The World as Will and Representation, Vol. 1
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The World as Will and Representation, Vol. 1

Arthur Schopenhauer

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The World as Will and Representation, Vol. 1

Arthur Schopenhauer

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Arthur Schopenhauer's Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung is one of the most important philosophical works of the nineteenth century, the basic statement of one important stream of post-Kantian thought. It is without question Schopenhauer's greatest work. Conceived and published before the philosopher was 30 and expanded 25 years later, it is the summation of a lifetime of thought.
For 70 years, the only unabridged English translation of this work was the Haldane-Kemp collaboration. In 1958, a new translation by E. F. J. Payne appeared that decisively supplanted the older one. Payne's translation is superior because it corrects nearly 1,000 errors and omissions in the Haldane-Kemp translation, and it is based on the definitive 1937 German edition of Schopenhauer's work prepared by Dr. Arthur Hübscher. Payne's edition is the first to translate into English the text's many quotations in half a dozen languages. It is thus the most useful edition for the student or teacher.

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With the Attainment of Self-Knowledge, Affirmation and Denial of the Will-to-Live

Tempore quo cognitio simul advenit, amor e medio supersurrexit.
studio Anquetil Duperron, Vol. ii. p. 216.

(“The moment knowledge appeared on the scene, thence arose desire.” [Tr.])

§ 53.

