An Exploration of some key facets of the philosophy of Schopenhauer (and Kant) written by: Shawn Monaghan (critical on Scribd.

com) February 17th, 1997

First, as concerns the sources of metaphysical cognition, its very concept implies that they cannot be empirical. Its principles (including not only its basic propositions but also its basic concepts) must never be derived from experience. It must not be physical but metaphysical knowledge, i.e., knowledge lying beyond experience. It can therefore have for its basis neither external experience, which is the source of physics proper, nor internal, which is the basis of empirical psychology. It is therefore a priori cognition, coming from pure understanding and pure reason (A.K. 265). To this etymological argument of Kant’s, Schopenhauer asserts the need to accept any evidence available 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 be found 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 certain limits that define us as finite beings we can attain an understanding of the world itself without 1 absolute 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 who came before Kant and the doctrine of ‘despair’ that is Kant’s “fundamental idea” (427). This modification 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 than Kant, while remaining very reasonably faithful to Kant’s doctrines. And so, it seems sufficiently clear 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 these investigations. Kant’s assumption of the thing-in-itself was based on a deduction from causality. That is, Kant argued 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 the in-itself through inner experience, i.e. self-consciousness. Though Schopenhauer also believes that 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 to which 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 in contradictions. Furthermore Schopenhauer believes that the above mistake also leads Kant to the incorrect separation of theoretical and practical reason.
. . . this business of the understanding and of knowledge of perception is finished, and for this no concepts and no thinking are needed in addition; therefore the animal also has these representations. If concepts are added, if thinking is added, to which spontaneity can certainly be attributed, then knowledge of perception is entirely abandoned, and a completely different class of representations, namely non-perceptible, abstract concepts, enters consciousness. This is the activity 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, as reflective and not discursive, manages to avoid many of the contradictions and ambiguities laid down in Kant’s system (439). My final point of contact with Schopenhauer’s criticism of Kant is his section of the Transcendental Dialectic. It appears to be the final region of contention before accepting Schopenhauer 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 his own critique of reason. The essential nature of reason does not require or demand an unconditioned since it necessarily, if proceeding thoughtfully, finds that an unconditioned is absurd. Reason is necessarily concerned with objects and therefore is entirely subordinated to the conditions 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 this way Schopenhauer shows himself to be following the spirit of Kant while at the same time arguably 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 bastardized Platonic 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 the contradictions which were a large proportion of the discussions in class. Fundamentally, I point to his principle (which I have dubbed) “If Not Absolute” as much more appropriately to be considered his single thought, mostly because of the clarity and utter categorization of all supposed errors of contradiction as non-absolute.

The common aim of all the arts is the unfolding and elucidation of the Idea expressing itself in the object of every art, of the will objectifying itself at each grade. The life of man, as often seen in the world of reality, is like the water as seen often in pond and river; but in the epic, the romance, 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 has the peculiarity of expressing itself in highly individual characters (p. 252). In his description of 2art Schopenhauer depicts tragedy as the ‘summit of poetic art’ and poetry as the summit of all art . The plastic arts can surpass poetry in depicting the lower grades of the will’s objectivity, but poetry is the most capable of depicting the highest grades of the will’s objectivity -- individual human beings. No other forms of art can vie for excellence with poetry as it is the most vital and dynamic of the arts. Human beings are much more difficult to express than the other beings of nature, their inner being is a ‘chain of actions’ and thus requires a dynamic changing medium for its adequate expression. This expression is the Idea in the highest grade 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, that is within the realm of relations that are subject to the principles of sufficient reason, as it is indeed 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 the truth 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 the distinction 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 its most 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 hardship of life. Suffering thus purifies and enhances the knowledge accordingly. Eventually, the individual with this knowledge added (through experience) is capable of seeing the world for the illusion, the mere reflection, that it is. It is the function of tragedy that it should serve to lead to the utter denial of the will.
The motives that were previously so powerful now lose their force, and instead of them, the complete knowledge of the real nature of the world, acting as a quieter of the will, produces resignation, the giving up not merely of life, but of the whole will-to-live itself (his emphasis 3 253).

The relationship tragedy has to the audience is only intelligible when considered through the effect it has on an individual character. The empirical character is merely phenomena of the intellectual character (this is the in-itself of our character). We come to know our empirical 4 character 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 station when we realize that station is not conducive to our personal happiness. This knowledge we are considering 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 know what he wills, and know what he can do. Only thus will he display character, and only then can he

achieved anything solid. Until he reaches this, he is still without character, in spite of the natural consistency of the empirical character (304).

