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The World As Will and Representation: In Two…

The World As Will and Representation: In Two Volumes, Vol. 1 (1819)

by Arthur Schopenhauer

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In general, I find a similar objection to Schopenhauer's world-construction as I do with Freud's, except unlike Freud, Schopenhauer is thorough enough to hide all the times that his ideology conflicts with the existence of reality. In fact, Schopenhauer's life's work was on tweaking and solidifying his theory of the Will; Volume II of "The World as Will and Representation" consists of additions to each of the four books in volume one, and some of his assorted essays in Parerga and Paralipomena directly respond to the consequences of Will and Representation in both volumes.

My main issue with this philosophical content of Schopenhauer's theory is that he does reconcile the consequences of his theory, but doesn't logically recapitulate the scope of his theory. The common issue with "world-scoped" theories of modern western philosophy is that because they structure the world within their own notions, it is impossible to refute within the logic of the constructed system. This is why despite the factual nullity of Freudianism, everything can still link to Freud, since the construction of Freud's theory is of a scope so that that is possible. Marxism may be the only "sound" of these massive theories, since Marx was extraordinarily specific with predicting the course of history, and was (relatively speaking) false in his predictions (that's why most contemporary Marxists either grossly reinterpret or water-down Marx's philosophy, or are revisionists). Schopenhauer has, in essence, has fallen into this world building fallacy, especially since I as a student object to the Kantian and Platonic theories he bases his writings off of (i.e. Kant's theory of knowledge is useless in the face of modern psychology). He also tends to make judgements of contrarians; this is the case in Parerga and Paralipomena, where many of his essays follow a tone of "everyone's dumb but me," something that doesn't make for strong theoretical strength.

As a prospective reader, it is worthy to consider that Schopenhauer probably doesn't want you to read his book. He believes that the reader of Will and Representation ought to at least demonstrate a basic knowledge of Kantian theory, Stoicism (Marcus Aurelius & Epicurus), and the Hindu Upanishads (he states this in the first preface). That didn't stop me, but it does give a lens into his personality.

The 2014 Cambridge Edition is well-published. As of taking the course involving Schopenhauer, Cambridge has yet to release Volume II, yet other translations can be found. Overall, it is a good publication, featuring an introduction, Schopenhauer's three different prefaces, Schopenhauer's Critique of [some] Kantian Philosophy and more. My only request would that Cambridge would use footnotes not endnotes for the citations. The publishers/editors did use footnotes to provide original translations of some words (German vocabulary surpasses the specificity of English) in alphabetical notes, but I would have preferred to see the other notes at the bottom of the page, rather than at the end of the book. However, this is a specific and often unorthodox request that follows my personal preference in academic writings.

The edition and translation is indeed satisfactory, yet I must give some demerit because I found Will and Representation ironically less interesting to than Parerga and Paralipomena; Schopenhauer would scoff at my "ignorance." That said, this is largely due to my own philosophical opinions on Schopenhauer (someone like me, who is more Hegelian, would fall into opposing camps as Schopenhauer). To truly form an opinion, I would recommend reading it. ( )
  MarchingBandMan | Sep 28, 2017 |
To begin, I’ve never been a big fan of Kant. The way in which he subordinates thought to universals and imperatives has always come off as repugnant to me. Nevertheless his fundamental of the phenomenal and noumenal have struck me as just right. I could never really reconcile my aversion to him though. Schopenhauer’s critique of Kant, for this reason, I found as liberating. Schopenhauer does away with all that which I had found objectionable in such an elegant and compelling manner, his accusation of Kant’s fetish for “architectonic symmetry” (in other words outdated Aristotelian logic) was quite simply masterful and I loved that whole appendix.