The last part of our discussion proclaims itself as the most serious, for it concerns the actions of men, the subject of direct interest to everyone, and one which can be foreign or indifferent to none. Indeed, to refer everything else to action is so characteristic of man’s nature that, in every systematic investigation, he will always consider that part of it which relates to action as the result of its whole content, at any rate in so far as this interests him, and he will therefore devote his most serious attention to this part, even if to no other. In this respect, the part of our discussion which follows would, according to the ordinary method of expression, be called practical philosophy in contrast to the theoretical dealt with up to now. In my opinion, however, all philosophy is always theoretical, since it is essential to it always to maintain a purely contemplative attitude, whatever be the immediate object of investigation; to inquire, not to prescribe. But to become practical, to guide conduct, to transform character, are old claims which with mature insight it ought finally to abandon. For here, where it is a question of the worth or worthlessness of existence, of salvation or damnation, not the dead concepts of philosophy decide the matter, but the innermost nature of man himself, the daemon which guides him and has not chosen him, but has been chosen by him, as Plato would say; his intelligible character, as Kant puts it. 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.
Philosophy can never do more than interpret and explain what is present and at hand; it can never do more than bring to the distinct, abstract knowledge of the faculty of reason the inner nature of the world which expresses itself intelligibly to everyone in the concrete, that is, as feeling. It does this, however, in every possible relation and connexion and from every point of view. Now just as in the three previous books the attempt has been made to achieve the same thing with the generality proper to philosophy, from different points of view, so in the present book man’s conduct will be considered in the same way. This side of the world might prove to be the most important of all, not only, as I remarked above, from a subjective, but also from an objective point of view. Here I shall remain absolutely faithful to the method of consideration we have hitherto followed, and shall support myself by assuming what has been stated up to now. Indeed, there is really only one thought that forms the content of this whole work, and as I have developed it hitherto as regards other subjects, I shall now develop it in the conduct of man. I shall thus do the last thing I am able to do for communicating this thought as fully and completely as possible.
The point of view given and the method of treatment announced suggest that in this ethical book no precepts, no doctrine of duty are to be expected; still less will there be set forth a universal moral principle, a universal recipe, so to speak, for producing all the virtues. Also we shall not speak of an “unconditioned ought,” since this involves a contradiction, as is explained in the Appendix; or of a “law for freedom,” which is in the same position. Generally we shall not speak of “ought” at all, for we speak in this way to children and to peoples still in their infancy, but not to those who have appropriated to themselves all the culture of a mature age. It is indeed a palpable contradiction to call the will free and yet to prescribe for it laws by which it is to will. “Ought to will!” wooden-iron! 132 But in the light of our whole view, the will is not only free, but even almighty; from it comes not only its action, but also its world; and as the will is, so does its action appear, so does its world appear; both are its self-knowledge and nothing more. The will determines itself, and therewith its action and its world also; for besides it there is nothing, and these are the will itself. Only thus is the will truly autonomous, and from every other point of view it is heteronomous. Our philosophical attempts can go only so far as to interpret and explain man’s action, and the very different and even opposite maxims of which it is the living expression, according to their innermost nature and content. This is done in connexion with our previous discussion, and in precisely the same way in which we have attempted hitherto to interpret the remaining phenomena of the world, and to bring their innermost nature to distinct, abstract knowledge. Our philosophy will affirm the same immanence here as in all that we have considered hitherto. It will not, in opposition to Kant’s great teaching, attempt to use as a jumping-pole the forms of the phenomenon, whose general expression is the principle of sufficient reason, in order to leap over the phenomenon itself, which alone gives those forms meaning, and to land in the boundless sphere of empty fictions. This actual world of what is knowable, in which we are and which is in us, remains both the material and the limit of our consideration. It is a world so rich in content that not even the profoundest investigation of which the human mind is capable could exhaust it. Now since the real, knowable world will never fail to afford material and reality to our ethical observations any more than it will to our previous observations, nothing will be less necessary than for us to take refuge in negative concepts devoid of content, and then somehow to make even ourselves believe that we were saying something when we spoke with raised eyebrows about the “absolute,” the “infinite,” the “supersensuous,” and whatever other mere negations of the sort there may be (οὐδέν ἐστι, ἢ τὸ τῆς στερήσεως ὄνομα, μετὰ ἀμυδρᾶς ἐπινoίας. Nihil est, nisi negationis nomen, cum obscura notione. Julian, Oratio 5.)133 Instead of this, we could call it more briefly cloud-cuckoo-land (νεϕελoϰoϰϰυγία).134 We shall not need to serve up covered, empty dishes of this sort. Finally, no more here than in the previous books shall we relate histories and give them out as philosophy. For we are of opinion that anyone who imagines that the inner nature of the world can be historically comprehended, however finely glossed over it may be, is still infinitely far from a philosophical knowledge of the world. But this is the case as soon as a becoming, or a having-become, or a will-become enters into his view of the inner nature of the world; whenever an earlier or a later has the least significance; and consequently whenever points of beginning and of ending in the world, together with a path between the two, are sought and found, and the philosophizing individual even recognizes his own position on this path. Such historical philosophizing in most cases furnishes a cosmogony admitting of many varieties, or else a system of emanations, a doctrine of diminutions, or finally, when driven in despair over the fruitless attempts of those paths to the last path, it furnishes, conversely, a doctrine of a constant becoming, springing up, arising, coming to light out of darkness, out of the obscure ground, primary ground, groundlessness, or some other drivel of this kind. But all this is most briefly disposed of by remarking that a whole eternity, in other words an endless time, has already elapsed up to the present moment, and therefore everything that can or should become must have become already. For all such historical philosophy, whatever airs it may assume, regards time, just as though Kant had never existed, as a determination of things-in-themselves, and therefore stops at what Kant calls the phenomenon in opposition to the thing-in-itself, and what Plato calls the becoming never the being in opposition to the being never the becoming, or finally what is called by the Indians the web of Maya. It is just the knowledge belonging to the principle of sufficient reason, with which we never reach the inner nature of things, but endlessly pursue phenomena only, moving without end or aim like a squirrel in its wheel, until in the end we are tired out, and stop still at some arbitrarily chosen point, and then wish to extort respect for this from others as well. The genuine method of considering the world philosophically, in other words, that consideration which acquaints us with the inner nature of the world and thus takes us beyond the phenomenon, is precisely the method that does not ask about the whence, whither, and why of the world, but always and everywhere about the what alone. Thus it is the method that considers things not according to any relation, not as becoming and passing away, in short not according to one of the four forms of the principle of sufficient reason. On the contrary, it is precisely what is still left over after we eliminate the whole of this method of consideration that follows the principle of sufficient reason; thus it is the inner nature of the world, always appearing the same in all relations, but itself never amenable to them, in other words the Ideas of the world, that forms the object of our method of philosophy. From such knowledge we get philosophy as well as art; in fact, we shall find in this book that we can also reach that disposition of mind which alone leads to true holiness and to salvation from the world.

§ 54.

