism of the natural sciences where nothing lies beneath the phenomenal world, and Schopenhauer's discovery of the metaphysical answer, the will, is all-too-often misunderstood.

    In closing, I leave you with the words of the "Last German": "A philosophy in between the pages of which one does not hear the tears, the weeping, the gnashing of teeth and the terrible din of mutual universal murder is no philosophy."
    Teaser Paragraph: Publish Date: 06/08/2006 Article Image:
    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 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...)
    Teaser Paragraph: Publish Date: 06/01/2006 Article Image:
    By /index.php?/user/8-davidm/">David Misialowski (2006)

    In 1880 Vincent Van Gogh, 27 years old, decided to become an artist. It was a strange decision, because by that age most people either already are artists, or never will be.

    But Van Gogh needed something to do. He had failed at everything else he had tried, most recently the occupation of preacher. His superiors had discharged him, not because they found him insufficiently pious but too zealous in spreading the Good News. Among other things, he had given away all his possessions. No one could figure out where he had got this crazy idea.

    Because Van Gogh started drawing and painting so late in life, and because he had no money, he didn't have the luxury of attending a hoity-toity art school to learn the correct way to draw. He was almost entirely self-taught, though he did have a few unfortunate brushes with formal instruction. One such was under his cousin by marriage, Anton Mauve, for whom the color is named. Mauve, recognizing the clumsiness of Vincent's early attempts at rendering the human figure, encouraged him to draw and paint from plaster casts. But Vincent didn't want to paint from plaster. He wanted to paint from flesh. When Mauve insisted on the point, it is said, Vincent snatched up the casts and dashed them against a wall, breaking them to pieces. Shortly thereafter, his tutelage under Mauve ended.

    A few years later, though, after a long stretch painting what he would later call "brown gravy pictures" in Holland, a period that culminated with his ungainly masterwork The Potato Eaters, a painting that everyone hated, Van Gogh decided he needed to work harder to master the human form. Before moving to Paris to live with his brother Theo, who financially supported him, he enrolled at an academy in Antwerp at which students were taught the correct way to draw. Here, Van Gogh worked from live models and from the plaster casts that he had formerly disdained. The students were required as if they were human Xerox machines to slavishly reproduce what was put in front of them, presumably because such machines had not yet been invented. A tyrant presided over the drawing sessions, slashing to ribbons with a pencil those drawings that deviated in the slightest from the canons of academic classicism. The tyrant terrified the students, and in his presence, as he slashed up their drawings to "correct" them, the artists were reduced to quivering blobs of insensate protoplasm.

    Inevitably, one night the tyrant met Vincent Van Gogh.

    The story goes that Van Gogh was drawing from a plaster cast, but he was not paying the slightest attention to getting the drawing "right." Instead, he was vigorously, even grotesquely, exaggerating the midsection of the cast, which was of a female nude. The tyrant hovered over him for a few moments, and then leaned forward and began slashing up Vincent's drawing to make it "right." People held their breath, waiting for Vincent to be reduced to a blob of insensate protoplasm in the lordly presence of the estimable master.

    Instead, Van Gogh leapt to his feet and bellowed, "You idiot! Don't you know anything about women? A woman must have hips, and a pelvis, in order to carry a child!"

    It is said that the tyrant who had terrified generations of art students ran, terrified, from the room. And with him, it might be said, he took the baggage of three or four hundred years of Western art, the canons that had made art increasingly a dead thing in the hands of terrified human Xerox machines.

    It's hard to verify historical anecdotes and the above story could be partly apocryphal, but it's probably true at least in its broad outlines. Evidently it made quite an impression those who witnessed the scene, as did Vincent himself, with his fiery red hair and beard to go with his tempestuous temperament. So Van Gogh was making the hips too big. He wasn't being "correct." But what is correct in the visual arts? Is there even such a thing, or is it a made-up concept? And did Van Gogh's hip rebellion represent anything new? No, indeed. Long before either the tyrant or Vincent came along, prehistoric people made these statues:

    What's more, long before the canons of academic classicism had ossified into inflexible dogma, ossifying the art world with it, the old masters were paying no attention to "correct" drawing in the academic sense. Van Gogh knew this even before he became a painter. He had been an art dealer (a profession at which he had flopped, partly because he tried to persuade people not to buy the pictures he was charged with selling, finding them inferior) and he knew, for example, that Michelangelo took vast liberties with the human form, sacrificing correctness of drawing for the drama of visual expressiveness. When critics, including his own brother, chastised Vincent for the liberties that he had taken with the human form in the Potato Eaters, he wrote:

    "Tell him that I should be in despair if my figures were 'correct,' in academic terms. I don't want them to be 'correct.' Real artists paint things not as they are, in a dry analytical way, but as they feel them. I adore Michelangelo's figures, though the legs are too long and the hips and backsides too large. What I most want to do is to make of these incorrectnesses, deviations, remodelings, or adjustments of reality something that may be 'untrue' but is at the same time more true than literal truth."

    Consider the following Michelangelo work:

    I think that fellow on the right wouldn't even be allowed to play in the NFL, on the grounds that he would pose a threat to the health of the competition. In fact, I think that fellow on the right is supposed to be a woman (Michelangelo had problems drawing the female form.)

    Consider El Greco:

    Those elongated figures are reminiscent of the old comic book Plastic Man.

    Of course, what was happening in the art world at this time was much bigger than the simple issue of Van Gogh drawing the human torso the way that primitives had carved it, or his desire (and the desire of other artists) to reintroduce expressiveness and drama to the visual arts. The world was in ferment. The Industrial Revolution was fragmenting cultures and ways of life that had been stable for hundreds of years. Europe had been shattered by wars and revolution. Many artists felt that the old art was losing its relevance in such a world, and that it was long overdue for a shakeup. Consider the following painting from 1811 by Ingres, Jupiter and Thetis:

    Now Ingres was a very great artist but to modern eyes, this painting probably seems slightly ridiculous, if not ludicrous. There is currently a retrospective of Ingres at the Louvre, and in his review of it, The New York Times art critic Michael Kimmelman wrote of the above, "at least it had kinky sex going for it." But Kimmelman then made a deeper point, which is that time was passing Ingres by, and in so doing it was fatally undermining the dogmas of academic painting. Many painters in the 19th century were asking themselves what their art was for. One can almost imagine one of them saying, "My painter friend, X, just got his eyes shot out of his head in (Insert War or Revolution of your choice here). And I'm supposed to devote my life to studying art so that I can paint mammoth pictures of a mythological character with his arm draped around a cloud while some harlot is playing with his beard?" In short, the new generation of artists wanted to know whether their art was relevant to the new world in which they lived. As Kimmelman noted in his Times review of the Ingres show, "The future then was the art of real life."

    Of course, artists of the time painted "real life," and not just fantasy canvases like the Ingres work, but it was a curious kind of "reality." It was done in studio settings, and it generally involved idealizing or romanticizing subjects. Portraiture was expected to flatter. Artists didn't seem themselves as telling or uncovering truths, but in some other way. The idea of art as a vehicle to truth, or to some approximation of truth, was one that lay in the future. But it was coming.

    Undoubtedly accelerating this change was the invention of photography, which meant that for the first time in history two-dimensional images from real life could be captured in some way other than by the brush, the pencil, the hunk of charcoal. As the century progressed artists began to test limits and ask questions: Why must we try to slavishly reproduce what is put before us, especially since, strictly, this is impossible to do anyway? Who says we must paint in a studio setting? What is the point of painting, over and over, religious themes or works that avoid the nasty side of life, like the plight of peasants or that of the urban poor? Why must we restrict our color palette to those used by the Old Masters? And so on.

    Rebellion was in the air. Van Gogh adored Millet, who painted peasants, and one of his favorite works by Millet was this one, of a man sowing the fields:

    But in the eyes of today, eyes schooled by modernity, even this picture that Van Gogh so admired, iconic as it is, can seem to come off as a bit overly idealized, a bit stagy. Van Gogh, though he never would have believed this, was simply a better artist - a better originator - than his hero Millet. Or, perhaps to put it another way, he was more authentic. Here are some Van Gogh peasants, from his early period of "brown-gravy" pictures:

    What is so striking about these images is that, with the possible exception of the second one, Van Gogh is making no effort to beautify or idealize or fantasize or gussy up his subjects. We now have a new conception (or so it would have seemed to Europe at the time): that art doesn't have to be beautiful. Perhaps, Van Gogh seems to be telling us, it is more important that it be authentic. Thus we can perhaps draw a distinction between the so-called "realism" of the academic painters, and the authenticity that Van Gogh and some others at this time were striving for. It was as if these painters were saying to the academics: "Your precious realism is as unreal as it gets."

