Schopenhauer on the Character of the World: The Metaphysics of Will


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In fact, the boundary between the organised and the unorganised is the most sharply drawn in the whole of nature, and perhaps the only one that admits of no transgressions; so that natura non facit saltus seems to suffer an exception here. Although certain crystallisations display an external form resembling the vegetable, yet even between the smallest lichen, the lowest fungus, and everything unorganised there remains a fundamental and essential difference.

In the unorganised body that which is essential and permanent, thus that upon which its identity and integrity rests, is the material, the matter ; what is unessential and changing is, on the other hand, the form. With the organised body the case is exactly reversed; for its life, i. Its being and its identity thus lies in the form alone.


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Therefore the continuance of the unorganised body depends upon repose and exclusion from external influences: thus alone does it retain its existence; and if this condition is perfect, such a body lasts for ever. The continuance of the organised body, on the contrary, just depends upon continual movement and the constant reception of external influences. As soon as these are wanting and the movement in it stops it is dead, and thereby ceases to be organic, although the trace of the organism that has been still remains for a while.

Therefore the talk, which is so much affected in our own day, of the life of what is unorganised, indeed of the globe itself, and that it, and also the planetary system, is an organism, is entirely inadmissible. The predicate life belongs only to what is organised. Every organism, however, [pg ] is throughout organised, is so in all its parts; and nowhere are these, even in their smallest particles, composed by aggregation of what is unorganised.

Thus if the earth were an organism, all mountains and rocks, and the whole interior of their mass, would necessarily be organised, and accordingly really nothing unorganised would exist; and therefore the whole conception of it would be wanting. On the other hand, that the manifestation of a will is as little bound up with life and organisation as with knowledge, and that therefore the unorganised has also a will, the manifestations of which are all its fundamental qualities, which cannot be further explained,—this is an essential point in my doctrine; although the trace of such a thought is far seldomer found in writers who have preceded me than that of the will in plants, where, however, it is still unconscious.

In the forming of the crystal we see, as it were, a tendency towards an attempt at life, to which, however, it does not attain, because the fluidity of which, like a living thing, it is composed at the moment of that movement is not enclosed in a skin , as is always the case with the latter, and consequently it has neither vessels in which that movement could go on, nor does anything separate it from the external world. Therefore, rigidity at once seizes that momentary movement, of which only the trace remains as the crystal.

Mechanics and astronomy specially show us how this will conducts itself so far as it appears at the lowest grade of its manifestation merely as gravity, rigidity, and [pg ] inertia. Hydraulics shows us the same thing where rigidity is wanting and the fluid material is now unrestrainedly surrendered to its predominating passion, gravity. In this sense hydraulics may be conceived as a characteristic sketch of water, for it presents to us the manifestations of will to which water is moved by gravity; these always correspond exactly to the external influences, for in the case of all non-individual existences there is no particular character in addition to the general one; thus they can easily be referred to fixed characteristics, which are called laws, and which are learned by experience of water.

These laws accurately inform us how water will conduct itself under all different circumstances, on account of its gravity, the unconditioned mobility of its parts, and its want of elasticity.

Schopenhauer On The Character Of The World The Metaphysics Of Will

Hydrostatics teaches how it is brought to rest through gravity; hydrodynamics, how it is set in motion; and the latter has also to take account of hindrances which adhesion opposes to the will of water: the two together constitute hydraulics. But Anatomy and Physiology allow us to see how the will conducts itself in order to bring about the phenomenon of life and sustain it for a while.

Finally, the poet shows us how the will conducts itself under the influence of motives and reflection. The more correctly, the more strictly according to the laws of nature his characters are there presented, the [pg ] greater is his fame; hence Shakespeare stands at the top. The point of view which is here taken up corresponds at bottom to the spirit in which Goethe followed and loved the natural sciences, although he was not conscious of the matter in the abstract. Nay more, this not only appears from his writings, but is also known to me from his personal utterances.

If we consider the will, where no one denies it, in conscious beings, we find everywhere, as its fundamental effort, the self-preservation of every being: omnis natura vult esse conservatrix sui. But all manifestations of this fundamental effort may constantly be traced back to a seeking or pursuit and a shunning or fleeing from, according to the occasion.

Now this also may be shown even at the lowest grades of nature, that is, of the objectification of the will, where the bodies still act only as bodies in general, thus are the subject-matter of mechanics, and are considered only with reference to the manifestations of impenetrability, cohesion, rigidity, elasticity, and gravity. Here also the seeking shows itself as gravitation, and the shunning as the receiving of motion; and the movableness of bodies by pressure or impact, which constitutes the basis of mechanics, is at bottom a manifestation of the effort after self-preservation , which dwells in them also.

For, since as bodies they are impenetrable, this is the sole means of preserving their cohesion, thus their continuance at any time. The body which is impelled or exposed to pressure would be crushed to pieces by the impelling or pressing body if it did not withdraw itself from its power by flight, in order to preserve its cohesion; and when flight is impossible for it this actually happens.

