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Schopenhauer and Kant

Schopenhauer and Kant

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Published by shawn
An exploration of the Philosophy of Schopenhauer and some of its key facets
An exploration of the Philosophy of Schopenhauer and some of its key facets

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Published by: shawn on May 07, 2009
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An Exploration of some key facets of the philosophy of Schopenhauer (and Kant)written by: Shawn Monaghan (critical on Scribd.com)February 17
, 1997First, as concerns the sources of metaphysical cognition, its very concept impliesthat they cannot be empirical. Its principles (including not only its basic propositions but also its basic concepts) must never be derived from experience. Itmust not be physical but metaphysical knowledge, i.e., knowledge lying beyondexperience. It can therefore have for its basis neither external experience, which isthe source of physics proper, nor internal, which is the basis of empirical psychology. It is therefore
a priori
cognition, coming from pure understandingand pure reason (A.K. 265).To this etymological argument of Kant’s, Schopenhauer asserts the need to accept any evidenceavailable for the description and exploration of the metaphysical world. For Schopenhauer acceptance of Kant’s position requires a positive proof that the ‘riddle’ of the world cannot befound within the world itself. The ‘riddle’ is only solvable through the “proper connexion of outer with inner experience”. What possible reason could we have for totally dismissing our ‘principle’ source of knowledge? Thus, so long as we recognize that we must work within certainlimits that define us as finite beings we can attain an understanding of the world itself withoutabsolute final explanations that eliminate ”all further problems”.
It is right to go up to the boundary (if there is no path beyond) (427).
As such Schopenhauer maintains a fine line between the doctrine of ‘omniscience’ of those whocame before Kant and the doctrine of ‘despair’ that is Kant’s “fundamental idea” (427). Thismodification of Kant is not unwarranted nor do I think can it be described as a betrayal of Kant.This position allows Schopenhauer to say a good deal more about the metaphysical world thanKant, while remaining very reasonably faithful to Kant’s doctrines. And so, it seems sufficientlyclear that the ‘proof’ to which Schopenhauer refers in book two of the thing-in-itself as will,must be viewed from the perspective of the provisional
 If not absolute
as should be all theseinvestigations.Kant’s assumption of the thing-in-itself was based on a deduction from causality. That is, Kantargued that sensations required an external cause in order for them to exist. Schopenhauer illustrates this faulty reasoning with the following proverb: “No lotus without a stem”.Schopenhauer avoided this faulty argument, first uncovered by Schulze, by the discovery of thein-itself through inner experience, i.e. self-consciousness. Though Schopenhauer also believesthat his argument simultaneously provides an arrival at the in-itself as ‘will’. His foundation for the latter conclusion is more shaky but is reasonably covered by the
 If not absolute
supposition towhich I have referred above (436).
Schopenhauer criticizes Kant’s philosophy on the basis that it blends abstract and intuitive(perceptive) knowledge together to such a degree that his system becomes mired incontradictions. Furthermore Schopenhauer believes that the above mistake also leads Kant to theincorrect separation of theoretical and practical reason.
. . . this business of the understanding and of knowledge of perception is finished, and for this noconcepts and no thinking are needed in addition; therefore the animal also has theserepresentations. If concepts are added, if thinking is added, to which spontaneity can certainly beattributed, then knowledge of perception is entirely abandoned, and a completely different class of representations, namely non-perceptible, abstract concepts, enters consciousness. This is theactivity of reason . . . (439).
Schopenhauer goes on to contend in detail, quite convincingly, that Kant brings objects of abstract reason into his categories with little justification and even less understandable purpose(in the light of the above quotation). Thus, Schopenhauer’s perspective of the understanding, asreflective and not discursive, manages to avoid many of the contradictions and ambiguities laiddown in Kant’s system (439).My final point of contact with Schopenhauer’s criticism of Kant is his section of theTranscendental Dialectic. It appears to be the final region of contention before acceptingSchopenhauer as a faithful improver of the Kantian philosophy and not a discreditable heretic.Schopenhauer asserts that Kant’s antinomies are an unnecessary procedure. He thus asserts hisown critique of reason. The essential nature of reason does not require or demand anunconditioned since it necessarily, if proceeding thoughtfully, finds that an unconditioned isabsurd. Reason is necessarily concerned with objects and therefore is entirely subordinated to theconditions