Schopenhauer (1788-1860): The World as Will and Representation (1844)

Reviewed by Janaway, Christopher, German Philosophers, and Simmel, Georg, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche



Summarized by Szu-Hsien Lee



Schopenhauer's The World as Will and Representation is divided into four books. The fundamental metaphysical distinction of his system divides the world as Will (the aspect which is hidden) from the world as idea or representation (the aspect which is shown to us). He adapts the distinction between appearance' and 'thing-in-itself' from Kant's philosophy.



I. The first book is focus on the discussion of the world as representation.


1. The world is as representation.

2. The world of representation requires both the existence of subject and object. The subject is that which knows or experiences, and the object that which is known or experienced. Subject and object can never exist without each other, and there is nothing can be both object and subject either.

3. The world of representation has to present itself in a subject's experience. Without the experience of subjects, all individual things (objects) would not exist.

1) First of all, individual things do not exist in the world as they are in themselves. They have to be located in specific space and time to make themselves from the divisions of the world into individual things. For example, two tables are distinct individuals because they occupy distinct portions of space and time. In other words, space and time are the principle of individuation.

2) Secondly, individual things do not exist without subject's experience. This claim is related to those of idealism such as Kantian or Berkeley's doctrines: "to be is to be perceived." Schopenhauer refers it to pave the way for close assimilation between the human mind and that of other living creatures. He thinks that we share our perceptual abilities with other animals, but the concepts and reasoning are what mark us out from them.


Schopenhauer gives some advance arguments for clarifying his thoughts about "the world should present itself in a subject's experience." He emphasizes that we cannot image anything that exists outside our own minds. Therefore, Realism (the alternative to idealism) saddles itself with 'two worlds,' the world itself and the world presented to beings, is redundant. The absolutely objective world, which we at first imagine, we have conceived was

already the second world already known subjectively.




II. The second book focus on the discussion of that the world must be viewed under another aspect as Will that is like what Kant refers as thing-in-itself.' Schopenhauer adapts 'the body of subjects of knowing' to argue that will is thing-in-itself, or even the whole world:


1. Our bodily existence is nothing other than willing; the body itself is will.


'As a pure knowing subject, my body is an object among objects. . But my awareness of the body's movement is unlike my awareness of those events that I perceive. . Other events are merely observed to happen, but movements of human's body are expressions of their will.' -p250, Janaway.


Accordingly, Schopenhauer objects that dualistic suggestion that will (mental realm) is distant from body movements (physical realm). He claims that act of will and action of body is not cause and effect, but is as one thing. Willing to act involves conscious thinking, but it is not different in principle from the beating o the heart, the activation of the saliva glands, or the arousal of the sexual organs. All can be seen, as san individual organism manifesting will.


2. The whole world is will.

Schopenhauer seems to seek an account, which make all fundamental forces in nature homogeneous. His unifying account of nature is that all natural processes

area manifestation of will. Hence, the body itself is will; much more widely, the whole world itself is will. Upon this thought, he said:


' We have in fact referred something more unknown to something infinitely better known, indeed to the one thing really known to us immediately and completely.'

-p253, Janaway.



3. Only the will is thing in itself. Unlike the world of representation or individuals, it is not something occupying space and time. There can be no causal interaction

between the will, as thing in itself, and event s in the ordinary empirical world.



III. Conclusion.


1. Schopenhauer's doctrine of the will is metaphysical. Metaphysics, for him, gives an account of the fundamental nature of reality, but uses the data of experience

as the only possible guide. Our knowledge reaches only as far as the phenomena of inner and outer experience. So we cannot know the bare thing in itself. When I am conscious of my own wiling in action, what I know is a phenomenal manifestation of the will not eh thing in itself.

2. His conception of will expressing itself within humanity and the polarity he discovers between our being governed by the will and our escaping it, enables him to present large tracts of our lives in a new light.

3. For Kant, thing-in-itself must exist, be unknowable be external to mind, be the reference by which consciousness can be fixed and be determined in time. On

the other side, representational knowledge of the world is necessarily limited to the phenomena of appearance in the mind's conception. Schopenhauer agrees

Kant's claim that in the ordinary sense the thing-in-itself is unknowable. But he acknowledges two nonrepresentational modes of access to the insight that the world beyond appearance is Will. He admits that we cannot strictly 'know' even this about the thing-in-itself, but we can characterize Will metaphorically in term borrowed from our experience of the world as idea.