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The World as Will and Idea
by Schopenhauer
This comes in two volumes.
Introductory Remarks
I am looking at this book, mainly because it might be relevant to my present interests, on the basis of what Brian Magee said about Schopenhauer in an interview of Iris Murdoch on philosopy and literature which he gave on British television in the 70's, also published as the book Men of Ideas [Magee78].

Magee listed Schopenhauer as one of just four philosophers who "wrote well", and as the only philosopher who has had a positive attitude towards art. Since I have recently started thinking of "Philosophy as art", I though it worth taking a look. Unfortunately I didn't get far enough to discover what he had to say about art, though the work does seem to me in some respects like art.
For example, the top level structure, the four books which form Volume I (I only had the one volume) have a pleasing symmetry about them. That doesn't amount to much, but suggests an author not wholly pre-occupied with content. The symmetry here reflects a certain (incomplete) symmetry between the idea of "idea" and that of "will". The writing is good (though I read only in English translation), flows well, and is easy to read, so long as you don't care too much about actually understanding it.

I gave up because it just wasn't doing enough for me, I could not sustain a belief in his world view as other than a delusion, fantasy or at least a fiction.
Vol. I
The Idea Subordinate to the Principle of Sufficient Reason: The Object of Experience and Science.
The Objectification of the Will.
The Idea Independent of the Principle of Sufficient Reason: The Platonic Idea: The Object as Art.
After the Attainment of Self Knowledge. Assertion and Denial of the Will to Live.
Vol. II.
FIRST BOOK: The World as Idea - First Aspect
The Idea Subordinate to the Principle of Sufficient Reason: The Object of Experience and Science.
This book consists of 16 untitled sections. Titles shown below are my own inventions.

After a very superficial read of the first book my impression of a thinker prone to breathtaking simplification. For example, his explanation of laughter, wit, etc. in § 13.
More impressive is his account of logic in §9. He is still too early to have a hope of an account of logic which is satisfactory by modern standards, though his use of Venn diagrams gives it a modern set-theoretic flavour. Another example is a neat little explanation of all sophistical, fallacious reasoning.

§ 1-8

§1 The World is My Idea

The direct opposite of rational knowledge.

§2 The Subject

"That which knows all things and is known by none is the subject."

§3 Sensory and Abstract Ideas

"The chief distinction among our ideas is that between ideas of perception and abstract ideas. The latter form just one class of ideas, namely concepts, ..."

§4 Space and Time

"Whoever has recognised the form of the principle of sufficient reason ... has completely mastered the nature of time."
"Further, whoever has recognised the principle of sufficient reason ... has exhausted the whole nature of space, which is absolutely nothing more than that possibility of the reciprocal determination of its parts by each other, which is called position."

§5 The Relation between Subject and Object

Not that of cause and effect.

Discussion of the reality of the outer world.

§6 The Body

"And our own body, which is the starting-point for each one of us in our perception of the world, we consider, like all other real objects, from the side of its knowablness, and in this regard it is simply an idea."
Discussion of degrees of acuteness of the understanding.

§7 Starting from The Idea

"... we did not start either from the object or the subject, but from the idea, which contains and presupposes them both; ..."

§8 Reason

"As from the direct light of the sun to the borrowed light of the moon, we pass from the immediate idea of perception, which stands by itself and is its own warrant, to reflection, to the abstract, discursive concepts of the reason, which obtain their whole content from knowledge of perception and in relation to it."
Perception yields indubitable knowledge, but with abstract knowledge obtained by reason doubt and error appear.

§ 9-10

§9 Concepts and Logic

There are a number of general principles enunciated here which Schopenhauer clearly thinks tell us all about reason, which is about relations between concepts.

He adopts a graphical representation of concepts and their relations which is similar to what are now known as Venn diagrams (which he attributes to gottfried Plouquet (who used squares) but also mentions that Euler used (as Schopenhauer does) circles.

All relations of concepts may be made plain in perception by the use of such figures. Five figures are given and it is asserted that

"To these all combinations of concepts may be referred, and from them the entire doctrine of judgement, its conversion, contraposition, equipollence, disjunction ... may be deduced."
Hypotheticals are excluded, "which are not combinations of concepts, but of judgements". Refers to appendix on "modality".

This section contains an account of science and of sophistry, a general description of how the diagrams are misused in sophistical reasoning is supplied.

§10 - How Certainty is to be Obtained

"There is no absolutely pure rational knowledge except the four principles to which I have attributed metalogical truth; the principles of
  • identity
  • contradiction
  • excluded middle
  • sufficient reason of knowledge
"Rational Knowledge (wissen) is therefore abstract consciousness, the permanent possession in concepts of reason, of what has become known in another way. "

§ 11-16

§11 Feeling

"... the direct opposite of rational knowledge is feeling."
"... feeling denotes ... something which is present in consciousness, is not a concept, is not abstract rational knowledge."
This includes, inter alia, sensory perceptions, various kinds of emotion and intuition, including spatial and logical intuitions before they become abstractly formulated.

§12 Rational Knowledge

Reason does not extend knowledge but only gives it another form. Perceptual knowledge is made abstract by reason and is then becomes a guide for action.

§13 Laughter, Wit, Folly

"The cause of laughter in every case is simply the sudden perception of the incongruity between a concept and the real objects which have been thought through it in some relation, and laughter itself is just the expression of this incongruity."

§14 The Further Consideration of Science

"The general discussion of science which now devolves upon us, will be concerned partly with its form, partly with the foundation of its judgements, and lastly with its content."

§15 Euclid's Perverted Method

This section is largely given over to a critique of Euclid's axiomatic mathematics. The main problem is that Schopenhauer wants all logical proof should to be "traced nack to an origin in perception", and mathematics since Euclid has been "at great pains deliberately to throw away the evidence of perception which is peculiar to it".

§16 Practical Reason

Here he addresses reason, "so far as it is the guide of human action".

In relation to Kant's "so called practical reason" he refers to his appendix "Fundamental Problems of Ethics" which contains "the detailed and thorough refutation of this Kantian principle of morality".
SECOND BOOK: The World as Will - First Aspect
The Objectification of the Will.

§17 The Content of The Idea of Perception

"... directing our attention exclusively to the idea of perception, we shall now endeavour to find a knowledge of its content, its more exact definition, and the forms which it presents to us."
Reference is made to mathematics, natural science and philosophy in search of enlightenment on this topic, to no avail.
"Thus we see already that we can never arrive at the real nature of things from without. However much we investigate we can never reach anything but imaages and names."

§18 Body as Will

People are not a purely passive observers, they not only have ideas of perception, they have acts of will which stand in relation to ideas in a relation similar to that between theory and practice. Parallel to taking ideas not simply as more or less representative of the world but as constituting the world we should regard the will not simply as an influence upon the world, but again, as being the world, hence "the world as will". Its not immediately clear to me how serious Schopenhauer is about the symmetry here.

First note that the will is introduced as distinguishing a knowing subject's own body from the rest of the world as idea, Schopenhauer goes on to identify the will with the body.

"My body is the objectivity of my will; -- or, My body considered apart from the fact that it is my idea is stil my will, and so forth."

§19 Will in External Objects

The denial of "theoretical egoism" leads Schopenhaur to the view that external object share with our own body the feature that what they are over and above idea, is will.











THIRD BOOK: The World as Idea - Second Aspect
The Idea Independent of the Principle of Sufficient Reason: The Platonic Idea: The Object as Art.

FOURTH BOOK: The World as Will - Second Aspect
After the Attainment of Self Knowledge. Assertion and Denial of the Will to Live.

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