Arthur Schopenhauer (Lover of Poodles)


Reading Questions (will post more soon)

  1. (4) Why is it ‘one-sided’ to consider the world as representation?  How does Schopenhauer differ from Kant here?

If we clearly state and compare the two philosophers thoughts on the world we can easily appreciate the way Schopenhauer is different from his illustrious predecessor. For Kant the world in itself, the noumenal world can not be fully known instead sensibility is filtered through the categories of the understanding, making genuine authentic knowledge phenomenal (existing in space and time). Schopenhauer, reduced everything into either will or representation. As he states right at the beginning of The World as Will and Representation (1818),

“Therefore no truth is more certain, more independent of all others, and less in need

of proof than this, namely that everything that exists for knowledge, and hence the

whole of this world, is only object in relation to the subject, perception of the perceiver, in a word, representation.”

So, analysing this more deeply the difference is a nuanced one, Schopenhauer admired Kant’s discovery of the thing-in-itself, but in the predication he observes an aesthetic aspect of being created by the individual whereas Kant gave privilege to the individual I’s manner of cognition. It is one-sided to consider the world as representation because reading the text we are supposed to appreciate that “everything belonging to the world is being-conditioned by the subject”, “existence and perceptibility are convertible terms”, and the subject itself  “does not lie in space and time, for it is whole and undivided in every representing being.” All statements that culminate in a lack of autonomy and, or freedom from nature yet we can still experience these things only through a bleak acceptance of the inevitability of suffering.                 

  1. (146) What picture of nature emerges from Schopenhauer’s conception of the world as will?  

This moody German’s image of nature starts to be described in [146] as a continuous state of competition and conflict. One where what is thought of as separate qualities of the world turn out to be battling one another for the chance to reveal their own idea. Schopenhauer references the animal kingdom and its predator prey dualism to help him assert that ideas only manifest in relation to another idea. In other words nature is an infinity of competing ideas?

  1. (196) What is it that enables us to transcend our nature as blindly willing beings?


The specific thing that provides the capacity to transcend such an aimless condition is the thing we refer to as suffering. This is understandable when he starts discussing Eris (strife) as a contradiction between the will-to-life, its inner self, and its visibility through the principium individuationis. Eventually resulting in, “a goodness that shows itself as pure, i.e,. disinterested, affection towards others.  

  1. Book four is taken to contain Schopenhauer’s treatment of ethics, in the light of his conception of the world as will and representation.  How do you understand his doctrine of the ‘denial of the will-to-life’ (378).  Do you find this appealing?


I think my understanding is in line with the well established interpretation of Schopenhauerian ethics, that the ‘denial of the will-to-life’ is the logical conclusion of the ancient wisdom/myth of Silenus, “that it was better to not have been born”. However, I think that there is much more in Schopenhauer’s writing to suggest that his ethics are not just about a complete negation of life (how else would Nietzsche have been so affirming of life? If there was not some positivity to be had in Schopenhauer?) Rather, when he quotes the great Spinoza, Benevolentia nihil aliud est, quam cupiditas ex commiseratione orta (Ethics, iii, pr.27, cor. 3 schol.) It is safe to say that because of this disjunction of sympathy or selfishness this imbalanced duality one should gain a great deal more attentiveness to the short lived, fleeting, and perhaps serendipitous nature of happiness?

  1. Schopenhauer accepts many tenets of Kant’s theory of knowledge, but he completely disagrees with Kant as regards the practical philosophy (376). Why and in what sense?


His disagreement with Kant’s pragmatical use of maxims and the categorical imperative can be understood as a negative view of mere concepts… Kant’s practical philosophy was created to be practised, for Schopenhauer this was still way too theoretical and analytical, “All true and pure affection is sympathy or compassion, and all love that is not sympathy is selfishness. All this will be in direct contradiction to Kant.” Opposing Kant, and embracing chance and error Schopenhauer even saw Jesus as struggling to apply the Categorical Imperative.

“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than a rich

Man to enter into the Kingdom Of God.”

– Jesus


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