As a whole, this work is beautiful. He is lucid and poetic throughout, without ever losing sight of the human aspect, which I feel is what Kant essentially killed through his faith in pure reason. Schopenhauer’s justification for the human condition as a pre-rational, intuitive constitution is quite simply liberating – and is justifiably why he is so often cast aside in academic philosophy. This book is fully worth the read. Frankly it’s a piece of literature, intimately concerned with the human condition and devoid of equivocal abstractions. Everything that he sets out to do is by means of applying a few fundamental and clear principles from which he deals solely with existence. The very fact that he spends the whole of the third book on art is enough to captivate any reader.

Nevertheless, his is not an entirely solid philosophy. My biggest problem with his philosophy is his bringing into the thing-in-itself the Platonic Idea. Now granted, his re-evaluation of said Idea’s is very compelling in and of them self. He basically lays out a epistemological elegance that prevents the scholastic philosophy’s attempt to explain the why of things to merely the how. I simply though could not accept the assimilation of those basic ideas into the noumenal world. There is no justification for them being there and it is for that reason that I have never been able to swallow and philosophical “idealism.” Of greatest value though is his conviction that any attempt at conceiving of some form of ‘teleology’ is “charlatanism.” He gives the individual his due worth in this respect, and gives precedence to the significance of the individual as the primary role of philosophical thought – without any appeal to anything but man himself.

I look forward to continuing his thought in the second volume. His is a truly unique mind that despite some questionable fundamentals offers some purely inspiring insights (too many of which to list). The main reason I wanted to attempt Schopenhauer in full is that I wanted to give a thorough re-reading of Nietzsche, who was himself a proponent of Schopenhauer in his early career. I can see why.

A truly moving philosophy. Something that one does not come across very often.
( )
1 vote PhilSroka | Apr 12, 2016 |
"The world is my idea."

The World as Will and Representation is Arthur Schopenhauer's masterpiece and one of the most significant philosophical works to emerge during the 19th century. Schopenhauer bases his system on the Kantian distinction between the world of appearances and the reality behind it, or "things in themselves", the essence of all experiential phenomena, and claims that this unseen reality, which Kant stated could never be known, is apprehended by us as 'will', his term for the persistently striving force that governs this world and all that occupies it. Schopenhauer develops his ethics and aesthetics out of this metaphysical concept, an elaborate and harmonious framework of thought tied together by a simple idea. All of his work that follows is an expansion and further commentary on the views expressed in this text.

First Book: The World as Representation; First Aspect. The Representation subject to the Principle of Sufficient Reason: The Object of Experience and of Science.

"...this world is, on the one side, entirely representation, just as, on the other, it is entirely will."

"Besides the will and the representation, there is absolutely nothing known or conceivable for us."

The World as Representation: The world of appearances and phenomenal experience, represented intellectually by us, for us; the limit of human knowledge (“veil of Maya”). Only in space and time do we seem to be separate beings (principle of individuation, the "Veil of Maya", an illusion hiding the unity of things). The essence of philosophy is to recognize clearly the nature of the individual as a phenomenon, not the thing-in-itself, and to see in the constant change of matter the fixed permanence of form.

"The whole world of objects is and remains representation, and is for this reason wholly and for ever conditioned by the subject; in other words, it has transcendent ideality."

"...the division into object and subject is the first, universal, and essential form of the representation."

"...everything objective is already conditioned as such in manifold ways by the knowing subject with the forms of its knowing, and presupposes these forms; consequently it wholly disappears when the subject is thought away."

Schopenhauer is against materialism: We cannot explain mind as matter, because we know matter only through mind.

"Phenomenon means representation and nothing more. All representation, be it of whatever kind it may, all object, is phenomenon. But only the will is thing-in-itself; as such it is not representation at all, but toto genere different therefrom. It is that of which al representation, all object, is the phenomenon, the visibility, the objectivity. It is the innermost essence, the kernel, of every particular thing and also of the whole. It appears in every blindly acting force of nature, and also in the deliberate conduct of man, and the great difference between the two concerns only the degree of the manifestation, not the inner nature of what is manifested."