Indeed, one may regard elastic bodies as the more courageous , which seek to repel the enemy, or at least to prevent him from pursuing further. Thus in the one secret which besides gravity is left by mechanics otherwise so clear, in the communicability of motion, we see a manifestation of the fundamental effort of the will in all its phenomena, the [pg ] effort after self-preservation, which shows itself even at the lowest grades as that which is essential.

In unorganised nature the will objectifies itself primarily in the universal forces, and only by means of these in the phenomena of the particular things which are called forth by causes. One sees from that explanation that metaphysics never interrupts the course of physics, but only takes up the thread where physics leaves it, at the original forces in which all causal explanation has its limits. Only here does the metaphysical explanation from the will as the thing in itself begin. In the case of every physical phenomenon, of every change of material things, its cause is primarily to be looked for; and this cause is just such a particular change which has appeared immediately before it.

Then, however, the original force of nature is to be sought by virtue of which this cause was capable of acting. And first of all the will is to be recognised as the inner nature of this force in opposition to its manifestation. Yet the will shows itself just as directly in the fall of a stone as in the action of the man; the difference is only that its particular manifestation is in the one case called forth by a motive, in the other by a mechanically acting cause, for example, the taking away of what supported the stone; yet in both cases with equal necessity; and that in the one case it depends upon an individual character, in the other upon an universal force of nature.

This identity of what is fundamentally essential is even made palpable to the senses. If, for instance, we carefully observe a body which has lost its equilibrium, and on account of its special form rolls back and forward for a long time till it finds its centre of gravity again, a certain appearance of life forces itself upon us, and we directly feel that something analogous to the foundation of life is also active here.

This is certainly the universal force of nature, which, however, in itself identical with the will , becomes [pg ] here, as it were, the soul of a very brief quasi life.

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Thus what is identical in the two extremes of the manifestation of the will makes itself faintly known here even to direct perception, in that this raises a feeling in us that here also something entirely original, such as we only know in the acts of our own will, directly succeeded in manifesting itself. We may attain to an intuitive knowledge of the existence and activity of the will in unorganised nature in quite a different and a sublime manner if we study the problem of the three heavenly bodies, and thus learn more accurately and specially the course of the moon round the earth.

By the different combinations which the constant change of the position of these three heavenly bodies towards each other introduces, the course of the moon is now accelerated; now retarded, now it approaches the earth, and again recedes from it; and this again takes place differently in the perihelion of the earth from in its aphelion, all of which together introduces such irregularity into the moon's course that it really obtains a capricious appearance; for, indeed, Kepler's third law is no longer constantly valid, but in equal times it describes unequal areas. If now we construct for ourselves in imagination the working of this given case in detail, we recognise distinctly and directly in the moving force here that which is given to us in self-consciousness as will.

Schopenhauer On The Character Of The World The Metaphysics Of Will

For the alterations in the course of the earth and the moon, according as one of them is by its position more or less exposed to the influence of the sun, are evidently analogous to the influence of newly appearing motives [pg ] upon our wills, and to the modifications of our action which result. The following is an illustrative example of another kind. Liebig Chemie in Anwendung auf Agrikultur , p.

But now two bodies which have the capacity of combining, the moment they meet assume opposite electrical conditions. Therefore if we touch the copper with iron, by producing a special electrical state, the capacity of the copper to enter into combination with the oxygen is destroyed; even under the above conditions it remains bright. I quote it in order to say that here the will of the copper, laid claim to and occupied by the electrical opposition to iron, leaves unused the opportunity which presents itself for its chemical affinity for oxygen and carbonic acid.

Accordingly it conducts itself exactly as the will in a man who omits an action which he would otherwise feel himself moved to in order to perform another to which a stronger motive urges him. I have shown in the first volume that the forces of nature lie outside the chain of causes and effects, because they constitute their accompanying condition, their metaphysical foundation, and therefore prove themselves to be eternal and omnipresent, i.

Even in the uncontested truth that what is essential to a cause as such consists in this, that it will produce the same effect at any future time as it does now, it is already involved that something lies in the cause which is independent of the course of time, i. One can even convince oneself to a certain extent empirically and as a matter of fact of the ideality of this [pg ] form of our perception by fixing one's eyes upon the powerlessness of time as opposed to natural forces.

If, for example, a rotatory motion is imparted to a planet by some external cause, if no new cause enters to stop it, this motion will endure for ever. This could not be so if time were something in itself and had an objective, real existence; for then it would necessarily also produce some effect. Thus we see here, on the one hand, the forces of nature , which manifest themselves in that rotation, and, if it is once begun, carry it on for ever without becoming weary or dying out, prove themselves to be eternal or timeless, and consequently absolutely real and existing in themselves; and, on the other hand, time as something which consists only in the manner in which we apprehend that phenomenon, since it exerts no power and no influence upon the phenomenon itself; for what does not act is not.

We have a natural inclination whenever it is possible to explain every natural phenomenon mechanically ; doubtless because mechanics calls in the assistance of the fewest original, and hence inexplicable, forces, and, on the other hand, contains much that can be known a priori , and therefore depends upon the forms of our own intellect, which as such carries with it the highest degree of comprehensibility and clearness. On the other hand, the application of mechanical explanatory hypotheses, beyond what is demonstrably mechanical, to which, for example, Acoustics also belongs, is entirely unjustified, and I will never believe that even the simplest chemical combination or the difference of the three states of aggregation will ever admit of mechanical explanation, much less the properties of light, of heat, and electricity.

