Philosophy 422 Reaction to Schopenhauer

ADM 7 September 1992

Schopenhauer describes genius as what comes when man shrugs off his will and is “no longer the individual,” but instead “only the pure subject of knowledge” (S., 198). Until a man is able to release knowledge from his will, he is merely at the verge of genius, and finds himself at an uncomfortable crossroads, because he likes very much to learn, but still occasionally will lament, “It is of no use to me”, and he will be unable to find ease or knowledge in solitude. The world, the experience of living, is itself knowledge, and the pre-genius must learn this and learn that there is no need for a companion or intermediary in the relationship of man and knowledge. I would like somehow to build Nietzsche’s conception of the Apollinian and the Dionysian into this Schopenhauerian notion, and I think the dream experience could offer the kind of genius Schopenhauer discusses. Conrad wrote that we live as we dream: alone. And Schopenhauer seems to suggest that we live as we learn, and therefore we can learn alone. Dreams bring knowledge directly to the dreamer, free of will, free of intermediary, and they can deliver knowledge without corruption or adulteration, and seemingly without perspective. They are, then, objective representations of reality, and dreams seen through the filter of sleep could even be said to be more real than the original experience that inspired the dreams. The difficulty of matching these two ideas originates in trying to blend Nietzsche’s “It is a dream! I will dream on!” with Schopenhauer’s surrendering of the will to knowledge. One could argue that Nietzsche’s exalted declaration in a way is a surrender to the new reality, the new knowledge that is the dream, and the willingness to explore it is the flip side of the unwillingness to return to waking reality and the problems of will and knowledge that conscious reality brings.

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