Second Book: The World as Will; First Aspect: The Objectification of the Will

The World as Will: Kant’s ‘thing-in-itself’; what the world is in essence, behind the phenomenal representation. The Will is not intellectual or individual. It is not God. The Will is a blind, persistent, imperious striving manifested within both the conscious and non-conscious. Will is master of the intellect. Intellect is merely a guide. It is a will to live, with death as the enemy. The real nature of things is never arrived at from without; one must go inward, into the self. The Will as a whole is free in itself, but its physical manifestations are irrevocably determined. A man is completely determined in action by his character (his will), despite attempts to behave differently, which is impossible because it would mean that he would have to become another person.

Movements of the body are movements of the Will; the body is objectified Will. All forces of nature are Will. All forms of life are manifest will, though lower in intellect compared to man the further down one goes. Non-human animals are the expression of will without intellect.

Two-sided nature of human state of being: An understanding, rational side, and a blind striving side which both directs and conflicts with human consciousness. There is a division between normal consciousness (basic process of self-sustainment and procreation) and a transcendent state; the transcendent state involves going beyond the world of appearance for the attainment of higher knowledge of reality. Character (Will) is inherited from the father, intellect from the mother.

"...the individual, the person, is not will as thing-in-itself, but is phenomenon of the will, is as such determined, and has entered the form of the phenomenon, the principle of sufficient reason. Hence we get the strange fact that everyone considers himself to be a priori quite free, even in his individual actions, and imagines he can at any moment enter upon a different way of life, which is equivalent to saying that he can become a different person. But...through experience, he finds to his astonishment that he is not free, but liable to necessity; that notwithstanding all his resolutions and reflections he does not change his conduct, and that from the beginning to the end of his life he must bear the same character that he himself condemns, and, as it were, must play to the end the part he has taken upon himself."

"...all things in the world are the objectivity of one and the same will."

Every organism is driven by an ultimate purpose of reproduction, its strongest instinct, and therefore the most difficult to overcome through pure knowledge and reflection. The choice of mate is determined largely and mostly unconsciously by mutual fitness to procreate." The satisfaction of the reproductive impulse is utterly and intrinsically reprehensible because it is the strongest affirmation of the lust for life.". Sexual satisfaction is likened to shameful feelings because it perpetuates the want and misery of existence. Love is a deception practiced by nature, who cares for the individual only so far as the individual performs maintenance for the species. The individual is the tool of nature; "death is for the species what sleep is for the individual".

Logic is useless; man wants what he wants not because of reasons, but because he wills it. The Will is irrational. Nature's intention through intellect is simply to serve the Will. The intellect is designed to know things so far as they afford motives for the will, not to fathom them or to comprehend their true being. Ethics is beyond scientific investigation; the empirical world and the ethical realm are different spheres of knowledge.

"...rational action and virtuous action are two quite different things; ...reason is just as well found with great wickedness as with great kindness, and by its assistance gives great effectiveness to the one as to the other..."

Third Book: The World as Representation; Second Aspect: The Representation Independent of the Principle of Sufficient Reason: The Platonic Idea: The Object of Art

Aesthetics: "...the world as representation, if we consider it in isolation, by tearing ourselves from willing, and letting it alone take possession of our consciousness, is the most delightful, and the only innocent, side of life. We have to regard art as the greater enhancement, the more perfect development, of all this; for essentially it achieves just the same thing as is achieved by the visible world itself, only with greater concentration, perfection, intention, and intelligence; and therefore, in the full sense of the word, it may be called the flower of life."

Aesthetic contemplation momentary quiets the will, and therefore our suffering, because it transforms us from individual knowing subject to pure will-less subject of knowledge. This condition is disinterested, meaning that true aesthetic contemplation involves total immersion into the Idea presented through the artistic presentation, entirely free from all individual, subjective concerns. It is a state of complete universal objectivity. lasting only as long as the mind can keep away any thoughts directed towards the individual will. It is a state of complete universal objectivity.

That which we call 'beautiful' in reference to some object, is the very quality of that object that stimulates contemplation of its Idea.

