The Philosophy of Schopenhauer (book review) Dale Jacquette

(Continental European Philosophy)


250317 much later later later addition: a friend found a used collection of all sc's essays, gave them to me, but i have yet to read them. not necessarily intimidated, not fearing disappointment, simply that my thought has moved on and now the project is to read the Belgian feminist phenomenologist Luce Irigaray, her thought, but i can only get on to that after finishing this current book on Husserl- so it might be some time until i get to sc... though my admiration remains sincere...


180314 first review: i do not know if i can do justice to how great i found this book. i do not think it is only schopenhauer's thinking, but also how jacquette has explained it. then i look at the review i wrote on [book:The Philosophy of Heidegger|13238145] by watts, and see i must try...


because on this first reading, after a few days thought, this work persists and i feel indescribably, emotionally and intellectually, pleased to understand just some of it. this is why i read this series on continental european philosophy, now seven read, and think i appreciate students' joy on first encountering say nietzsche or wittgenstein. i am no longer an undergrad, i am no longer so young, i am older and somewhat more read, more reserved than fanatic, but this pleasure is only increased by figuring out how schopenhauer's idealism extends and critically engages kant (if nothing else this encourages me to re-read kant, and question some of my original enthusiasm for his thing-in-itself metaphysics) how, despite limited success in his lifetime, his thought so usefully continues in art, in music, in other thinkers like nietzsche, heidegger, wittgenstein...


schopenhauer is also somewhat unique in that he never undergoes a seismic shift, a turn, a break, between his early philosophy and his later work eg. heidegger, nietzsche, as a young man of 26 he started his lifelong perspective, his disgust and impolitic commentary on contemporaries, his certain metaphysics which he felt surpassed kant- though he had limited success in convincing others- and this is his particular formulation of idealism: captured, released, in his essential work: 'world as will and representation'. schopenhauer would go on to investigate, to explicate, all the ways his original formulation was applicable in everything from art to politics, but this was the work of sharpening, polishing, displaying ever more what he regarded originally in idealism of his youth...


in the first chapter jacquette describes schopenhauer's idealism, a beautiful and coherent idealism that schopenhauer proclaims not idealism at all- but that it is, for each of us, the 'representation' of the world, that there is no material substrate against which we measure it, that this awareness is primordial, that animals and children know this, that there is no argument against this but only confusion of intellectualism and other fogs of thought. this 'representation' begins when we are born and ends when we die. this 'representation' is all, ever, we can analytically explore, know, affect. all our proud science can only ever know is this layer of what is, this 'representation', and this is the world that we think we live in- only ascetics and artists can ever know or show more, and this is what schopenhauer capitalizes as the 'Will'...


for this 'representation' is like kant's original 'phenomena', the world revealed in space and time, in all those charts of categories, but schopenhauer is further than kant goes- it is not created, supported, outlined, by the 'thing-in-itself', which we can thus never know, even should it exist or not. 'representation' is supported, here and now, beyond usual versions of logic, not by some magical unknown, but by 'Will'. there is empirical knowledge of the world as 'representation' in everything from natural science to transcendental metaphysics, but this way of thinking, of perceiving, the 'phenomena' of which we are aware, is not alien and unknowable by 'noumena' of ideas, platonic or anything like those , by something we cannot by definition know- but by Will...


what is 'Will'? 'Will' is everything anything/one ever desires, and this is firstly Will to live, blind, inchoate, ever persisting desire of one animal to consume plants and, to the will of another animal, be consumed by such another animal, then to the will of yet another animal, to be consumed by yet another animal, then to the will of again another animal to be consumed by this animal.. and so on indefinitely... this is not morality, not ethics, this is the way of the world from least bacteria to entirety of human armies, all the ways we in person, or groups, try to gather, to consume, the life and thereby will of any other(s). it is best we face this amoral universe. it is best we recognize the way of the world. these are not pleasant fairy tales of the sort religions traffic, no survival, no ethical continuation in heaven or hell, after death, no this is philosophy. even had he been an advertising man, this philosophy would not likely have been widely adopted, this seems to proclaim we humans are driven only by selfish, personal will, in all worlds that express Its Will, and after managing to live, Will continues to advance its insatiable, eternal, hunger to be more Will. so, there is Will to power, to more life, to conquer, to consume- what?- everything...


this sounds like a very unfriendly way of viewing the universe, the World as Will, that might make one think of Nietzsche, and this is indeed one of the ways his thought would go. this way of seeing the world was too easily perverted by friends as mischaracterized by enemies. it is not like the nazis ever needed a house philosopher, but schopenhauer is definitely not one. for after explaining the world as Will, he decides that there must be some way an honest man can escape this amoral trap, this human trap, and here begins his appropriation of buddhism and hinduism and the idea of the ascetic who renounces life, who triumphs over that base will to live- but there is to be no great pleasure in dying, say in removing oneself through suicide, because that is still engaging the Will in the individual will to pleasure...


for, like buddhism, like the first noble truth, we must recognize that there is suffering, that the cure for this urge, the actual triumph of individual will, is to no longer desire and thus never suffer incompleteness... this is the 'no' to life that nietzsche later decries as decadent nihilism, rather than accepting and acting on the desires, the will, even as this is only deferring the moment we humans reach our limit of the possible. this 'no' on the other, is an even greater reflection of the will of the individual. humans are not 'rational animals' but 'desiring animals' who can only transcend the here and now, the suffering, the surpassing, what we are- and in this way the core of our being is not rational but emotional, not simply life but our way to be more...


so maybe the thing to do is be an artist. and here is the population that eagerly adopted his way of thinking: with the discovery of 'genius', with the valourization of facing the world as Will and reaching past to one's own 'representation', this tortured, wilful, impossible human 'the artist'- whose meagre will confronts a meaningless world and draws out the truth of it, ah, now that's the thing: be an artist! unfortunately or fortunately, then as now, this is not something of a career choice but a vocation, an inescapable urge, a way of being, a demand of which most people are free..


this is a hard world to live. this is a world of 'representation' where everything has 'fourfold reason for being' under the cause of 'sufficient reason' and there is not truly anything we could call 'freedom', because we are determined, throughout our lives, by what we were before and where we go now and what must happen in the future, and the best we can do is bear it fortuitously. and this is not by checking your correct move according to some kantian chart of the right thing to do, this is not something intellect can discover, this is something inherent, original, beyond mere logic, this is the intuition towards all others- this is 'compassion'...


and here i am so pleased to find philosophy coming to the same recommendation as all the buddhism i have read. the way to live: do no harm, act compassionately... i am so pleased by this final moral command, so pleased thought east or west comes to the same place. i love this work...

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if you like this review, i now have website: www.michaelkamakana.com 220611: this is probably the most academically accurate of the translations I have read of this book, but still prefer commentary o