    At the same time there is an irony here, for art (and the world) was changing even faster than the rebels like Van Gogh knew. It seems that Van Gogh, who as I've mentioned failed as a preacher, had a kind of "social documentary" idea about art when he started out, motivated by religious impulses: Had he lived a century later, he might have made films documenting the plight of society's outsiders and the poor. It appears that Van Gogh had to be exposed to the Impressionists - who were revolutionizing the use of color by the simple expedient of painting out of doors, on the spot - and to the art of the Japanese, for him to realize that painting "social documentary" works of peasants and laborers had its own severe limitations. For if it was true that at the time of Ingres the future of art lay in painting from real life, by the time of Van Gogh the future was already elsewhere. The future would be abstract and nonrepresentational, with the pictorial imagination unbridled. It would repudiate the basis of the Western canon.

    Thus, Van Gogh's great contribution to art was not in his "brown gravy" paintings of peasants, curious and powerful as many of them are. Had he died immediately after completing the Potato Eaters, he would have ended up a relatively minor figure in art history. No, his gift to the world of art would be the liberation of color. And while Van Gogh was moving in that direction, another gifted painter, almost precisely the opposite of Van Gogh in temperament and ambition, Paul Cezanne, was in the process of liberating form. It is hard to imagine what modern art would have looked like had Van Gogh and Cezanne never lived. Picasso, great as he was, probably could not have invented cubism without the influence of Cezanne, and cubism proved to be the expressway to the nonrepresentational art that dominated so much of the 20th century. And the colorist upheavals of the 20th century, starting with the Fauves ("wild beasts") and culminating in Abstract Expressionism, were gestated by the color symphonies of Van Gogh, particularly those works that he produced in his glory year of 1888 in Arles, France, when he put the very disc of the sun on canvass and proclaimed that he had finally "hit the high yellow note."

    I'll look at what Van Gogh and Cezanne really did in future installments, and also talk about Impressionism and other art trends of the late 19th century. But before closing this essay, I should mention one more modern art pioneer of the period, Paul Gauguin. His work was remarkable, but not as influential as either Van Gogh's or Cezanne's. And while I should (and will, later) give him his due, I can't resist mentioning him now in connection with another anecdote, which involves yet another of Van Gogh's unfortunate "brushes with instruction."

    In 1888, when Van Gogh was in the full flower of his powerful and revolutionary color-art inventions, Gauguin moved in with Vincent in his yellow house in Arles and immediately took it up on himself to "instruct" Van Gogh, whom he regarded as immature but amendable to reason. Van Gogh might have learned a little from Gauguin, but price of the lesson was dear. The disputatious Vincent got so wrought up by Gauguin's "instruction" that one night he cut off the lower portion of his left ear, carefully gift-wrapped it and then presented it to his favorite hooker at the Arles brothel. In retrospect, it was probably not a good idea to try and tutor Vincent.
    Teaser Paragraph: Publish Date: 05/04/2006 Article Image:
    By David Misialowski (2006)

    In the third chapter of his dissertation, Robert considers the Molinist solution to the alleged foreknowledge/free will incompatibility. It is proposed that God has Middle Knowledge, which lies roughly between God's natural knowledge (of all necessary truths and possible truths) and free knowledge (of what God Himself will freely do, and hence the actual conditions of His creation). As Robert explains, this supposed new type of knowledge is intended to make it possible for God to be omniscient and for agents to be free. The concept of middle knowledge introduces the concept of counterfactuals.

    The idea, roughly, is that while God knows what I will do at some particular time in some particular scenario, he also has counterfactual knowledge of what I would have done had I been placed in a different set of circumstances. Apparently this is intended to preserve free will on the ground that depending on the particular scenario, I can freely choose my response. God just knows, given any particular scenario, what I would, or wouldn't, do.

    There is an extensive literature on Molinism, which was forumulated by the Spanish Jesuit Luis Molina. What Molinism boils down to, though, is this: The Molinist wishes to say that the formulation, If God knows I will do p, then I will do p, is wrong; rather it is correct to say: If I do p, then God knows I will do p; where I do p freely.

    This is, of course, the point I have argued for all along. So I agree with the Molinist take insofar as it embraces the content of God's foreknowledge as a semantic but non-caused result of human free will.

    As I have tried to argue, rightly or wrongly, well or badly, modern interpretations of modal logic can give us a lot of confidence in the claim that, If I do p, then God knows I will do p, where I do p freely. Molina, though, did not have access to those logical arguments, and it seems that he felt compelled to elucidate a big superstructure of ideas to accommodate his (correct) intuition that God's infallible foreknowledge entailed nothing, but instead was entailed by the free acts of moral agents. One of the reasons he felt obligated to do this was that, in addition to making God's omniscience compatible with human freedom and moral responsibility, he wished to preserve God's sovereignty, the notion that God, so to say, ruled the world, and no scenario played out without his willing it. At this point the Molinist doctrine seems to go adrift (at least that is my impression), but this doesn't worry me because I am not concerned with God's sovereignty, or for that matter, with whether God exists at all. (Maybe I should note that I am an agnostic atheist and Robert is an agnostic theist, so perhaps we make good bookends.) I'm currently only concerned with the logical problem of some essentially omniscient agent (who might not even be God) coexisting with human freedom. To the extent that Molinism goes beyond the flat claim that human free acts determine God's foreknowledge, I find Molinism superfluous.

    Nevertheless it is interesting because it raises curious questions about counterfactual conditionals that I will briefly examine.

    Before getting to that, however, let's look at this issue of making God's sovereignty and our freedom work together. How does Molinism try to do this?

    It does this by positing the idea that in addition to knowing what I will freely do given some particular scenario, God also knows what I would freely do in every possible (though not actualized) scenario; i.e. God knows the truth value of all counterfactual conditionals. To return to my ongoing example - the case in which I kill my neighbor because he subjected me to the repetitive barrage of Night Fever by the Bee Gees - God knew, even before He created the world, that should I be placed in the particular scenario of besiegement by the Bee Gees, then I would kill my neighbor in retaliation for his subjecting me to that besiegement. But this raises a potential problem, as Robert notes in his dissertation: "How does it follow that I make a choice in a scenario freely, if my choice is determined by the scenario I am in and yet I do not get to choose my scenario?"

    From the standpoint of modal logic that we have considered, the fact that I did not get to choose my scenario might or might not be a problem. But for the Molinist, it is important that God choose the scenario, because this ability to choose preserves God's sovereignty. In essence, according to the Molinist, God knows, in advance of His creation of the universe, every logically possible outcome of every scenario; and then He chooses to actualize a single universe - one that includes, among a fabulous wealth of detail, a scenario in which my neighbor bombards me with Bee Gees bombast, and I return the favor by (freely) killing him.

    Here's the problem: What grounds God's infallible foreknowledge of counterfactual conditionals? Well, God is God, and so knows all things. But how can even God know the outcome of events in worlds that do not, and did not ever, exist? This raises the general problem of what provides the truthmaker of counterfactual statements. But however daunting the problem might be, it seems the Molinist must argue for God's infallible foreknowledge of the outcome of all counterfactual conditionals, because unless God possessed this kind of knowledge, then His creation of the actual world would be a kind of crap shoot. How would God know, for instance, that the world He actually created was the best of all possible worlds (assuming that this was His goal) unless He also knew what all other possible worlds would be like?

    The logical problem of treating counterfactuals was not well understood in Molina's time, but it has to do with the weakness of standard propositional logic in dealing with non-instantiated events. A summary explanation may be found in Christopher G. Small's Reflections on Godel's Ontological Argument, which is the subject of a thread in the Explore Forum. Small writes:

    The weakness of propositional logic in formulating counterfactual arguments is one of the main reasons for modal propositional logic. As is well known, the statement x -->y that x implies y, is formally equivalent to the statement (x)vy. Thus a false statement can be said to imply any statement at all, regardless of its truth value. So in propositional logic the statement "If Rome had not fallen, then computers would be using Roman numerals today" is in a certain sense true if truth values are assigned naively, because the antecedent is false.

    It is beyond the scope of this reply (and perhaps also beyond my current competence) to discuss in detail modal and propositional logic, but in his dissertation Robert raises the challenge of what is called modal realism, sometimes also known as extreme modal realism, which was introduced in the late 20th century by the philosopher David K. Lewis. Modal realism presents new challenges (threats?) to Molinism and even to standard belief in God. I will briefly to examine those challenges.

    Lewis proposed that there is an elegant solution to the problem of what makes counterfactual statements true. The truthmaker of counterfactual statements is that counterfactual statements are true at concrete worlds that are not actual worlds. That is, these worlds are not actual to us, inhabitants of this world (those of us who are exchanging views at The Galilean Library, for example). But the worlds that are counterfactual from our perspective are actual from the standpoint of the inhabitants of those worlds. As Robert writes in his dissertation:

    The Lewisian account of possible worlds (genuine possible world realism) proposes that 'actuality' is modally indexical. Hence, rather than there being one world that is the actual world, and perhaps other worlds that are merely logically possible, each world is, from the perspective of the world's inhabitants, actual. My doppelganger in his world and I in my world may both accurately declare "I am part of the actual world" despite uttering our statements from different worlds. Genuine possible world realism also proposes that worlds are causally and spatiotemporally isolated from one another.