Art is higher than science because it reaches its goal (communication of knowledge of the Ideas) by intuition and presentation rather than laborious accumulation and cautious reasoning. Art requires genius, science mere talent; it alleviates the ills of life by showing us the eternal and universal behind the transitory and individual. "[Art]...repeats the eternal Ideas apprehended through pure contemplation, the essential and abiding element in all the phenomena of the world."

"...if the Ideas are to become object of knowledge, this can happen only by abolishing individuality in the knowing subject."

"...knowledge tears itself free from the service of the will precisely by the subject's ceasing to be merely individual, and being now a pure will-less subject of knowledge."

Object of Art/Aim of Artist: (Platonic) Idea. Not the particular thing/object of common apprehension. Not the concept/Object of rational thought and of science. Communication of apprehended Idea.

"All genuine art proceeds from knowledge of perception, never from the concept."

Difference Between Idea and Concept: Both as unities represent a plurality of actual things, but the concept is abstract, allusive, undetermined within its sphere, determined only by its limits, attainable and intelligible only to the faculty of reason, communicable by words without assistance, exhausted by its definition. The Idea is the adequate representative of the concept, perceptive, and thoroughly definite despite representing an infinite number of things; it is never known by the individual as such, only by raising oneself above willing and individuality to the pure subject of knowing (Genius).

The Idea apprehended in art appeals to the observer according to his measure of intellectual worth. Most will never truly know the best works of art due to the dull intellect of the majority, yet will accept those works as great on the authority of those who possess the required power of judgement, who have the capability to discern the great from the mediocre. In secret, the dull majority hate the great and beautiful, and the creators of such, because their inability to apprehend the qualities which make such works beautiful is a reflection of their base nature, thus making them feel inferior.

Idea: Unity which has fallen into plurality by virtue of the temporal and spatial form of intuitive apprehension. The apprehended Idea is the true and only source of every genuine work of art. Drawn from life itself, from the world, only by the genuine genius or from momentary inspiration reaching the point of genius.

Concept: Unity produced once more out of plurality by means of abstraction through the faculty of reason. Useful and necessary in practical life and productive in science, though barren and unproductive in art.

Genius: "...the gift of genius is nothing but the most complete objectivity, i.e., the objective tendency of the mind, as opposed to the subjective directed to our own person, i.e., to the will. Accordingly, genius is the capacity to remain in a state of pure perception, to remove from the service of the will the knowledge which originally existed only for this service."

Unconscious of intention and aim, for he operates from the Idea rather than the concept, which is where imitators begin. Educated and cultured by predecessors and their works; made directly productive through the impression of the perceived in life and the world itself. Separated from the generation (dull multitude of any time), which knows and sticks only to concepts, thus quick to praise the works of imitators, which later become unappealing due to the changing taste, the spirit of the times. Genuine works of art are drawn directly from nature and life, and therefore are eternal, beyond trends, belonging not to a point in time, but to mankind in the universal. Because of this, and because they indirectly and negatively expose the errors of the age, these works are treated with indifference in their own time, and so are recognized tardily and reluctantly. Such works are timeless, always making a fresh impression, crowned as great by the few minds capable of judgement, the number of which increases through the ages, culminating in stronger confirmation of the work's greatness. The great minds of all times share similar complaints concerning the majority of their times, since the human race is always the same. "...a man of genius is a phenomenon rare beyond all ordinary estimation, and appearing in nature only as the greatest exception."

Fourth Book: The World as Will; Second Aspect: With the Attainment of Self-Knowledge, Affirmation and Denial of the Will-to-Live

"...all life is suffering."

"...the will in all its phenomena is subject to necessity, while in itself it can be called free and even omnipotent."

"...at all grades of its phenomenon from the lowest to the highest, the will dispenses entirely with an ultimate aim and object. It always strives, because striving is its sole nature, to which no attainable goal can put an end. Such striving is therefore incapable of final satisfaction."

