Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)
The World as
Will and Idea


World as Idea: World as Will7



· WWI: World as Will and Idea.

· PP: Parerga and Paralipomena

·  FFR: The Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason

1. I constantly saw the false and the bad, and finally the absurd and the senseless, standing in universal admiration and honour. (WWI: Preface to the 2nd Edition)

2.  How very paltry and limited the normal human intellect is, and how little lucidity there is in the human consciousness, may be judged from the fact that, despite the ephemeral brevity of human life the uncertainty of our existence and the countless enigmas which press upon us from all sides, everyone does not continually and ceaselessly philosophize, but that only the rarest of exceptions do. (PP, Vol. l, ch.5, sct.9)

3.  The fundament upon which all our knowledge and learning rests is the inexplicable. (PP, Vol.2, ch. l, sct.1)

4.  [Scientific discovery is] just like perception, an operation of the understanding, an immediate intuition, and as such the work of an instant, an apperçu, a flash of insight. (146) 

o Dismissive of

o      Hegelian nonsense1

o     no less than common sense2

o World as Idea5

o "inevitably appears to us as idea": what we experience are not the causes of the bodily changes to our sense organs or brains but the bodily changes themsleves.6

o     but the reality is not as it appears3

o nor as science depicts it4

o scientific conceptualization of what appears

o      "falsifies the uniqueness and continuity of reality" (Jones: 146)

o  as shown by the way premeditated behavior strikes us as false: "all that is attractive, gracious, charming in behavior, all affectionateness and friendliness, must not proceed from concepts, for if it does `we fell the intention and are put out of tune." (146)

o  Jones: "The same is true for virtue and holiness; they proceed not from reflection" (146) 

o    "but in its essence, as we learn through intuition, [reality] is will." (Jones: 145)7

o The World as Will: analogical non-argument

o   With regard to the world we have

o  ideas: images and conceptualizations

o  the unknown reality X underlying the appearances

o     With regard to ourselves we have

o  body images and conceptualizations: ideas of things

o      the intuited X underlying these

o no knowledge of selves as knowers10

o intuition of our selves as will8

o     With regard to movement of our bodies we intuit (?) that

o  "[t]he action of the body" = "the will objectified"11

o  indeed "The whole body is nothing but objectified will"13

o     Inescapable insight: the unknown X is will.

o     assessment

o  as an analogical argument it's weak

o  more like a meditation leading us to "see" it's so

o   World as Will/Idea: Identity of I-the-knower & I-the-willer the “world knot”12

5. 'The world is my idea' is a truth valid for every living creature, though only man can consciously contemplate it. In doing so he attains philosophical wisdom. No truth is more absolutely certain than that all that exists for knowledge, and, therefore, this whole world, is only object in relation to subject, perception of a perceiver -- in a word, idea. The world is idea.

6.  Thus, any single individual endowed with the faculty of perception of the object constitutes the whole world of idea as completely as the millions in existence; but let this single individual vanish, and the whole world as idea would disappear.  Each of these halves possesses meaning and existence only in and through the other, appearing with and vanishing with it. Where the object begins the subject ends.

7.  In one aspect, the world is idea; in the other aspect the world is will.

8.  The body is given in two entirely different ways to the the subject of knowledge. ... It is given as an idea in intelligent perception. ... And it is given in quite a different way as that which is immediately known to every one, and is signified by the word will. (148)

9.  The act of will and the movement of the body are not two different things objectively known, which the bond of causality unites; ... they are one and the same, but they are given in different ways -- immediately, and again in perception. ...  The action of the body is nothing but the act of will objectified, i.e. passed into perception. ... The whole body is nothing but objectified will, i.e., will become idea. (148)

10. Consequently, there is no knowledge of knowing, since this would require that the subject separated itself from knowing and yet knew that knowing; and this is impossible. (FFR §41)

11.  [M]otivation is causality  seen from within. (FFR §43)

12.  Now the identity of the subject of willing with that of knowing by virtue whereof (and indeed necessarily) the word “I” included and indicates both, is the know of the world and hence inexplicable. (FFR §42)

13.  But I say that between the act of will and the bodily action there is no causal connexion whatever; on the contrary, the two are directly on an the same thing perceived in a double way, namely in self consciousness or inner sense as an act of will, and simultaneously in external spatial brain[perctpion as bodily action. (FFR §21)

The Nature
of Art & the


1.   We can surely never arrive at the nature of things from without. No matter how assiduous our researches may be, we can never reach anything beyond images and names.


o   Art Rules!2

o    Contrast Hegel for whom Philosophy Rules!

o  Absolute Spirit

o Religion

o Art

o Philosophy

Two functions of art

o "yields a more adequate vision of the world" -- from within, as will -- "than science"1

o embodies an moral or attached attitude -- as opposed to a detached scientific one -- which passes over into religion.