Thus the acquired character becomes a type of knowledge through which we reach contentment with ourselves. Once we become certain of the necessity of the way we are and of the way our 5 lives unfold suffering falls to the wayside . Though this description of acquired character is not specifically meant by Schopenhauer as an elucidation of tragedy and its effect, it holds the key to the relation between the intelligible and empirical character -- the subjugation to necessity of all the will’s phenomenon (307). Thus the acquired character becomes a revelation of necessity and so too does tragedy. As shown above tragedy is meant to show the ‘terrible side of life’. Tragedy accordingly has no effect on the will, nor does it change our empirical character. Tragedy is, just like life’s experiences a source of knowledge. Knowledge that life is subject to necessity and that no matter what we do nothing can change that. Tragedy is described as a means of realizing the terrible side of life while the acquired character is described as a means of giving in to the futility of breaking out of the cage of necessity that is life. A loss of individuation is central to the process of apprehending of the Idea. The subject accordingly becomes lost (ie. becomes ‘pure subject’) in the object and the object is perceived in the absence of abstract thought and concepts of reason. In order to have this ‘pure perception’ the subject becomes like ‘a clear mirror of the object’ as though the object alone exists (178). The object-of-knowledge becomes the Idea when the subject and object have become one. When the object has passed out of relation to all that is outside it, and the subject has passed out of relation to the will, the Idea is that which is known. At this time (so to speak) the perceiver is no longer an individual, she is ‘pure will-less, painless, timeless subject of knowledge’ (179). Music is the final art form considered by Schopenhauer in book three. It is entirely unique from all other forms of art in that it is not a copy or depiction of an Idea. In fact, music is the expression of the inner nature of the world, analogous to the Idea.
. . . music is as immediate an objectification and copy of the whole will as the world itself is, indeed as the Ideas are, the multiplied phenomenon of which constitutes the world of individual things. Therefore music is by no means like the other arts, namely a copy of the Ideas, but a copy of the will itself, the objectivity of which are the Ideas (his emphasis 257).

Schopenhauer’s further explanation of music relies heavily on analogy with Ideas. Ideas and music are parallel though not in any absolute or direct relation. In fact music is much more powerful than any of the other arts in its influence on us. Music ‘passes over the Ideas’ unlike any other form of art which is merely a copy or replica of an Idea. Thus music speaks the 6 ‘essence’ and the rest of art only the ‘shadow’. Music could exist even in the absence of the world itself (as phenomenon) (257). Indeed music is (just as the Idea) objectification of the thing-in-itself.

It is interesting to note that most forms of art as well as the way of perceiving the Idea involve a decided affirmation of the will. That is, the recognition of the unity of all things as the will. Schopenhauer calls the perceiver of the Idea the pure will-less subject but he also describes the process as a unity of the subject and object. It is also interesting to note that Schopenhauer’s life is an example of what he would consider affirmation of the will-to-live and decidedly not denial. This raises interesting questions as to the actual reason and importance of denial7of the will-tolive in Schopenhauer’s philosophy. Most art is considered as the ‘flower of life’ , whereas tragedy is decidedly different. Certainly it could be considered beautiful as an example of the sublime, but beauty appears to have greater occurrence in his elucidation of the various arts. Thus tragedy is the highest form of art perhaps not merely because it is a dynamic art most capable of depicting human activity, but because Schopenhauer wanted to assert denial of the will as the highest form of existence as salvation. Other forms of poetry might be considered as powerful and dynamic but since the tragedy can lead to salvation through denial it is prominent since he wishes to provide that alternative and prepare the way for those who are capable of this salvation. The person who reaches this salvation is rare and exceptionally disciplined (saintly) (411-2). It seems likely that the prominence of affirmation in Schopenhauer’s philosophy is a simple fact of numbers, for only a select few can attain the highest level of existence. Chansky’s article discussing the contradictions between the philosophic truths of music and tragedy would have been better served had he voiced more than a shadow of his thought. If he had considered this contradiction through the context of the sublime versus beauty, he would have been much better equipped to see the supposed contradiction fade away. As to why he opposes music and tragedy, instead of tragedy with all the other arts I hope I have not simplified 8 his ambiguous position by assuming he had only half thought or expressed his idea. Schopenhauer’s discussion of the sublime is strikingly parallel to that of tragedy:
. . . in the course of his own life and in its misfortunes, he will look less at his own individual lot than at the lot of mankind as a whole, and accordingly will conduct himself in this respect rather as a knower than as a sufferer (my emphasis 207).

Compare this with the final stage of tragedy (where the purpose of tragedy is attained):
The motives that were previously so powerful now lose their force, and instead of them, the complete knowledge of the real nature of the world, acting as a quieter of the will, produces resignation, the giving up not merely of life, but of the whole will-to-live itself (my emphasis in bold, his in italics 253).