    Lewisian worlds exist in what might be called Logic Space. Hence, under this thesis, it follows that all logically possible events, outcomes or entities are actual somewhere in Logic Space. Since it is logically possible that talking donkeys exist, then talking donkeys do in fact exist (just not in our world).

    It has been famously noted that Lewis's hypothesis, when grasped, generally elicits "the incredulous stare". Of course, since these worlds (of which their potentially seems to be infinitely many) are causually and spatiotemporally isolated and exist only in Logic Space, their existence (or non-existence) can never be empirically verified or refuted even in principle. Nevertheless, Lewis and other exponents of modal realism argue that they hypothesis is serviceable because, among other reasons, it answers the question of what makes counterfactual statements true. But in his essay, Robert points out the problem that this thesis (which, obviously, Molina never contemplated) presents for Molinism:

    Since Lewisian worlds are all actual, it is not clear which propositions would be known by God's free knowledge, given that this sort of knowledge is distinct from natural knowledge. Further, the fact that Lewisian worlds are isolated from one another suggests both that God cannot exist across worlds and, more worryingly, God cannot obtain knowledge of worlds He does not occupy, since to obtain knowledge of something, there must be some sort of relation between the knower and the object of knowledge. Yet for this relation to be established requires the abandonment of the principle of isolation maintained in Lewis's theory.

    If Lewis's account of modality is right, Molinism collapses into incoherence on any number of grounds. Again, suppose that my neighbor bombards me with the Bee Gees, and I kill him in response. The Molinist account is that God knew, in advance of His free act of creation, that if I were placed in a Bee-Gees bombardment scenario, then I would (freely) respond by killing my neighbor. Choosing among all possible worlds, God, for whatever reason, created the actual world in which I was placed under Bee Gees bombardment, and responded by killing my neighbor.

    But, if the Lewisian account of modality is correct, there is a logically possible world in which, in response to being placed under Bee Gees bombardment, I decline to kill my neighbor (no matter how much he deserves such punishment). Instead, I merely punch him out; or maybe I give him a stern talking-to, or whatever. The point is that, logically, there are perhaps an infinite number of responses I could make to Bee Gees bombardment, and if actuality is indexical - akin to the indexical "here", where "here" is New York City for me, but "here" would be Melbourne, Australia for someone in Melbourne - then in fact I do make all those responses. So it can't be the case that God knows in advance that if placed in scenario S I will respond by doing p; on the contrary, I will respond in every logically possible way to scenario S, though each response will happen in a different, concrete world, where each world is spatiotemporally isolated but exists in Logic Space.

    But, putting God aside for a moment, the Lewisian account of possible worlds raises the problem of trans-world identity. What does it mean to say that in this world, I killed my neighbor, but in another world, I merely punched him out? How can it be that the "I" in this world is the same as the "I" in the other world? Lewis contends that strictly these two versions of me are not the same; rather they are counterparts of each other. Perhaps this offers some wiggle room for Molinism: strictly, the "I" who kills my neighbor is a different entity, in some baroque logical sense, from the "I" who merely punches out my neighbor; and God is able to differentiate between the two.

    Unfortunately, this won't rescue Molinism, because other problems surface. If all logically possible worlds are actual worlds, this makes a hash of the notion that God freely chose to actualize one world only. But then, did He actualize all possible worlds? Or does God, as Robert discusses, Himself have counterparts at all possible worlds? And did each counterpart actualize the particular world that the counterpart God finds himself in? Another possibility is that there is one God only, and that he transcends Logic Space, in the same way that he supposedly transcends ordinary time and space. Whether this account can be made compatible with extreme modal realism is unknown (at least to me). And even if that is the case, we are back to the problem of why God actualized all possible worlds, when presumably he actualized this world (the world in which we happen to find ourselves) for some particular reason - that it proved to be the best of all possible worlds, for instance.

    In closing I would note that according to Lewis himself (or at least according to interpretations of his thought; I'm not sure I have come across any unambiguous claim by Lewis on this matter) God really does exist, but not at our world. This thesis demotes God from a necessary being to a possible being. The thinking goes that since it is logically possible that God exists, then He just does exist at any number of possible worlds in Logic Space. Both theists and non-theists are likely to find this conclusion deeply discomfiting: the theist because modal realism demotes God from necessary to possible, and the non-theist because the non-theist (or some of them, anyway) wishes to deny that God is possible at all. One non-theist rejoinder would be to argue that God is, for example, a physical impossibility; nothing in the nature of our world gives support to the possible existence of an "omni" being. But to argue in this fashion would be to misinterpret Lewis: He is not interested in physical possibility but logical possibility. Hence, while talking donkeys, too, are physically impossible in this world, they are logically possible at some world and hence do exist at some world (where the laws of physics are different, for example). As the philosopher John Leslie has noted, Lewisian modal realism embraces not just God, but all kinds of Gods; for instance, here is a concrete world, indexically actual to its inhabitants, where the Greek Gods literally exist.

    Of course, modal realism might be wrong, and logicians certainly do not uncontroversially embrace it. But from a philosophical standpoint it has something to recommend it, and if it is right, Molinism seems incoherent. More, reconciling modal realism with standard accounts of God would seem to present a theological challenge that needs to be addressed.
    Teaser Paragraph: Publish Date: 05/03/2006 Article Image:
    By David Misialowski (2006)

    In Part I of my response to Robert P. Taylor's dissertation on the philosophical problem of theological fatalism, I introduced my noisy neighbor – let's call him Sam – who assailed me with 51 consecutive iterations of "Night Fever", prompting me to murder him. At trial, I was acquitted by reason of insanity, after my lawyer bombarded the jurors with the same musical assault, 51 consecutive times. Afterwards, as I recounted, the jurors lined up to shake my hand, and one of them even asked for my autograph.

    The upshot of my little tale was that the jurors had decided that I had lacked the capacity for free choice when I committed the murder, and hence was not morally culpable. The bombardment by the Bee Gees had prompted an involuntary and, as it were, instinctive response on my part, one that I could not control.

    However, what we are trying to find out, in the context of the foreknowledge/free will debate, is whether any of our acts are free in the presence of an essentially omniscient agent, one that foreknows, infallibly, the truth conditions of all events, including those that occur in the future. In this context, even if the jurors had found me guilty, the theological fatalist might protest that I was foredestined to commit the crime by God's infallible foreknowledge of it – indeed, that Sam was foredestined to play the "Night Fever" 51 times in a row on that fateful New Year's Eve night.

    In Part 1 of my response, I tried to show that this sort of argument fails. Briefly, it constitutes a modal fallacy, assigning necessity to a contingent event. In modal logic, events are necessary if they occur at all possible worlds, and contingent if they occur at some worlds and not at others. They are possible if they occur in at least one world. Since the modal status of events cannot change – they are logically fixed – it follows that Sam's playing the Bee Gees, and my killing him in response, were timelessly contingent events. From this it follows that God's foreknowledge did not entail these occurrences; on the contrary, the occurrences entailed God's foreknowledge.

    More, I argued against the two forms of the Transfer of Necessity Principle that Robert invoked, hoping to show that the supposed accidental necessity of the past, and the alleged transfer of necessity of God's foreknowledge of an event to that event, are mistakes. The past, like the present and the future, does not have any accidental necessity about it, but rather timeless modal truth conditions involving, as always, necessity, contingency and possibility. Under this argument, God’s past infallible foreknowledge of my killing Sam was, and remains, a contingent fact of history, contingent on what Sam did, and what I did. That is the bare outline of my argument. If my argument is right, there is no problem of theological fatalism. Further considerations would seem to be moot.

    Of course my argument could be wrong, but one would have to try to show where it goes wrong by a detailed analysis of it, and one would then have to present a counterargument to defeat it. In his dissertation, Robert, although initially broaching the modal fallacy, appears to believe that the transfer of necessity principle and the accidental necessity of the past are real roadblocks to resolving the supposed dilemma of making infallible foreknowledge compatible with free will. While I don't share this belief, let's look at the other solutions he proposes.

    The Atemporal Solution

    In the second part of his essay, Robert considers the atemporal solution. He begins by writing:

    The status of past events as being accidentally necessary is significant to the Foreknowledge Dilemma, since it is reasonable to believe that if A precedes B, and A entails B, then A is causally responsible for B.

    I must emphasize that we are in complete disagreement here, since I have hoped to show that A (presumably, in this context, God's infallible foreknowledge of all truth-apt future propositions) in no way entails B – in fact, the case is just the opposite. But, having said that, how would the case if be God was atemporal?