These will always admit only of a dynamical explanation, i. I am of opinion that light is neither an emanation nor a vibration; both views are akin to that which explains transparency from pores and the evident falseness of which is proved by the fact that light is subject to no mechanical laws. In order to obtain direct conviction of this one only requires to watch the effects of a storm of wind, which bends, upsets, and scatters everything, but during which a ray of light shooting down from a break in the clouds is entirely undisturbed and steadier than a rock, so that with great directness it imparts to us the knowledge that it belongs to another order of things than the mechanical: it stands there unmoved like a ghost.

Those constructions of light from molecules and atoms which have originated with the French are indeed a revolting absurdity. There the solid, the fluid, and the elastic consist of the same atoms, and all differences arise solely from their aggregation; nay, it is said that space indeed is infinitely divisible, but not matter; because, if the division has been carried as far as the atoms, the further division must fall in the spaces between the atoms!

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Light and heat, then, are here vibrations of the atoms; and sound, on the other hand, is a vibration of the molecules composed of the atoms. In truth, however, these atoms are a fixed idea of the French savants, and therefore they just speak of them as if they had seen them. Otherwise one would necessarily marvel that such a matter-of-fact nation as the French can hold so firmly to a completely transcendent hypothesis, which is quite beyond the possibility of experience, and confidently build upon it up to the sky.

This is just a consequence of the backward [pg ] state of the metaphysics they shun so much, which is poorly represented by M. Cousin, who, with all good will, is shallow and very scantily endowed with judgment. At bottom they are still Lockeians, owing to the earlier influence of Condillac. Therefore for them the thing in itself is really matter, from the fundamental properties of which, such as impenetrability, form, hardness, and the other primary qualities, everything in the world must be ultimately explicable. They will not let themselves be talked out of this, and their tacit assumption is that matter can only be moved by mechanical forces.

In Germany Kant's teaching has prevented the continuance of the absurdities of the atomistic and purely mechanical physics for any length of time; although at the present moment these views prevail here also, which is a consequence of the shallowness, crudeness, and folly introduced by Hegel.

However, it cannot be denied that not only the evidently porous nature of natural bodies, but also two special doctrines of modern physics, apparently render assistance to the atomic nuisance. These are, Hauz's Crystallography, which traces every crystal back to its kernel form, which is an ultimate form, though only relatively indivisible; and Berzelius's doctrine of chemical atoms, which are yet mere expressions for combining proportions, thus only arithmetical quantities, and at bottom nothing more than counters.

On the other hand, Kant's thesis in the second antinomy in defence of atoms, which is certainly only set up for dialectical purposes, is a mere sophism, as I have proved in my criticism of his philosophy, and our understanding itself by no means leads us necessarily to the assumption of atoms. For just as little as I am obliged to think that the slow but constant and uniform motion of a body before my eyes is composed of innumerable motions which are absolutely quick, but broken and interrupted by just as many absolutely short moments of rest, but, on the contrary, know very well that the stone that has been thrown flies more [pg ] slowly than the projected bullet, yet never pauses for an instant on the way, so little am I obliged to think of the mass of a body as consisting of atoms and the spaces between them, i.

But just as the one motion may yet be quicker than another, i. But even if the analogy here set up should not be admitted as valid, and it should be insisted upon that the difference of specific gravity can only have its ground in porosity, even this assumption would always lead, not to atoms, but only to a perfectly dense matter, unequally distributed among different bodies; a matter which would certainly be no longer compressible , when no pores ran through it, but yet, like the space which it fills, would always remain infinitely divisible.

For the fact that it would have no pores by no means involves that no possible force could do away with the continuity of its spatial parts. For to say that everywhere this is only possible by extending the already existing intervals is a purely arbitrary assertion.

The assumption of atoms rests upon the two phenomena which have been touched upon, the difference of the specific gravity of bodies and that of their compressibility, for both are conveniently explained by the assumption of atoms. But then both must also always be present in like measure, which is by no means the case. For, for example, water has a far lower specific gravity than all metals properly so called. It must thus have fewer atoms and greater interstices between them, and consequently be very compressible: but it is almost entirely incompressible. The defence of atoms might be conducted in this way.

Schopenhauer on the Character of the World: The Metaphysics of Will Schopenhauer on the Character of the World: The Metaphysics of Will
Schopenhauer on the Character of the World: The Metaphysics of Will Schopenhauer on the Character of the World: The Metaphysics of Will
Schopenhauer on the Character of the World: The Metaphysics of Will Schopenhauer on the Character of the World: The Metaphysics of Will
Schopenhauer on the Character of the World: The Metaphysics of Will Schopenhauer on the Character of the World: The Metaphysics of Will
Schopenhauer on the Character of the World: The Metaphysics of Will Schopenhauer on the Character of the World: The Metaphysics of Will

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