Pessimism: "...nowhere is there a goal, nowhere a final satisfaction, nowhere a point of rest." The world is without purpose. Existence is a continuous cycle of striving and desiring, which breeds suffering (usually pain or boredom, conditions fundamental to the essence of humanity and the world) from which it is the highest wisdom to free oneself. It is not liberation through suicide, but through ‘denial of the will’, extremely rare and difficult to achieve, but possible through aesthetic contemplation from an objective state of mind, saintly asceticism, or pure morality of compassion. The idea is to suspend, if only for a moment, subjective interest in the world, as it is this nature of interest that is the source of all pain and misery. The material world must be rejected for the enlightened wisdom of artists and saints. We must abolish the idea that we are separate from the world, and recognize that we share an eternal reality with the world in the form of will (Buddhism).

Life is evil because its basic stimulus and reality is pain. Pleasure is merely a negative cessation of pain. The higher the organism, the greater the suffering. Increase of knowledge is not a solution; genius suffers most of all. Life is a war for resources, time, and space. The will feeds upon itself.

"...every individual, completely vanishing and reduced to nothing in a boundless world, nevertheless makes himself the centre of the world, and considers his own existence and well-being before everything else. In fact, from the natural standpoint, he is ready for this to sacrifice everything else; he is ready to annihilate the world, in order to maintain his own self, that drop in the ocean, a little longer. This disposition is egoism, which is essential to everything in nature."

So wretched is our condition, it would have been better if life and this world never existed.

Satisfaction of the sexual impulse is the strongest affirmation of the will-to-live. Procreation affirms the will-to-live in the form of a new physical manifestation, but also affirms all the suffering and death that necessarily come with it. Asceticism, denial of the will-to-live, begins with complete suppression of the sexual impulse.

The state is nothing more than a practical method of protecting property and providing safety from personal harm. History is nothing but a record of the same things occurring in different forms. The contents of history are mere phantoms and illusions. The essence of humans and the world never changes. History is not a progression, but a repetition of events in different circumstances. A utopian state is not possible: "...as the will is, so is the world."

Schopenhauer expresses an atheistic disposition toward the transcendent state; a sort of religious state free from the idea of a god. Christianity is higher than Judaism or heathenism because it recognizes the lot of humans as being pain and sin, and offers a deterrent to the useless quest of earthly happiness. Buddhism is the most profound religion, for its religious emphasis on destruction of the will, and doctrine of Nirvana as the goal for all personal development.

"...the individual receives his life as a gift, rises out of nothing, and then suffers the loss of this gift through death, and returns to nothing."

"True salvation, deliverance from life and suffering, cannot even be imagined without complete denial of the will."

"Far from being denial of the will, suicide is a phenomenon of the will's strong affirmation. For denial has its essential nature in the fact that the pleasures of life, not its sorrows, are shunned. The suicide will life, and is dissatisfied merely with the conditions on which it has come to him. Therefore he gives up by no means the will-to-live, but merely life, since he destroys the individual phenomenon. He wills life, wills the unchecked existence and affirmation of the body; but the combination of circumstances does not allow of these, and the result for him is great suffering."

Suicide is vain and foolish, because the Will (life and species) remains unaffected by it; only through difficult and rare domination of intellect over will is there any salvation. One must acquire the knowledge and conviction that sees through the principle of individuation, and recognize himself in all other living things in order to overcome the will.

Appendix: Criticism of the Kantian Philosophy: "I confess that, next to the impression of the world of perception, I owe what is best in my own development to the impression made by Kant's works, the sacred writings of the Hindus, and Plato."

"Kant...has turned the procedure of our faculty of knowledge completely upside down."

"...the concept obtains value and truth only from perception."

"...the object as such exists always only for and in perception..."

"...according to Kant, there are only concepts of objects, no perceptions. On the other hand, I say that objects exist primarily only for perception, and that concepts are always abstractions from this perception. Therefore abstract thinking must be conducted exactly according to the world present in perception, for only the relation to this world gives content to the concepts, and we cannot assume for the concepts any other a priori determined form than the faculty for reflection in general."

"It is false to say that time itself remains in spite of all change; on the contrary, it is precisely time itself that is fleeting; a permanent time is a contradiction."