The esthetic attitude

o engaged (unlike science)

o yet not practical (unlike technology)

o peace that passes all understanding: will can never be satisfied (S's "Pessimism")

o is dissatisfied in pursuit of its aims

o bored in their attainment

o aesthetic experience -- attached yet seeking nothing -- delivers us from this futility3

o      Music, being nonrepresentative, is the purest expression of the will4

2.  Knowledge is completely subject to the will. ... Only through [its] relations [to his body] is the object interesting to the individual, i.e., related to his will. Therefore, the knowledge which is subject to the will knows nothing further of objects than their relations. (151)

3.  If raised by the power of the mind, a man relinquishes the common way of looking at things, gives up tracing their relations to each other, the final goal of which is always a relation to his own will ... inasmuch as he loses himself in this object ... i.e., forgets even his individuality, his will ... so that it is as if the object alone were there, without anyone to perceive it ... in such perception the individual has lost himself:; but he is pure, will-less, painless, timeless subject of knowledge. (152-153)

4.  Music is thus by no means like the other arts, the copy of the Ideas, but the copy of the will itself, whose objectivity these Ideas are. This is why the effect of music is much more powerful and penetrating than that of the other arts, for they speak only of shadows, but it speaks of the thing itself.




Morality and 
Moral Theory

1.     Virtue is as little taught as is genius; indeed, the concept is just as unfruitful for it as it is for art, and in the case of both can be used only as an instrument. We should therefore be just as foolish to expect that our moral systems and ethics would create virtuous, noble, and holy men, as that our aesthetics would produce poets, painters, and musicians.

2.     Common people certainly look like men; I have never seen any creatures that resembled men so closely. (144)

3.     I have taught what sainthood is, but I am no saint myself. (145)


o   Aesthetics passes over into religion1

o  aesthetic experience reveals "the multiplicity of selves and their private interests, is illusion" (Jones 154)5

o  the saint maintains this attitude full-time4

o no saint himself3

o not for the hoi polloi2

o  The anti-Hegel: 

o   Hegel: Westward & forward, ho!

o Religion in general

o Definite Religion

o Nature Religion: Magic

o of Substance

o Chinese

o Hindu

o Buddhist

o of spiritual individualism

o Hebrew

o Greek

o Christian

o Absolute Religion

o    Schopenhauer: Eastward & backward, ho!

o "The ancient wisdom of the human race will not be displaced by what happened in Galilee. Indian philosophy streams back into Europe and will produce a fundamental change in our knowledge and thought." (155)6

4.   [The saint] no longer makes the egotistical distinction between his person and that of others, but takes as much interest in the sufferings of other individuals as in his own, and therefore is ... benevolent to the highest degree ... [and] recognizes in all beings his own inmost and true self .... (155)

5.  Therefore, if a man fears death as his annihilation, it is just as if he were to think that the sun cries out at evening, "Woe is me! for I go down into eternal night. ...  Life is assured to the will to live; the form of life is an endless present, no matter how individuals, the phenomena of the Idea, arise and pass away in time, like fleeting dreams. (154)

6.  For the ego that represents, thus the subject of knowing, can itself never become representation or object, since, as the necessary correlative of all representations, it is their condition.  On the contrary the fine passage from the sacred Upanishad applies: “It is not to be seen: it sees everything; it is not to be heard: it hears everything; and it is not to be recognized: it recognizes everything.  Besides this seeing, hearing, and recognizing entity there is no other.” (FFR §41)

Assessment: the Central Paradox


o   philosophy attempts to give a rational account of reality

and thereby misrepresents it2

o representation <> the original,

o hence representation = misrepresentation

o philosophy must be surpassed in religion


o at first held a similar view3 

o but later thought his dialectal logic enabled

o representation

o which is not also misrepresentation

o due to its being self-representaion (hence = the original)

o   religion is nonphilosophical1

o  a way of conduct & feeling which is nonrational

o  philosophy would seem 

o no help (at best)

o if not a hindrance

1.  A saint may be full of the absurdest superstition, or, on the contrary, he may be a philosopher, it is all the same. His conduct certifies that he is a saint, for, in a moral regard, it proceeds from knowledge of the world and its nature, which is not abstractly but intuitively and directly apprehended .... (157)

2.  To repeat the whole nature of the world abstractly, universally, and distinctly in concepts, and thus to store up, as it were, a reflected image of it in permanent concepts always at the command of the reason; this and nothing else is philosophy. (157)

3.  Philosophy must end in religion, because philosophy is thought, and thought always involves finitude and opposition, e.g., the opposition of subject and object, and of the mind that thinks to the matter that does not think. Its business, therefore, is to show the finitude of all that is finite, and through reason to demand its complement or completion in the infinite. (Hegel: 157)