    The idea here, as Robert presents it, as that the accidental necessity of God's knowledge in the past can be circumvented by appeal to God as existing either at all times, or transcending time, or in some fashion, both ways. Robert provides a series of detailed definitions for how his would be, which I will sidestep. Instead, let's look at the crux of the solution: which, as Robert writes, "posits a God who, despite having full knowledge of any event at any given point in time, lacks foreknowledge due to His being timeless and thus not located at any temporal point. ... God knows eternally what I will do at t3, but it is not the case that God knows, prior to my act at t3, what I will do at t3, since this would require God to be temporal."

    This seems fair enough, but we must be careful to distinguish whether this constitutes a rebuttal of the (supposed) foreknowledge/free will dilemma, or an attempt to define it out of existence, in the same way that the problem can be defined out of existence by saying that since the future has not yet occurred, God has no knowledge of it (his omniscience being restricted to propositions that are truth-apt. An open future would have no truth-apt propositions to know).

    In any case, I do not see how positing an atemporal or omnitemporal God defeats the dilemma, if there is a dilemma. An immediate problem may be found in the observation by Aquinas that Robert quotes:

    ... he who goes along the road does not see those who come after him, although he who sees the whole road, from a height, sees at once all traveling by the way.

    In short, God sees everything at once – all the roads, and those who travel them. This introduces the problem of how God has certain knowledge of the past, present and future, and, as Robert notes, " is not clear how God could know which routes people will take, unless their routes are fixed."

    Of course, this problem of how God infallibly knows the future, or infallibly knows anything at all, might be a problem for my solution as well - my solution holding that the entire conception of an incompatibility between foreknowledge and free will rests on a fallacy of modal logic. The various analogies that Robert offers – time as the circumference of a circle, with God as a central point within it, seeing all points in time with no single point taking precedence over any other; or God as an all-seeing point at the center of a sphere, seeing, simultaneously, all events that actually take place, as well as all events that might have been – seem, to me, unsatisfactory, for this reason: These solutions imply that the universe, including all spatial and temporal locations within it, just is, and we would have to agree with Parmenides that time, change, and physical separation are illusions: that reality is a single, unchanging, indestructible whole.

    The problem is illustrated by Robert's discussion of the A and B theories of time. It is unclear to me whether very many people are familiar with these conceptions, so let me try to explain them in my own terms, and in so doing, we shall find that the ancient, pre-Socratic Parmenides seems to have been remarkably prescient. In fact, the problem is such a general one that it could be the subject of a dissertation all its own, for it could be the case that a Parmenedian conception of space and time rules out free will (rules out a lot of things!) even in the absence of an omniscient agent.

    Let's return to my confrontation with the odious Sam and his Bee Gees bombardment. Initially I had presented this scenario as happening in the future – next New Year's Eve, in fact, the day before Jan. 1, 2007. But I have been speaking of the killing in the past tense – as though it had already happened, and that my trial and acquittal by reason of insanity were events of the past. In fact, talk of tensed temporal relations only makes sense under the so-called A theory of time, which is also known as presentism. Presentism holds that only the present is real. The past used to be real, but it no longer is; and the future is open.

    The B theory of time does away with tensed relations, and makes the present an indexical property of existence, rather like "here" is indexical. That is, if I am in New York, then New York is "here" for me; and if you are in London, then London is "here" for you. There is no objective fact of the matter about "here". The same would be true for time, under the B theory. Robert captures the essence of this nicely when he writes: "Consequently, just as I can say 'I am listening to my iPod' and Socrates can say 'I'm learning that I know nothing', it is also true, under the B-theory, that I can say 'I am listening to my iPod now' and Socrates can say 'I'm learning now that I know nothing', where 'now' depends upon the temporal location of the speaker."

    He might have added that under this conception someone in the future, relative both to the iPod-listening Robert and the knowing-nothing Socrates, can say, with equal justification, that "I am now doing x" and he would be right, also. In contrast to presentism, this conception of time is often called eternalism, and under it tensed talk of temporal relations is merely conventional or indexical. Under presentism, people and events are said to endure through time, while under eternalism they are said to perdure within it. Under the B theory, it is said that people and other objects in the universe have temporal parts, in the same way that they have spatial parts. To see how this analogy works, we could say that a person's spatial parts, on the vertical axis, are delimited by the soles of his feet and the top of his head. In a like fashion, a person's temporal parts are defined by the boundary conditions of her birth and death.

    The B theory of time would explain how God comes to know all the facts of history. He could, so to say, stand outside the spacetime continuum, and look down upon it and see every place, and every when, all at once. But is the world really like that? And if it is, can free will survive in such a place, whether God exists or not?

    This is a very problematic situation. The B theory, in effect, spatializes time. No one doubts that Mars (and all other points in the universe) have an independent existence, an indexical "here". If time is like that as well, then the past, present and future are all ontologically on par, and if that is the case, then how can anything I do now change a future that already seems to be fixed by virtue of the fact that it is indexically actual? In point of fact there are many eerie parallels between time and space, and in Chapter Eight of his book, Metaphysical Theories and Philosophical Constraints, Professor Norman Swartz discusses them in detail.

    Why should we think that the B theory of time is correct, or even coherent? After all, this is nothing like what we actually experience. In human experience, time flows, and only the subjective present is real. Human intuition accords with the presentist, or A theory, account of time. And if the presentist account is right, free will seems maintained, and it could be argued that since the future is open (no truth conditions obtain) then God has no foreknowledge of it.

    Bearing in mind that human intuition is often a poor guide to many of the apparent facts of reality (or at least the theories that we construct to interpret those facts, theories that themselves might be instrumentally useful, though not necessarily depicting reality as it actually is but instead models of it), there are two arguments against the A theory of time. The first is that the notion of time flowing from past to future is incoherent, no matter how intuitively plausible it seems. If time flows, how fast does it flow? One second per second? That makes no sense. For flowing time to make sense, it seems that its rate of passage would have to be measured against some meta-time, and then that time would have to be measured against yet another meta-time, leading to infinite regress. And the second reason that the A theory of time seems false is because of the special theory of relativity, which shows that there is no universal Now. What we call Now is relativized to reference frames, and in general two observers, depending on their relative rate of motion, may wildly disagree on what is past, present and future.

    Einstein's relativity seems strongly to support a B theory conception of time, though some philosophers have disputed this.

    I must admit I am not sure how Robert, in his dissertation, concludes that the atemporal solution is not compatible with the conventional understanding of the B theory of time. I happen to agree with Craig, who, as Robert notes, thinks that the atemporal solution is committed to B theory. And I think that the atemporal solution is incompatible with the A theory.

    Be that as it may, if we accept the B theory of time we can go much further, philosophically, and posit a reality that is strange indeed. For example, Julian Barbour, a British theoretical physicist, believes that time does not exist, that all motion and change is an illusion, and indeed that our memories of the past are themselves illusions. We are all, he writes, timelessly existing "time capsules", and those entities that just happen to have coherently ordered illusions of an asymmetrical past (time's arrow flowing from past to future) will be those entities that have the illusion of sentience.

    For our purposes, this is a digression, so let me finish up my analysis of the atemporal solution. Robert worries (I don't, for reasons already stated) that the accidental necessity of the past (i.e. God's foreknowledge) obliterates free will. He worries that:

    If at t1 God knows I will do p, then:
    It is accidentally necessary at t1 that God knows I will do p

    The atemporal solution, allegedly, offers a way out of this conundrum by asserting that it is timelessly necessary that God knows I will do p. But he worries that this does not defeat the problem of accidental necessity, writing, "Instead, the scope is shifted such that the proposition that is the object of God's knowledge is accidentally necessary, rather than God's knowledge per se being accidentally necessary."

    Since I don't agree with the formulation of the accidental necessity of the past or of the transfer of necessity principle, holding that both arguments arise from a failure to incorporate modal logic, I will pass over this. Next, he worries how an atemporal being could observe or interact with temporal events. This is a very justified worry, in my estimation, and one that is often at the core of atheistic objections to traditional conceptions of God. We must admit that the nation of an atemporal God also having temporal interactions could be self-contradictory and therefore incoherent, and if that is right, the atemporal solution fails for that reason alone. Robert writes: "Sorabji, for example, suggests that a timeless being cannot differentiate between 'x occurs' and 'x occurs at t' God will hence observe me typing this sentence, but my typing the following sentence will also be observable to Him."

    This idea seems passing strange, and cannot, in my view, succeed. In fact, it seems self contradictory on the face of it. How could it be that an omniscient being can't even tell what time it is? If God cannot tell what time it is, then God is not omniscient.

