Intros to European Philosophy: Schopenhauer

ARTHUR SCHOPENHAUER (1788-1860)

Previously read: nyet

Key texts: World as Will and Idea, the (abr.)

Overall impression: There was a bit more here than I expected, but by this point I really wanted to get through to Nietzsche (to be fair, anyone but Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, or Heidegger was going to disappoint after Hegel).  Schopenhauer still managed to pass on some thoughts worthy of reflection.  The pendulum was rebalancing toward action/will and that makes sense, but there is n’t an acceptable cosmology remaining if we take Schopenhauer’s premisses.

Surprises:

On succession in time:

  • “Succession is the form of the principle of sufficient reason in time, and succession is the whole nature of time. (European Philosophers from Descartes to Nietzsche, ed. M. Beardsley: p. 652)”  How are we to know that this is truly the case?  Experience suggests that this is all we may meaningfully speak of, but it may not be all that is truly experienced in time, only that which is perceived.

`That is, we can argue that we experience time according to succession, but could time have depth in some sense we are incapable of experiencing at present?

What is there for a skeptic to do but attack?

“Since however, and this cannot be too much emphasized, there is absolutely no relation according to the principle of sufficient reason between subject and object, neither of these views could be proved, and therefore skepticism attacked them both with success. (European Philosophers, p. 653)”

`Such is the ‘foolish controversy about the reality of the outer world’.

Fichte’s subjective presumption subjected to the object:

“Materialism overlooked the fact that, with the simplest object, it assumed the subject also; and Fichte overlooked the fact that with the subject (whatever he may call it) he assumed the object also, for no subject is thinkable without an object… (ibidem, p. 659)”

`Seems a reasonable enough critique.

Ratio femina (not going to pretend that ‘s upstanding Latin…)

“Reason is feminine in nature; it can only give after it has received.  Of itself it has nothing but the empty forms of its operation.  There is no absolutely pure rational knowledge except the four principles to which I have attributed metalogical truth; the principles of identity, contradiction, excluded middle, and sufficient reason of knowledge. (European Philosophers, p. 660)”

`Eh, this hardly seems a robust feminine concept.  The idea is striking, perhaps because it is offensive.  The denial of (most) pure rational knowledge is helpful – the others are products of intuition in my view.

Will and body: united yet given according to different perceptions —

“Every true act of [the subject of knowledge’s] will is also at once and without exception a movement of his body.  The act of will and the movement of the body are not two different things objectively known, which the bond of causality unites; they do not stand in the relation of cause and effect; they are one and the same, but they are given in entirely different ways – immediately, and again in perception for the understanding. (ibidem, p. 666)”

Few theoretical items can be refuted…less theoretical egoism:

“Theoretical egoism can never be demonstrably refuted, yet in philosophy it has never been used otherwise than as skeptical sophism, i.e., a pretence.  As a serious conviction, on the other hand, it could only be found in a madhouse, and as such it stands in need of a cure rather than a refutation. (p. 667)”

`Perhaps more foolishness should be so handled – not by further provocation but by some more caring means.

And we ‘ll conclude with Spinoza:

“Spinoza (Letter 62) says that if a stone which has been projected through the air had consciousness, it would believe that it was moving of its own will.  I add to this only that the stone would be right. (European Philosophy, p. 673)”

`The ‘quality’ or necessity or force impelling the stone is, for Schopenhauer that which is called in humans ‘character’.  When perceived momentarily, it is called will (ibidem, p. 674).  The force, or tendency, is meaningless apart from the relation in time; ‘take the earth away and the stone will not fall’.

“Thus the law of causality is essentially bound up with that of the permanence of substance; they reciprocally derive significance from each other.  Time and space, again, are related to them in the same way. (ibidem, p. 675)”

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