Chansky’s interpretation of contradictions of ‘philosophic truths’ is merely due to his lack of attention to the discussion of the sublime, which Schopenhauer refers to as ‘identical’ to the beautiful in regard to Ideas (though quite naturally very different in its effect on our attitude 9 toward life). In quoting Schopenhauer’s description of art as the ‘flower of life’ Chansky believes he has come upon a contradiction between art and tragedy.
According to Schopenhauer, of course, tragedy has a very different view. The world of things, he says is “certainly beautiful to behold, but to be [one of] them is something quite different” (WWR, v. 2, ch.46, p. 479). Yet, as Schopenhauer also makes clear, the sufferings of the individual make no difference to the will. Thus it seems that not only are the sufferings, of the phenomenal individual meaningless with regard to the will, but also any objections against suffering on the part 10 of the individual are just as meaningless (Chansky p. 78).

The only difference between the sublime and the beautiful, that is not explicitly stated by Schopenhauer, is that the relation of the perceiver to her will through the sublime results in a different sort of knowledge, much like the form of acquired character, than the beautiful. The key to the difference between art in general (as ‘the flower of life’) and art (as instantiated in tragedy) is attention to the ‘serious side of things’ (267). Clearly this ‘serious side of things’ is a reference 11 to ethics , which is the next topic in book four. When Schopenhauer made reference to art as the ‘flower of life’ he was referring to “representation alone, purely contemplated, or repeated through art, free from pain” (my emphasis 267).
The pleasure of everything beautiful . . . Therefore [it] does not become for him a quieter of the will, as we shall see in the following book in the case of the saint who has attained resignation; it does not deliver him from life for ever, but only for a few moments. For him it is not the way out of life but only an occasional consolation in it, until his power, enhanced by this contemplation, finally becomes tired of the spectacle, and seizes the serious side of things (267).

Thus, the perceiver of the beautiful becomes aware of the Idea with no struggle against the will. The perceiver of the sublime comes to know that they wish to fight against the will. The will resists not at all to the perception of the beautiful yet it resists immensely against the apprehension of the sublime. Thus the perceiver learns to take the path of most resistance since it is told by the will not to do so. This rebellion against the will is clearly the same rebellion that arises in tragedy and, of course, the denial of the will in general.
By the expression ascetism, which I have already used so often, I understand in the narrower sense this deliberate breaking of the will by refusing the agreeable and looking for the disagreeable, the voluntarily chosen way of life of penance and self-chastisement, for the constant mortification of the will (his emphasis 392).

This idea is referred to by Schopenhauer in book four but is not ascribed a specific label, though it is deserving a label because of its importance. He only denotes it as ‘effect of grace’ (404). It is also known as faith and intuitive knowledge. A sort of knowledge that cannot be forced or intended but comes “from that innermost relation of knowing and willing in man; hence it comes suddenly as if flying in from without” (404). This process is the only instance of the freedom of the will that is instantiated within phenomena. It is through the sublime that we acquire our ethics as well as emotions like love and compassion. Thus, the beautiful is incapable of evoking these ethical feelings since there is no inherent conflict with the will-to-live merely absence (will-lessness). This is where the sublime becomes central to denial of the will. Only through sublime knowledge do we have access to freedom as the form of knowledge Schopenhauer calls the ‘effect of divine grace’ (403).
Now since, as we have seen, that self-suppression of the will comes from knowledge, but all knowledge and insight as such are independent of free choice, that denial of willing, that entrance into freedom, is not to be forcibly arrived at by intention or design, but comes from the innermost relation of knowing and willing in man; hence it comes suddenly, as if flying in from without. Therefore, the Church calls it the effect of grace; but just as she still represents it as depending on the acceptance of grace, so too the effect of the12 quieter is ultimately an act of the freedom of the will (his emphasis in italics; mine in bold 404) .

Clearly there is no instant of freedom within the state of affirmation this is why denial is the only true salvation. Salvation is the realization and the single act of freedom possible. This is the one paradoxically will-ful moment. Will is the only thing which has freedom and can possibly act outside the principles of sufficient reason, except when we enact denial of the will. This act of freedom is the only real way of modifying ones character. As Schopenhauer says of those, who have undergone this transformation:
. . . it is not a question of a change, but of an entire suppression of the character; and so it happens that, however different the characters that arrived at that suppression were before it, they nevertheless show after it a great similarity in their mode of conduct, although each speaks very differently according to his concepts and dogmas (his emphasis 403).

Clearly there is no real ambiguity between the affirmation and denial of the will-to-live. In denial we are acting out the only possible free choice that exists for us as creatures of phenomena. In affirmation we merely follow knowingly the course that, up to this point of affirmation, was followed blindly. If the knowledge of the ‘effect of grace’ is presented to us through contemplation, the only real choice is for freedom. The only reason Schopenhauer appears ambiguous with regard to the choice of affirmation or denial is because only the rare individual becomes enlightened enough to have the opportunity of such choice. Affirmation of the will-tolive is merely equivalent to knowledge of original sin. All life is suffering and there exists no freedom. Denial of the will-to-live is salvation. All life is suffering and there is a course of action that is our only possible act of freedom (405).
No satisfaction, however, is lasting; on the contrary, it is always merely the starting-point of a fresh striving. We see striving everywhere impeded in many ways, everywhere struggling and fighting, and hence always as suffering. Thus that there is no ultimate aim of striving means that there is no measure or end of suffering (309).