    Robert then discusses "eternal simultaneity" and "temporal simultaneity", or ET-simultaneity. This is an attempt, it would seem, to explain how an atemporal omniscient being can observe or interact with temporal events without the absurdity of suggesting that an all-knowing God can't tell what time it is. The idea here, as I understand it, is that events may be simultaneous with respect to the so-called Eternal Present (God's eye-view) but not with respect to each other. Robert writes:

    ... it is by this that an atemporal observer is able to perceive all temporal events at once, while recognising that, in the temporal reference frame, they do not all occur at once. Perhaps an apt comparison would be with a film reel, in which each image can be viewed in succession, by watching the film, or together, by observing the reel. In either case, the successive order of the images is apparent to either observer.

    I guess, by this analogy, God sees the whole reel, and we see the successive images, one following the other. But does analogizing existence to a movie reel make any sense if we wish to keep free will? Implicit in this conception is the notion that the "movie" has already been scripted.

    Robert worries that under ET-simultaneity, a questions arises as to how God distinguishes what might happen from what does happen. He writes: "How does God, being atemporal, determine what will happen and what might happen, and if He is able to determine what will happen, as opposed to what might happen, then the problem raised by accidental and timeless necessity, viz. that what God knows must happen, is not defeated."

    I'm not sure I understand the difficulty here, because again, by way of analogy we have just said that while we see the successive frames of the movie, one coming after the other, God sees the whole reel at a glance, as it were. Again, though, if this account is right, it implies (or so it seems to me) that we must be ontologically committed to a B theory of time, and the B theory of time, by itself, poses threats to free will that need to be addressed.

    I will conclude by saying that the atemporal solution has real problems, but I believe these problems are outside the scope of the alleged foreknowledge/free will incompatibility. I personally do not see how an atemporal God can consistently interact with, or observe, temporal events. As has been noted, taking atemporality seriously can lead to bizarre conclusions, like saying that a God who knows everything that there is to know can't even tell what time it is. It seems to me that a more plausible picture (which might itself be just a restatement of atemporality, but whether it is or not, it is easier to grasp) is that God is omnitemporal, just as he is omnipresent: he is at all points in space and all points in time, simultaneously. This would explain his infallible true beliefs of all truth-apt propositions, but a problem immediately presents itself: the concept of omnitemporality seems, at least on the surface, to return us to a Newtonian conception of time and space in which time and space are fixed and absolute, a stage, as it were, on which objects exist and events play out. The radically different conception of space and time presented by Einstein does not seem to be compatible with an omnitemporal agent, but that is a subject for a different discussion.
    Teaser Paragraph: Publish Date: 05/02/2006 Article Image:
    By David Misialowski (2006)

    It is Jan. 1, 2007. All night, my inconsiderate neighbor has been throwing a raucous New Year's Eve Party. What is especially galling is that he is a fan of 70s disco, and has been blasting the Bee Gees at top volume on his CD player, the din reverberating through the thin wall that separates his apartment from my own.

    I decide that his liking the Bee Gees reflects poorly on his worldview, and calls into question the very existence of his soul. Moreover, I decide that if I am forced to listen yet again to "Night Fever", which he has already played 50 times, then I am going to strangle him. Sure enough, he plays "Night Fever" for the 51st time. I wait until the morning when all the guests have departed, break into his apartment and strangle him dead.

    I am later arrested. It turns out that my neighbor had installed a videocamera in the wall of his apartment to record the party, and it made a videotape of me killing my neighbor. When I am brought to trial, my lawyer mounts an insanity defense. The repetitive throb of Night Fever, he argues, robbed me of my free will. I did not freely commit the murder, but rather was driven over the edge by the repetitive bombardment of lyrics like these:

    Night fever, night fever.
    We know how to do it.
    Gimme that night fever, night fever.
    We know how to show it.

    Craftily, my lawyer plays "Night Fever" 51 times in a row for the jury. I am acquitted in 30 minutes. After the verdict is read, the members of the jury line up to shake my hand.

    The insanity defense is often mounted in murder cases. It raises the general question of free will. Are all our acts free, or are they determined in some sense?

    It is probably true that most of are acts are not entirely free, but let us, for the sake of discussion, stipulate that in some important sense, we do have free will: Options are available to us, and we can choose among them, exercising independent judgment.

    Now let's return to my trial. Suppose, instead of mounting an insanity defense, my lawyer had argued like this: The reason I committed the murder is that I was being watched by a videocamera; and this camera entailed my action. In a like manner, my lawyer argues, the sun rises every morning because people watch it rise.

    What's more, my lawyer continues, I committed the murder in the past. Hence, it is now an accidentally necessary fact about the past that I committed a murder! If it is now necessary that I killed my neighbor, it is not possible for me to have done otherwise. Hence, because of the presence of the videocamera, and because of the accidental necessity of the past, I had no choice - no free will - in killing my neighbor.

    Do you think the jury would have bought an argument like that?

    I don't think so, either.

    I will now attempt to show why the argument to theological fatalism fails. What is that argument? It is that the existence of essentially omniscient agent (whom we shall take to be God) and human free will are incompatible. This argument is the topic of Robert P. Taylors's dissertation, and this essay, and the succeeding one, constitute a response to it.

    Let's again consider my New Year's Day murder. Most people would see, intuitively, how bizarre it would be to argue that I committed the murder because I was being watched (by a videocamera) and that this watching entailed my act. Most people would also understand that it would be strange to argue that my act was unfree because it is now an accidentally necessary fact of the past.

    But suppose my lawyer offered the following argument: God exists. God is essentially omniscient: he has infallible true beliefs about all contingent future propositions. It follows from this that God knew, before Jan. 1, 2007, that on Jan. 1, 2007, I would kill my neighbor. In fact, God knew that I would kill my neighbor on Jan. 1, 2007, before I was born. In fact, God has known that I would kill my neighbor on Jan. 1, 2007, for all eternity.

    Question: if God knew for all eternity that I would kill my neighbor on Jan. 1, 2007, then how could I have done otherwise?

    The question of theological fatalism seems academic to some. Many people say the problem is a non-starter because an essentially omniscient agent does not exist (there is no God). Others say that we lack free will even if there is no God - that determinism is true, for example.

    However, such blasé stances assume atheism or determinism, and we are going to assume, for the sake of argument, that God exists and that humans are not governed by determinism. Although the discussion might be academic to the atheist, for the theist or the agnostic theist it has profound importance. That is because if I must kill my neighbor on Jan. 1, 2007, because God's infallible true beliefs about all future contingent events entail this act, then it seems to follow not only that I lack free will, but also that I lack moral responsibility. For how can I be morally responsible for an act that I cannot avoid doing? For the theist who believes in God's infallible foreknowledge but also believes in human free will and moral responsibility, defeating the argument to theological fatalism becomes an urgent necessity.

    Most people would reject, with hardly a moment's thought, the idea that the presence of the videocamera entailed my committing murder, and most would also reject the argument that because that murder that I committed is (supposedly) an "accidentally necessary" fact of the past, I had no choice but to commit it. Yet somehow, foreknowledge of an act seems to be in a different category, and one has the uncomfortable sensation that if an act is infallibly foreknown, then it is entailed.

    I argue that this is false. In fact, I hope to show that foreknowledge - even infallible foreknowledge - has no more bearing on the truth value of a proposition then does present knowledge of it (the videocamera example) or the memory of it.

    Early in his dissertation, Robert writes: "An obvious escape for the theist is to claim that God does not know the truth-values of contingent future propositions, since such propositions have no truth-values." But, again, we just want to assume, for the sake of argument, the God does foreknow, infallibly, the future; otherwise there is no problem to consider! So we shall stipulate that contingent future propositions have truth values, and that God's prior knowledge of these values is infallible.

    In his dissertation, Robert explores and discards several possible answers to the problem, and eventually gives a solution of his own. I would say he has made an admirable study of the problem. But I would like to suggest that all one needs to do is find a single solution early on (if possible), and if one is able to do that, then all other considerations evaporate. Of course, the solution could be wrong, but then it would be incumbent to demonstrate precisely why it is wrong.

    The solution I have mind was expressed, in fiction, in my story The Omniscient Book. However, fiction is not an ideal vehicle for working out philosophy problems in detail, though it can be a vehicle for philosophy in general.

    In the introduction to his dissertation, Robert writes:

    Since God is omniscient, it may be asserted either that if God knows p to be true, then p is true, or that if p is true, then God knows p to be true. In the first instance, p is dependent on God's knowledge, which may lead to the idea that p is determined by God's knowledge; p will occur because x knows p will occur. In the second instance, God's knowledge is dependent on the truth of p, which may lead to the idea that x knows p will occur because p will occur.

    This, in my view, captures the essence of the problem. The issue is that somewhere, entailment resides; the question is, where, exactly? There must be some kind of entailment somewhere, because God has infallible true beliefs about all future contingent events.

