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Schopenhauer and Kant

Schopenhauer and Kant

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Published by Randolph Dible

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Published by: Randolph Dible on Apr 03, 2009
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10/30/2012

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 The Metaphysics of Schopenhauer and Kant: from
On the Possibility of Knowing theThing-in-Itself (The World as Will and Representation, Volume 2)
and the
Transcendental Aesthetic (Critique of Pure Reason)
Randy DibleDecember, 2008Kant made the foundational system and Schopenhauer breathed reality into it. Inthe
Critique of Pure Reason
, Immanuel Kant begins with the section called the
Transcendental Aesthetic
(a transcendental critique of taste in the sense of ascience of speculative philosophy accounting for “all principles of 
a priori
sensibility”) wherein he applies key distinctions made in the introduction betweenpure and empirical knowledge to our frame of reference for experience (conditionsfor the possibility of experience, the “two pure forms of sensible intuition”) in thenotions of space and time. In the first section he explains the nature of appearanceor representation as divided into
a prior 
and
a posteriori
, respectively, pure andempirical, which in our forms of sensibility or receptivity we intuit as form andmatter. It is the principles of a priori sensibility which he develops in thetranscendental aesthetic, beginning with space, ending with time, but both can besimply called dimensionality or extension, and as such constitute the frames of reference for our forms of experience. Indeed, space and time, in thistranscendental or ideal aspect, are also called forms—forms of our intuition [of theworld]. It is this ideality of space and time that Schopenhauer recognizes as theteaching of greatest significance from Kant. But where Kant failed to see, andSchopenhauer knew, was the higher teaching that the reality beyond the
 
representations and appearances, indeed the reality which lent itself to appearanceand representation in micro, was neither absent nor inaccessible, but instead
transcended the difficulties of access
, in being, just being it. Reality is ever-present,and regardless of illusion and false appearances, it is always already the case. Kantfailed to see, according to Schopenhauer, that there are modes of knowledge whichaccessed being by way of knowing (rather than thinking), knowing that the being of one’s own being and the being of the thing-in-itself (the thing) are the same being,the very being of being, which is being-itself. The things in themselves of Kant werenot numerous noumena, but only one Thing-in-Itself, Being, according toSchopenhauer. And this teaching is nowhere more directly transmitted than in thewisdom of the Vedas, from the Upanishads. Early translations of these Indian textswere available to Schopenhauer, and he is known to have read the Upanishadsevery night before going to sleep. In the preface to the first edition of the
World asWill and Representation
, Schopenhauer explains the prerequisites of the readershould he venture to understand the wisdom therein:“Kant’s philosophy is therefore the only one with which a thoroughacquaintance is positively assumed in what is to be here discussed. But if inaddition to this the reader has dwelt for a while in the school of the divinePlato, he will be the better prepared to hear me, and the more susceptible towhat I have to say. But if he has shared in the benefits of the Vedas, accessto which, opened to us by the Upanishads, is in my view the greatestadvantage which this still young century has to show over pervious centuries,since I surmise that the influence of Sanskrit literature will penetrate no lessdeeply than did the revival of Greek literature in the fifteenth century; if, Isay, the reader has also already received and assimilated the divine
 
inspiration of ancient Indian wisdom, then he is best of all prepared to hearwhat I have to say to him.” There is a chapter of the second volume of Schopenhauer’s World as Will andRepresentation called “On the Possibility of Knowing the Thing-in-Itself”. Such athesis as expressed in this title best articulates Schopenhauer’s key distinction fromKant. In the middle of this chapter, Schopenhauer states where he departs fromKant’s metaphysics: “… on the path of 
objective knowledge
, thus starting from the
representation
, we shall never get beyond the representation, i.e., thephenomenon. We shall therefore remain at the outside of things; we shall never beable to penetrate into their inner nature, and investigate what they are inthemselves. So far I agree with Kant. But now, as the counterpoise to this truth, Ihave stressed that other truth that we are not merely the
knowing subject 
, but that
we ourselves
are also among those realities or entities we require to know, that
weourselves are the thing-in-itself 
. Consequently, a way
from within
stands open to usto that real inner nature of things to which we cannot penetrate
from without 
.” (E.F. J. Payne translation,
World as Will and Representation
, Volume 2, p. 195)“Space” according to Kant “is a necessary
a priori
representation, which underlies allouter intuition….It must therefore be regarded as the condition of the possibility of appearances and not as a determination dependent upon them. It is an
a priori
representation, which necessarily underlies outer appearances.” (Norman KempSmith translation,
Critique of Pure Reason
, p. 68) There is a similarity betweenKant’s abstraction of space itself or pure space, which is unlimited, and the unary“Thing-in-Itself” of Schopenhauer: “Space is not a discursive or, as we say, general

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