"Perception...is by no means mere sensation. but with it the understanding already proves itself active. Thought...is mere abstraction from perception, does nit furnish fundamentally new knowledge, does not establish objects that did not exist previously. It merely changes the form of the knowledge already gained through perception, makes it into an abstract knowledge in concepts, whereby its perceptual nature is lost, but, on the other hand, its combination becomes possible, and this immeasurably extends its applicability."

"...the concept of substance must be entirely rejected, and that of matter be everywhere put in its place."

Reason is not in itself inherently good (or bad). "Just as wickedness is quite compatible with the faculty of reason, in fact is really terrible only in this combination, so, conversely, nobility of mind is sometimes found in combination with want of reason."

"...deliberation and reflection have arisen in mean through the gift of reason. This enables him easily to survey his life and the course of the world in both directions as a whole; it makes him independent of the present, enables him to go to work deliberately, systematically, and with forethought, for evil as well as for good."

On the account of Kant's moral theology, "morality really destroys itself through moral theology. For...all virtue in any way practiced for the sake of a reward is based on a prudent, methodical, far-seeing egoism."
1 vote AMD3075 | Feb 23, 2014 |
Bought on the recommendation of a friend. To my Peircean standpoint, defining the world by a mere two terms seems too simple. But we'll see.
  wirkman | Apr 1, 2012 |
Schopenhauer's World as Will and Idea describes a philosophical world view which shares various aspects of thought with Kant and Plato, among others. The first volume consists of four books, and is around 530 pages.
The first book describes the world as consisting of idea. This gives a very idealist interpretation of reality, but one which is more sophisticated than the Idealist philosophy of Berkeley, for example.
The second book describes the world as being will, will being found in objects as well as living beings, but differing only in magnitude and not nature. This in places sounds mystic, giving inanimate particles a striving that sounds like a weaker version of our own; this can equally be read from the opposite angle, that human and animal life can be explained in a reductionist manner by movement of particles. The will of Schopenhauer is in some respects similar to the élan vital of Bergson.
The third book mainly concerns Idea, and discusses aesthetics, relating art to the Platonic Idea. This has been done in a similar fashion before, but it is treated well, and integrates with the rest of the system. Music is also discussed, but this reaches us directly through will, not involving idea. This I found to be the most convincing book of the four.
The fourth book is mainly on will, and discusses the implications of the philosophical system on ethics. His system is found to be compatible with the Buddhism and Hinduism, and also Christianity, but not Judaism or Islam.
The first two books are used to present to the reader the philosophical system, and the last two books give the practical implications of this. I found the book to be more engaging and readable than Kant, and an improvement on earlier Idealist works. Matter is hardly mentioned at all throughout the book, though it isn't denied, “the-thing-in-itself”, (a borrowing from Kant), is used to refer to what lies behind what we see, and is described as only being knowable through its two forms – will and idea. ( )
1 vote P_S_Patrick | Jan 3, 2011 |
Showing 5 of 5
If nothing else, read this to learn where Sigmund Freud "drew his inspiration" to say the least. In other words, Freud repackaged the insights of Art Schopenhauer in order to snort all the cocaine. Fact.

Seriously though, do read this to gain an appreciation for the slow process of ideas over time. It's rare that any individual suddenly gives rise to an idea s.t. it appears to be just like a schemed deux ex machina.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0486217612, Paperback)

Volume 1 of the definitive English translation of one of the most important philosophical works of the 19th century, the basic statement in one important stream of post-Kantian thought. Corrects nearly 1,000 errors and omissions in the older Haldane-Kemp translation. For the first time, this edition translates and locates all quotes and provides full index.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:28 -0400)

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Volume 1 of the definitive English translation of one of the most important philosophical works of the 19th century, the basic statement in one important stream of post-Kantian thought. Corrects nearly 1,000 errors and omissions in the older Haldane-Kemp translation. For the first time, this edition translates and locates all quotes and provides full index.… (more)

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