    As I hope to show, and tried to demonstrate in my story, the argument to theological fatalism grasps the wrong end of the stick. It assumes that God's infallible true beliefs about all future contingent events entail those events, thus dooming free will. However, the events are contingent; how can contingent events be entailed? The right question, in my view, is not what makes x do p at some time t, but rather, what makes God's belief that x will do p at t true?

    What makes God's belief in this matter true, I argue, is the fact that x freely does p at t; and if that is right, the problem of theological fatalism is dissolved. Under this account, it would turn out that God's infallible foreknowledge of an event - killing my noisy neighbor on Jan. 1, 2007, for instance - is just a special case, but not fundamentally different from, God having an infallible memory of this act, after it has happened. No one, I think, would argue that God's infallible memory would make a past event true, and I would hope to show that for the same reason, God's infallible foreknowledge does not make events true, either. I would argue instead that propositions like "I kill my neighbor on Jan. 1, 2007" bear truth values, and that these values are timelessly true, because propositions are abstract entities and hence do not exist in space and time. (This accords with the views expressed by Prof. Norman Swartz, who briefly joined our discussion in the thread, What Is Free Will?

    However, to say a proposition like my homicide on New Year's Day is timelessly true, does not mean it is fated or predestined to be true. If that were the case, then we would have no free will even in the absence of an all-knowing God. Rather, my actions, while timelessly true, were chosen by me from a range of options; and had I chosen other options, then those acts would have been timelessly true instead. In the case of an omniscient God, He just sees, by this account, the truth of the choices that we make. But His foreknowledge, knowledge, or memory of this actions (or some other, atemporal kind of knowledge) does not force, necessitate or make propositions true, any more than to watch the sun rise, makes the sun rise; any more than a watching videocamera makes me kill my neighbor.

    In the introduction to his thesis, Robert presents the formal argument this way:

    P1. Necessarily, if God knows I will do p, then I will do p.
    P2. God knows I will do p
    C. Necessarily, I will do p.
    The conclusion does not follow from the premises. Why is that? Imparting necessity to the conclusion constitutes a fallacy of modal logic. As Robert writes: "...the assertion that God knows I will do p only allows one to conclude that God knows that I will do p contingently. Since I will do p contingently, it is not the case that I must do p, and since it is not the case that I must do p, my free will is not endangered."

    It's worth looking at this a little more closely. For those who wish an extensive discussion of the modal fallacy, I direct them to Prof. Swartz's Lecture Notes on Free Will and Determinism, in which he dissects not just theological (or epistemic) determinism but the two other standard versions, causal and logical determinism, and concludes that they all fail for the same reason: they involve a fallacy in the use of modal logic.

    To take one example due to Prof. Swartz, suppose we reason like this:

    If Paul has two sons and a daughter, then he has to have at least two children.
    Paul has two sons and a daughter.
    Paul has to have at least two children.
    Compare the above argument to the one previously given for God's omniscience entailing a conclusion of, necessarily, I will do p. They both bear the same logical structure, and so if one is both valid and sound then so is the other. But in both cases, the conclusion does not follow from the premises. It might be easier to see why this is so in the case of Paul and his children.

    Again, for a detailed discussion, I recommend Prof. Swartz's paper, but for now just notice that in the case of Paul, although he does have at least two children (in fact), there is no logical entailment that he must have at least two children. That is, it is not necessary ("has to" is false) that he have at least two children. Like anyone else, Paul could choose to have one child, or no children.

    The fallacy of modal logic lies in drawing the false conclusion that Paul must have at least two children, from the premise that states that in fact he has two sons and a daughter (at least two children) The fallacy of modal logic (modal logic involving the study of modes of being) resides in imparting the mode of necessity to the conclusion, when in fact the conclusion involves contingency or possibility. In modal logic, a proposition can be necessary, or it can be contingent, but it cannot be both.

    Consequently, the initial argument to theological fatalism must be rewritten as follows:

    P1. Necessarily, if God knows I will do p, then I will do p.
    P2. God knows I will do p
    C. I will do p.
    The revised version of the argument is identical to the initial version of it, with one crucial exception: The word necessarily has been omitted from the conclusion. Now, it just happens to be the case that I will do p - that I will, for instance, murder my noisy neighbor on Jan. 1, 2007. But it's not necessary that I do this, even if God knew, before I was born, in fact for all eternity, that I would commit this act on Jan. 1, 2007.

    But, if it wasn't necessary that I commit this act, then how could God have known for all eternity that I would commit it? The answer, as indicated, is that acts, or propositions, bear truth values (some dispute this). If that is the case, then God's foreknowledge of acts is irrelevant; or, it is no more relevant, to the act itself, then His memory of the act would be. If p stands for "Kill noisy neighbor on Jan. 1, 2007", let q stand for "Not-Kill-Neighbor". Under the modal account, if I declined to commit p, then the above argument can be recast as:

    P1. Necessarily, if God knows I will do q, then I will do q.
    P2. God knows I will do q
    C. I will do q.
    We see that God's foreknowledge is still accurate: it must be accurate, because God has infallible true beliefs about all future contingent events. However, since what I do at any given time is in fact contingent (not necessary), then God's beliefs about future acts will just happen always to correspond with what I freely choose to do, given God's infallibility concerning His beliefs. There is a necessity entailment in this argument, but it is not in the conclusion. The necessity always resides in the conjoint state of affairs, as indicated in Premise 1. Necessarily (If God knows I will do p, then I will do p) is logical and correct. It denotes (given God's infallibility) the necessity of the compound relationship of God knowing what I will do, and I then doing what he foreknows. But what I actually do is entirely up to me, assuming that I do not lack free will for some other reason, a proposition that we are assuming to be true for the sake of argument.

    At this point I am going to argue (though I will certainly consider Robert's other arguments, as well as his own proposed solution) that the whole problem is dissolved before it ever gets off the ground. Robert would not appear to agree, but if I can show that the argument to theological fatalism rests on a modal fallacy straight through, then I have no need to consider any further argument to reconcile foreknowledge and free will because the problem has been dissolved as a straightforward consequence of logical analysis.

    For example, suppose we revise the original account to read like this:

    P1: Necessarily (If God knows p, then p)
    P2: Necessarily (God knows p).
    C: Therefore, Necessarily (p)
    We have now imported necessity into P2, from which it seems to follow that the conclusion is necessary, and my free will is negated. But this is not, in fact, the case.

    In this post in the What is Free Will? discussion here at the library, Prof. Swartz dissects the flaw in the above revised argument. He writes:

    The argument is valid. But it is unsound. The second premise is false.

    I think that the author of this argument is trying, in the second premise (P2), to capture the claim that God knows everything. (Or, to be more exact, that God knows everything that is TRUE.) But P2 does not say that God knows everything that is true.

    Let's use the possible-worlds idiom to explicate necessity. In that idiom "necessarily" is explicated as "in all possible worlds".

    The first premise, P1, is fine as written. It says that in all possible worlds, if God knows that p [is true], then p [is true].

    But in those cases where p is contingent (i.e. true in some possible worlds and false in other possible worlds), P2 is false. For it says that in all possible worlds God knows that p is true. The falsity is easily laid bare by letting "p" stand for the proposition "In 2005, the entire ice cap in Greenland melts". The proposition, p, is actually false (i.e. is false in this, the actual, world); it is false (in this world) that God knows it to be true; and thus it is false that in all possible worlds gKp.

    What, then, is the correct symbolization for the theological claim that God knows everything [that is true]? Simply, it is the inverse of P1, i.e. the corrected second premise should read:

    P2': Nec (if p, then gKp)
    From P1 and P2', taken together, the conclusion, C, does not logically follow; i.e. such an argument, while having true premises, is invalid.

    Now let's look at the transfer of necessity principle that Robert discusses in the introduction to his thesis.

    Transfer of Necessity Principle.

    At the conclusion of his introduction, Robert discusses the transfer of necessity principle, or TNP, which principle, he says, provides a rejoinder, or a stronger argument, to defeat the modal fallacy: i.e., it again raises the possibility that God's foreknowledge precludes human free will.

    I do not think this to be the case. I think the TNP does not succeed in providing an argument for theological fatalism, either in the forms that Robert lays out or in the way it was considered by Zagzebski in her discussion of Divine Foreknowledge and Human Free Will at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

    What is this supposed principle? It arises from the principle of the fixity of the past, which itself is easy to understand: the old saw, "There is no use crying over spilled milk" captures the essence of it. After the milk is spilled, there is nothing to be done about it except clean it up. You can't unspill it, because you can't change the past. The past is fixed.

    In the case of God's foreknowledge, we can say that at T1, God has a certain infallibly true belief about some future proposition. Let's continue with my example of the murder that I will commit on Jan. 1, 2007, which I will call p. Now, at t2, it is the case that at t1, God believed that I would commit the murder (p) at, let us call it, t3. Due to the principle of the fixity of the past, we would say that at t2, it is now necessary that at t1, God believed p at t3. The argument seems to go that since God is infallible, and since it is now necessary that at t2 that he believed p at t1, then necessarily p at t3. The supposed necessity of God's belief is somehow transferred to the act at t3, making p at t3 necessary.