of sufficient reason. The principles of sufficient reason are irrevocably a part of our consciousness and thus the ‘absolute absolute’ is a wall of blankness of absurdity (483). In thisway Schopenhauer shows himself to be following the spirit of Kant while at the same timearguably making improvements and clarifications of Kant’s system. His treatment of Kant’s“Ideas of Reason” is example enough of this, and his historic reclamation of the bastardizedPlatonic Ideas is enough to make a young academic cry (483-9).I find myself astonished at the overwhelmingly centralizing and organizing influence of Schopenhauer’s Appendix. The Appendix is an important section not only as an elucidation of his differences and quarrels with Kant but also as a preface that dispels many of thecontradictions which were a large proportion of the discussions in class. Fundamentally, I pointto his principle (which I have dubbed) “If Not Absolute” as much more appropriately to beconsidered his single thought, mostly because of the clarity and utter categorization of allsupposed errors of contradiction as non-absolute.The common aim of all the arts is the unfolding and elucidation of the Idea expressing itself inthe object of every art, of the will objectifying itself at each grade. The life of man, as often seenin the world of reality, is like the water as seen often in pond and river; but in the epic, theromance, and the tragedy, selected characters are placed in those circumstances in which all their characteristics are unfolded, the depths of the human mind are revealed and become visible in
extraordinary and significant actions. Thus poetry objectifies the Idea of man, an Idea which hasthe peculiarity of expressing itself in highly individual characters (p. 252).In his description of art Schopenhauer depicts tragedy as the ‘summit of poetic art’ and poetry asthe summit of all art
. The plastic arts can surpass poetry in depicting the lower grades of thewill’s objectivity, but poetry is the most capable of depicting the highest grades of the will’sobjectivity -- individual human beings. No other forms of art can vie for excellence with poetryas it is the most vital and dynamic of the arts. Human beings are much more difficult to expressthan the other beings of nature, their inner being is a ‘chain of actions’ and thus requires adynamic changing medium for its adequate expression. This expression is the Idea in the highestgrade of the will’s objectification:
. . . namely the presentation of man in the connected series of his efforts and actions . . . (p.
244).Let us not confuse this ‘connected series of efforts’ with any sort of depiction of phenomena, thatis within the realm of relations that are subject to the principles of sufficient reason, as it isindeed the inner nature of individuals, specific characters, that are depicted by tragic poetry.Thus, the peculiar nature of tragedy comes to the fore. Tragedy as a form of poetry expresses thetruth in the universal and at the same time the truth of the Idea which is not found in any particular phenomenon (244-5). On the other hand Tragedy manages to communicate the truth of the universal from the individual character. The Idea of humanity is peculiar in that it has thedistinction of expressing itself in ‘highly individual characters’ (252).Tragedy’s purpose in its expression of the Idea of humanity is to reveal the ‘terrible side of life’(252). Tragedy reveals the will as its own antagonist in the highest possible form and also itsmost horrific. This antagonism of the will is then in some cases apprehended in a thoughtful way by the audience. This knowledge once apprehended is acted upon by the suffering and hardshipof life. Suffering thus purifies and enhances the knowledge accordingly. Eventually, theindividual with this knowledge added (through experience) is capable of seeing the world for theillusion, the mere reflection, that it is. It is the function of tragedy that it should serve to lead tothe utter denial of the will.
that were previously so powerful now lose their force, and instead of them, thecomplete knowledge of the real nature of the world, acting as a
of the will, producesresignation, the giving up not merely of life, but of the whole will-to-live itself (his emphasis253).
The relationship tragedy has to the audience is only intelligible when considered through theeffect it has on an individual character. The empirical character is merely phenomena of theintellectual character (this is the in-itself of our character). We come to know our empiricalcharacter through experience.
This knowledge is then applied to our motives to allow for greater efficiency and ease in life. We come to know what it is that is more ‘natural’ for ourselves. Thus,we recognize our strengths and weaknesses (305). We cease to envy someone in a high stationwhen we realize that station is not conducive to our personal happiness. This knowledge we areconsidering is referred to by Schopenhauer as acquired character:
. . . mere willing and mere ability to do are not enough of themselves, but a man must also
what he wills, and
what he can do. Only thus will he display character, and only then can he

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