The choice (between principles) becomes thus simple and clear. Affirmation is the acceptance and living of life without aim, whereas denial has the goal of salvation, of freedom. Though acquired character allows the individual to ameliorate suffering to a degree and knowledge of the unity of will allows for the end of the fear of death, we are inescapably drawn to compassion when affirming the will to live. This serious side of life, otherwise known as the ethical side of life, can only lead to one real conclusion, that all life is suffering. The acquired character as well as the whole discussion in sections 54-6 is about knowledge as assisted by the Ideas of beauty. It is from knowledge as assisted by the sublime, the ethical quadrant of the Idea, that leads us toward denial of the will-to-live. We cannot choose the one course or the other it is a simple reality that for some, the level of knowledge leads to the affirmation and no farther.

Now, if seeing through the principium individuationis, if this direct knowledge of the identity of the will in all its phenomena, is present in a high degree of distinctness, it will at once show an influence on the will which goes still farther . . . he no longer makes the egoistical distinction between himself and the person of others, . . . [he] must also regard the endless sufferings of all

that lives as his own, and thus take upon himself the pain of the whole world . . . how could he, with such knowledge of the world, affirm this very life through constant acts of will, and precisely in this way bind himself more firmly to it, press himself to it more and more closely (378-9)?

The person who is 13 limited to the affirmation of the will is limited to knowledge of how to get by in life comfortably , she recognizes that the ‘veil of Maya’ is illusion but does not penetrate to the full elimination of her egoism. 1Henceforth I will refer to this, Schopenhauer’s way, of approaching the boundaries without crossing them as ‘If Not Absolute’. No doubt this
basic idea had profound influence upon Wittgenstein’s Tractatus, where we hear echos of Schopenhauer (ironically siding with Kant, yet doing as Schopenhauer does) in his famous and final proposition.

2With the special exception of music which, as art, is in a class of its own. 3This has interesting implications for the role of tragedy as a tool of knowledge that allows for the step towards denial of the will-to-live. For in
the affirmation of the will to live the Idea does not become a quieter of the will.

4It is considered given that art, once viewed, becomes a part of our experiences. Thus, the person who watches a tragedy internalizes the
knowledge gained in much the same way as if they themselves had experienced the protagonists ill-fate, keeping in mind nonetheless the allimportant role that personal suffering has upon the purification of knowledge. This point was mentioned briefly in the above description of Schopenhauer’s view of tragedy.

5"We are like King David who, so long as his son was still alive, incessantly implored Johovah with prayers, and behaved as if in despair; but as
soon as his son was dead, he thought no more about him.” (306)

6Though I have read the article by Chansky (recommended in class), I have come across these quotations of Schopenhauer and gleaned their
importance independently of this secondary source (to follow Schopenhauer’s rather egotistical example I offer to produce my personal notes as evidence upon request).

7See Schopenhauer (266). For this I do owe a debt to Chansky for assisting me in bringing this whole question and mode of thought into being.
Had I not found his description of Schopenhauer’s tragedy and music so disagreeable (see p.78, note 12) I might never have followed the train of thought which henceforth proceeds.

8As it is perplexing as to why he singles out ‘music’ as contradictory with regard to tragedy (and not tragedy as contradictory with regard to all
other forms of art). Also the ‘philosophic truths’ of tragedy and music that are described as contradictory are only implied.

9"For in the main it [the sublime] is identical with the feeling of the beautiful, with pure will-less knowing, and with the knowledge, which
necessarily appears therewith, of the Ideas out of all relation that is determined by the principle of sufficient reason.” (202)

10As for the indifference of the will to the suffering of its phenomena, Chansky makes a good point and has good reason for calling it a
contradiction. This contradiction is very imprecisely described as between music and tragedy but really it boils down to the sublime versus the beautiful, as I hope I have demonstrated. I will be dealing specifically with what I believe to be this contradiction throughout the next few pages (so please bear with me).

11Ethics as we know was mentioned explicitly only in Schopenhauer’s discussion of the ‘sublime character’ within whom “knowledge
maintains the upper hand” (206).

12This passage is also extremely evocative of an incommensurability thesis. If the action of denial of the will is indeed as Schopenhauer
describes it, a sort of conversion experience, it could be that any sort of argument for either denial or affirmation is fundamentally based on separate incommensurable grounds. Think of the Idea as produced through beauty versus the Idea as produced through the sublime.

13See ‘acquired character’ for this basic idea (sect. 55).

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