    Another way to understand the situation is to invoke, as Robert does, the idea of accidental necessity. A necessary proposition must be true; a contingent one may possibly be true or false. So before an event takes place, it might have no truth value; but after it does it acquires such a value, and because the event is now in the past, it is accidentally necessary that it has just the value that it does, because the past is fixed (or so the argument goes). We would have to use this account of accidental necessity to replace modal contingency. As we have seen, the conclusion in the initial argument as presented was modally contingent, and it was a flaw of modal logic to assign necessity to it. The TNP, evidently, is offered as a way to get around this objection and reinstall necessity to the conclusion.

    Robert offers two versions of TNP. They are:

    TNP 1

    P1. []f
    P2. [](f -> y)
    C. []y
    TNP 2

    P1. []f
    P2. [](f <-> y)
    C. []y
    The symbol [] denotes the condition of necessity; the symbol --> denotes "then", as in, if x happens, then y will take place; and the symbol < - > is the bi-conditional operator, which tells us that antecedent and consequent may each depend on the other. How does this translate into foreknowledge/free will talk? Under TNP 1, we might say as follows;

    Premise 1: Necessarily, God knows that I will do p.
    Premise 2: Necessarily, if God knows that I will do p, then I will do p.
    Conclusion: Necessarily, I will do p.
    TNP2, as Robert explains it, is the same, except that Premise 2, which uses the bi-conditional operator, tells us that if I do p, God knows I do p and if God knows I do p, then I do p. In both cases, the reason why P1 is necessary, under TNP, is because the fixity of the past.

    At this point I am going to skip over the details of the various arguments that Robert offers concerning TNP in his introduction, because I think all versions of TNP are wrong. So I'll cut to the chase.

    At the conclusion of his Introduction, Robert writes that the full argument goes like this:

    P1. Necessarily, if God knows at t1 that I will do p at t3, then I will do p at t3
    P2. Necessarily, if I will do p at t3, then God knows at t1 that I will do p at t3
    P3. God knows, at t1, that I will do p at t3
    P4. It is accidentally necessary at t2 that God knows at t1 that I will do p at t3
    C. It is accidentally necessary at t2 that I will do p at t3
    P5. If my act at t3 is accidentally necessary, then it is not free
    C2. I do not freely do p at t3
    Robert goes on:

    Whether my act is dependent on God's knowledge, or God's knowledge is dependent on my act, the same conclusion is reached - I do not freely do p at t3. This is evidenced by the roles of the TNP 2 and essential omniscience as discussed beforehand: my act at t3 is fixed at any given point in time, since God's knowledge that I will do p at t3 is itself fixed, and not contingent on my doing p at t3.

    The above argument looks pretty strong. It seems to circumvent the modal fallacy already discussed. But I argue that it does not. Premise 4 is false. P4 is false because it is incoherent. It is incoherent because it smuggles the modal fallacy into the picture through the back door. Let me state plainly: There is nothing necessary, accidental or otherwise, about the past, except those propositions that are in fact necessary, and such propositions are timelessly necessary.

    Under modal logic, necessary propositions are said to be necessary at all possible worlds, while contingent propositions may occur at some worlds but fail to occur at others. If a proposition is necessary, it is necessary at all worlds and at all times. It is a timelessly necessary proposition that one cannot square a circle. It is timelessly necessary that 2 + 2 = 4. It is timelessly necessary that certain numbers are prime. And so on. At all possible worlds, such propositions are true.

    Now let us look at a certain fact about history: The south lost the Civil War.

    For us to accept the argument given above, involving the fixity of the past and the TNP allegedly defeating free will, we would have to say, by parity of reasoning, that it is now an accidentally necessary fact about the past that the south lost the Civil War. I hold that such a claim is incoherent, a misuse of language. (Think about the example of my trial, and how strange it would sound for my lawyer to argue that my committing murder was accidentally necessary, because of the fixity of the past.) For one thing, the Civil War isn't being fought now, it was fought in the 1860s. What we should say instead, is this: It is a contingent fact of history that the South lost the Civil War. Explicating the Civil War in possible worlds (modal) terminology, we just see that logically, the South could have won the war. This means that there are possible worlds at which the South prevailed. This contingency is timelessly true, and we see how it differs from a necessary proposition, such as 2 + 2= 4, which is true at all possible worlds and which is also timelessly true.

    Consequently, I hold that we have to amend P4 to read as follows:

    P4. At t2 God knows at t1 that I will do p at t3
    All talk of necessity is dropped! And it must be dropped, for the same reason that we dropped talk of necessity in the conclusion of the original argument to theological fatalism: such talk of necessity is a modal fallacy.

    With P4 amended, we understand that God's knowledge at t1 that I will do p at t3 is a contingent fact of history, like the South losing the Civil War. And what is it contingent on? On what I freely (i.e., contingently) do at t3!

    There is, however, a certain necessity in all these arguments. As I have already indicated, it resides (and only resides) in the conjoint state of affairs of God's foreknowledge corresponding 1:1 with what I in fact do. This must be the case, because an omniscient agent with infallible true beliefs about all future, contingent, truth-apt propositions cannot both know, and fail to know, the truth of these propositions. That would violate the Law of Noncontradiction.

    Let me quote myself, from a post I made in the What is Free Will? thread:

    I hold that your act at t3 is not accidentally necessary due to God's foreknowledge, but again, all that becomes accidentally necessary is the conjoint state of affairs in which God's foreknowledge matches what you do. Thus, you could do anything you want (within the bounds of logic and physical possibility) and whatever you did, God would foreknow that thing. In the Swartzian [a reference to Prof. Swartz] modal lexicon, necessities of this sort are always paired. However, if you reject this, then the atemporal argument presumably offers another solution, but notice that all it really does is deny, strictly, God's foreknowledge, but God's foreknowledge, presumably, is what we wish to make consistent with free will in the first place. So if you've denied the possibility of foreknowledge, you've merely defined the problem out of existence.

    The above is by way of introducing the atemporal solution, which Robert considers in the next part of his dissertation, and to which I will turn in the next essay. Strictly, though, in my judgment, there is no need to invoke the atemporal solution, or any other solution, to the foreknowledge/free will problem, because the problem has been solved, and no theist need fear the argument, heard so often from atheists intent on discrediting religious belief, that an omniscient God cancels human free will and moral responsibility. God's omniscience does neither, and the argument to theological fatalism is, I believe, a dead duck.
    Teaser Paragraph: Publish Date: 05/01/2006 Article Image:
    By Robert P. Taylor (2006)

    This paper aims to determine whether human free will can exist in the presence of a divine, omniscient being. In doing so, the Foreknowledge Dilemma (that God's foreknowledge precludes human free will) is explored and some attempted solutions to it examined before I provide a solution of my own.

    Introduction (PDF)
    The Atemporal Solution (PDF)
    This chapter explores the notion of an atemporal, or timeless, God and its success in addressing the Foreknowledge Dilemma.
    The Molinist Solution (PDF)
    This chapter explores the theory of middle knowledge, as proposed by Luis de Molina as a solution to the Foreknowledge Dilemma. The implications of Lewisian modal realism for Molinism and the theory's use of counterfactuals are also explored.
    A New Solution (PDF)
    This chapter examines two concepts that are significant to the Foreknowledge Dilemma, after which a new solution is presented.
    Conclusion (PDF)
    Bibliography (PDF)

    (Download Adobe Acrobat)

    The Omniscient Book, a fictional response by David Misialowski.

    Theological Fatalism, Part 1: Reply to Robert P. Taylor, by David Misialowski.
    Theological Fatalism, Part 2: Reply to Robert P. Taylor, by David Misialowski.
    Theological Fatalism, Part 3: Reply to Robert P. Taylor, by David Misialowski.
    Teaser Paragraph: Publish Date: 09/22/2005 Article Image:
    By Paul Newall (2005)

    Perhaps one of the least understood arguments in the philosophy of science, Paul Feyerabend's reductio ad absurdum of specific rationalist conceptions of scientific method is at once a subtle critique of rigidity in thinking and an historical study of Galileo's rhetorical strategies in the latter’s discussions of Copernicanism. In this paper we explain the structure of the reductio before considering how Feyerabend applied it.

    When Feyerabend first published his Against Method, he was explicit concerning his aim:

    He went on to entreat the reader to "always remember that the demonstrations and the rhetorics used do not express any 'deep convictions'" of his. Nevertheless, this work has consistently been described as an attempt to advance and defend the methodological principle "anything goes", so much so that Munevar complained that "it should be an embarrassment to the profession that many reviews were completely unable to see the structure of this simple reductio" (1991, 181). (See Laudan, 1996, for an excellent example of a total misunderstanding that borders on the ridiculous, as well as Newton-Smith, 1981.) As a measure of his exasperation at such empty critiques, Feyerabend’s Science in a Free Society contains an appendix entitled "Conversations with Illiterates" (1975, 125-218), in which he responded to some of his detractors.

