Age of the Sage site banner

Arthur Schopenhauer's philosophy

Schopenhauer's philosophy of Will
The World as Will and Idea / Representation

Arthur Schopenhauer believed that Immanuel Kant had either made, or greatly re-inforced, uniquely important breakthroughs in human understanding - these included Kant's division of reality into what was susceptible of being experienced, (the phenomenal), and what was not, (the noumenal).

Schopenhauer was greatly influenced by Kant's key insistence that the forms and frameworks of all possible experience were dependent on the contingent nature of our bodily apparatus, and would have been so whatever that apparatus had been. It follows from this that people are unable to envisage what anything was like independently of being experienced, and therefore that the nature of independent reality must remain a permanently closed book to us, being unconceptualizably and unimaginably different from anything we could apprehend. The Sciences, meanwhile, could be utilised to provide understanding of the Empirical World of time, space, and causally interconnected material objects.

Schopenhauer's principal work, The World as Will and Idea / Representation, is comprised of four books. The first and third treating with the World as Representation (or Idea) and being largely based on Kant, the second and fourth treating with the World as Will which, based on his own speculations, considered the notion that the Will is the key to all existence. The human body and all its parts being the visible expression of the will and its several desires. The teeth, throat, and bowels for example being "objectified" hunger.

Starting from the principle that the will is the inner nature of the body as an appearance in time and space, he concluded that the inner reality of all material appearances is Will. Where Kant had concluded that ultimate reality - the "thing-in-itself" (Ding an sich) - lay beyond being experienced, Schopenhauer postulated that the ultimate reality is one universal will. This will is the inner nature of each experiencing being and assumes in time and space the appearance of the body, which is an idea. Accordingly existence is the expression of an insatiable, pervasive, will generating a world that features such negatives as conflict and suffering, senselessness, and futility as well as many positives. It is the "will to live" that perpetuates this cosmic spectacle.

For Schopenhauer, who is considered to be a pessimistic philosopher, the tragedy of life arises from the nature of the will, which constantly urges the individual toward the satisfaction of successive goals, none of which can provide permanent satisfaction for the infinite activity of the life force, or will.

Such things as an interest in the Arts, and a moral life based on sympathy, tend to alleviate the suffering experienced in people's lives. A more telling alleviation is to be found through the denial, or suspension, of the will through asceticism.

page content divider

It is somewhat possible to associate Arthur Schopenhauer's philosophy with the approaches to matters philosophical, not only of some of the most celebrated figures in the western traditions of philosophy, but also with prominent authorities from other faith and philosphical traditions across the globe:-

"Whatever concept one may hold, from a metaphysical point of view, concerning the freedom of the will, certainly its appearances, which are human actions, like every other natural event, are determined by universal laws. However obscure their causes, history, which is concerned with narrating these appearances, permits us to hope that if we attend to the play of freedom of the human will in the large, we may be able to discern a regular movement in it, and that what seems complex and chaotic in the single individual may be seen from the standpoint of the human race as a whole to be a steady and progressive though slow evolution of its original endowment."

Immanuel Kant
Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View (1784)

It is widely known that Plato, pupil of and close friend to Socrates, accepted that Human Beings have a " Tripartite Soul " where the individual Human Psyche is noticeably composed of three aspects - Wisdom-Rationality, Spirited-Will and Appetite-Desire.

What is less widely appreciated is that such major World Faiths as Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism see "Spirituality" as being relative to "Desire" and to "Wrath".

could such tendencies as these tend to be aspects of that 'knot of roots' which Emerson tells us man is

Could such Materialistic?, Spiritual? and Social-group? related tendencies as those "Tripartite" ones just mentioned all tend to be aspects of that 'Knot of Roots' which Emerson suggests that ~ "Man Is"

Explore Human Nature on our insightful
Human Nature - Tripartite Soul page

Human Societies often seem
to be rather "Tripartite"

Diagram suggesting that Human Societies often demonstrate capacities for Spiritual, Materialistic and Tribal / Ethnic 'Tripartism'

Human Beings are "Social Beings" and it seems actually possible that individual Human-innate
"bundles of relations and knots of roots"
supply 'motive impetus' to the Emergence of the "World" of Human Societies!!!