    In general, a reductio ad absurdum is a form of argument in which the proponent may take as given the premises of the opponent while explaining how their acceptance leads to absurd consequences. As a result, one or more premises must be rejected. (This is widely used in mathematics.) The structure of Feyerabend’s reductio is quite straightforward, notwithstanding its confusion with a positive argument for anarchism: faced with the methodological principles of certain forms of rationalism (or what Feyerabend thought of under this rubric, most notably logical positivism and falsificationism) and so-called paradigmatic instances of these at work in the history of science, Feyerabend sought to show that the same rationalists would have to admit that science has developed in a fashion either contrary to their standards or otherwise in a manner that they would have to characterise as irrational.

    As a result of this rhetorical strategy, Feyerabend was able to explain himself clearly:

    The reductio thus took the following form:

    Take the principles of a rationalist methodology for science;
    Consider what the same rationalists propose as a representative example of such a methodology at work in the history of science;
    Note that the decisions made on the basis of a rational methodology should, ceteris paribus, be rational; and
    Demonstrate that an account of this episode in such terms forces us to describe the actions of those purportedly following the rules as irrational or in violation of them.
    Before we look at Feyerabend's argument, it is useful to take a simple example of a reductio at work. If we subscribe to the tenets of dogmatic falsificationism (or else advocate basing our acceptance and rejection of scientific theories on so-called decisive experiments) and suppose Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity to have been a step in the right direction with regard to gaining knowledge of our universe, we find that we run into a problem. Falsificationists do not dispute the historical account of 1905, in which the first response to Einstein's paper noted that his theory had already been refuted by Kaufman's experimental results, published in the Annalen der Physik in that year. The dogmatic falsificationist is thus forced to admit that Einstein should have dismissed his theory as falsified – which, of course, he did not. We are led to the unfortunate position of either arguing that Einstein was irrational (or mistaken, if we wish to be more charitable) in his refusal to give up the special theory (and moreover that we, as good falsificationists, would have rejected it, along with any consequences) – a demand we would probably call absurd – or else accepting that dogmatic falsificationism fails.

    Feyerabend preferred to use another – more famous – example from the history of science: Galileo's work on geostaticism. His reductio consisted in three stages, designed to critique na�ve empiricism, Popper's falsificationism and Lakatos' Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes in turn – each being an instance of a rationalist approach to science (in the case of the latter two, the most common even today). For the first of these, he considered the famous Tower Argument, a circumstance relied upon by Aristotelians to discount the possibility of a moving Earth. Its proponents pointed to the fact that a stone dropped from a tower lands at its base. If the Earth was moving, as some supposed, the tower would move with it and hence the stone would drop some distance away. (A variant of the same argument stated that an arrow fired vertically into the air should fall far from the firer, since he or she would have moved along with the earth while the arrow was in flight.) This was an idea everyone could understand and hence served as a powerful refutation of the notion that the Earth moves.

    It matters not at this stage whether Galileo was an empiricist or not: in order to undertake a reductio, we assume that he was and see what follows. What Galileo did was to accept the observations made by those who had tested this theory (that the stone falls at the base) and then appeal to a principle of relativity (often called Galilean relativity). He asked his readers to imagine two friends throwing a ball to each other while inside a cabin on a ship alongside and then the same situation while the ship was underway, considering whether more (or less) force would be required to throw the ball when the ship was moving. This was also a test that most people could understand and it helped him to explain that there was no difference because any motion of the ship would also be shared by the passengers. That is, whichever direction the ship moved in, the cabin would, too - along with everything inside it.

    As a result of this discussion, Galileo was able to demonstrate that the very same "fact" used by the Tower Argument itself - the stone falling at the base - also supported the idea that the Earth was rotating, since any evidence that the geostaticist could appeal to would likewise support the alternative (this is actually an example of underdetermination by data and the theory-ladenness of observational terms). The naive empiricist has no means of deciding between these two rival theories and hence any choice made by Galileo would violate this form of empiricism. If our methodology insists that only those decisions made on the basis of evidence can be called rational then Galileo and the Aristotelians alike were irrational to prefer geokineticism or geostaticism respectively. We are thus forced either to give up on calling Galileo's behaviour rational or else admit that naive empiricism is inadequate.

    The reductio of Popper's falsificationism proceeded in a similar way. Copernicus' system predicted magnitudes for both Venus and Mars that were refuted by observations, which led to the same conclusion with regard to dogmatic falsificationism as in the example of Einstein above. Feyerabend considered the sophisticated version of falsificationism, though, according to which Copernicanism should have excess empirical content over the Ptolemaic model, including the prediction of novel facts that were falsifiable. Unfortunately, Copernicanism was of equal empirical content to its rival (see Kuhn, 1985 and Swerdlow, 1973) and was incompatible with the Aristotelianism of the day. This latter point is an important one to appreciate: Aristotelianism did not merely consist in an astronomical theory concerning the heavens but was an integrated system that applied widely. In particular, Aristotle’s dynamics was a theory of change, including explanations of generation, corruption, locomotion and qualitative change. The dynamics that Galileo proposed in its stead dealt only with locomotion, which was a decrease in truth-content (as always, from the perspective of that time). Thus we find that Copernicanism represented a theory that was falsified, of equal empirical content and of lesser-truth content. As Popperian falsificationists, we are forced again to admit that Galileo was irrational to persist in his studies or that Popper's methodology is flawed.

    The last reductio that Feyerabend attempted – that of Lakatos' much more subtle approach – could not rely on his analysis of Galileo’s behaviour, since Lakatos was in complete agreement (Lakatos and Zahar, 1975; see also Lakatos, 1978). Since Lakatos' methodology was careful to incorporate the lessons of the failure of falsificationism, his classification of research programmes as progressive if they demonstrate excess empirical content that has been confirmed (and degenerating for the converse) was far better equipped to survive problematic episodes in the history of science. Indeed, Lakatos accepted that a new theory would initially show a loss in empirical content as it took time to become established, and that ad hoc measures are acceptable insofar as they help the theory avoid falsification and thus give it more time to develop. The obvious difficulty with such a methodology, of course, is where to draw the line at all when so much wriggling is permitted; after all, a degenerating theory could eventually become progressive again if given the opportunity (or even if not). This is where Feyerabend addressed his argument.

    Introducing the concept of an epistemological anarchist, this being a person with an aversion to ideologies and opposing "positively and absolutely" all universal standards (1975, 175), Feyerabend asked how the actions of an epistemological anarchist at the time of Galileo would differ from those of a Lakatosian. It was immediately clear that the former could do as he or she liked, by definition, but what of the Lakatosian? Herein lies the problem: Lakatos' Methodology enables us to describe a situation but it does not tell us how we should act. A Lakatosian could accept Aristotelianism as a progressive research programme and reject Copernicanism as degenerating, but he or she could also do the converse. No restriction is placed on what should be done; all we have is a new vocabulary to explain ourselves.

    The reductio in this last case thus consisted in referring again to the "methodology" of epistemological anarchism – or the "anything goes" we began with – and showing that Lakatos' approach could not be distinguished from it. Since "anything goes" is no method at all, rendering everything rational at a stroke, it followed that either we should follow a method that is not a method (which is absurd) or else reject the Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes.

    The glaring point to notice in each of these arguments is that nowhere is it necessary for us to accept that there is no possible scientific method; that "anything goes"; that we should all become epistemological anarchists; or that Feyerabend was advocating any of these. All these terms and concepts, employed in critiques of Feyerabend then and since, are intended for use inside the context of a reductio ad absurdum only. The subtlety of this form of rhetoric (which Galileo himself had mastered) is lost when we interpret it as an attempt to replace one set of rules with another (in the face of Feyerabend's own declaiming the possibility), leaving us with mere caricatures and an understanding of the philosophy of science so much the poorer.


    Suggested references:

    Feyerabend, P., Against Method (London: Verso, 1975)
    Feyerabend, P., Science in a Free Society (London: New Left Books, 1978)
    Kuhn, T.S., The Copernican Revolution (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1985)
    Lakatos, I., The Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978)
    Lakatos, I. and Zahar, E., Why did Copernicus' Research Program Supersede Ptolemy's?, in Westman (ed), The Copernican Achievement (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1975)
    Laudan, L., Beyond Positivism and Relativism (Boulder: Westview Press, 1996)
    Newton-Smith, W.H., The Rationality of Science (Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1981)
    Swerdlow, N., The derivation and first draft of Copernicus's planetary theory: a translation of the Commentariolus with commentary (Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 1973, 117: 423-512)