The first three books will, it is hoped, have produced the distinct and certain knowledge that the mirror of the will has appeared to it in the world as representation. In this mirror the will knows itself in increasing degrees of distinctness and completeness, the highest of which is man. Man’s inner nature, however, receives its complete expression above all through the connected series of his actions. The self-conscious connexion of these actions is rendered possible by the faculty of reason, which enables him to survey the whole in the abstract.
The will, considered purely in itself, is devoid of knowledge, and is only a blind, irresistible urge, as we see it appear in inorganic and vegetable nature and in their laws, and also in the vegetative part of our own life. Through the addition of the world as representation, developed for its service, the will obtains knowledge of its own willing and what it wills, namely that this is nothing but this world, life, precisely as it exists. We have therefore called the phenomenal world the mirror, the objectivity, of the will; and as what the will wills is always life, just because this is nothing but the presentation of that willing for the representation, it is immaterial and a mere pleonasm if, instead of simply saying “the will,” we say “the will-to-live.”
As the will is the thing-in-itself, the inner content, the essence of the world, but life, the visible world, the phenomenon, is only the mirror of the will, this world will accompany the will as inseparably as a body is accompanied by its shadow; and if will exists, then life, the world, will exist. Therefore life is certain to the will-to-live, and as long as we are filled with the will-to-live we need not be apprehensive for our existence, even at the sight of death. It is true that we see the individual come into being and pass away; but the individual is only phenomenon, exists only for knowledge involved in the principle of sufficient reason, in the principium individuationis. Naturally, for this knowledge, the individual receives his life as a gift, rises out of nothing, and then suffers the loss of this gift through death, and returns to nothing. We, however, wish to consider life philosophically, that is to say, according to its Ideas, and then we shall find that neither the will, the thing-in-itself in all phenomena, nor the subject of knowing, the spectator of all phenomena, is in any way affected by birth and death. Birth and death belong only to the phenomenon of the will, and hence to life; and it is essential to this that it manifest itself in individuals that come into being and pass away, as fleeting phenomena, appearing in the form of time, of that which in itself knows no time, but must be manifested precisely in the way aforesaid in order to objectify its real nature. Birth and death belong equally to life, and hold the balance as mutual conditions of each other, or, if the expression be preferred, as poles of the whole phenomenon of life. The wisest of all mythologies, the Indian, expresses this by giving to the very god who symbolizes destruction and death (just as Brahma, the most sinful and lowest god of the Trimurti, symbolizes generation, origination, and Vishnu preservation), by giving, I say, to Shiva as an attribute not only the necklace of skulls, but also the lingam, that symbol of generation which appears as the counterpart of death. In this way it is intimated that generation and death are essential correlatives which reciprocally neutralize and eliminate each other. It was precisely the same sentiment that prompted the Greeks and Romans to adorn the costly sarcophagi, just as we still see them, with feasts, dances, marriages, hunts, fights between wild beasts, bacchanalia, that is with presentations of life’s most powerful urge. This they present to us not only through such diversions and merriments, but even in sensual groups, to the point of showing us the sexual intercourse between satyrs and goats. The object was obviously to indicate with the greatest emphasis from the death of the mourned individual the immortal life of nature, and thus to intimate, although without abstract knowledge, that the whole of nature is the phenomenon, and also the fulfilment, of the will-to-live. The form of this phenomenon is time, space, and causality, and through these individuation, which requires that the individual must come into being and pass away. But this no more disturbs the will-to-live—the individual being only a particular example or specimen, so to speak, of the phenomenon of this will—than does the death of an individual injure the whole of nature. For it is not the individual that nature cares for, but only the species; and in all seriousness she urges the preservation of the species, since she provides for this so lavishly through the immense surplus of the seed and the great strength of the fructifying impulse. The individual, on the contrary, has no value for nature, and can have none, for infinite time, infinite space, and the infinite number of possible individuals therein are her kingdom. Therefore nature is always ready to let the individual fall, and the individual is accordingly not only exposed to destruction in a thousand ways from the most insignificant accidents, but is even destined for this and is led towards it by nature herself, from the moment that individual has served the maintenance of the species. In this way, nature quite openly expresses the great truth that only the Ideas, not individuals, have reality proper, in other words are a complete objectivity of the will. Now man is nature herself, and indeed nature at the highest grade of her self-consciousness, but nature is only the objectified will-to-live; the person who has grasped and retained this point of view may certainly and justly console himself for his own death and for that of his friends by looking back on the immortal life of nature, which he himself is. Consequently, Shiva with the lingam is to be understood in this way, and so are those ancient sarcophagi that with their pictures of glowing life exclaim to the lamenting beholder: Natura non contristatur.135
That generation and death are to be regarded as something belonging to life, and essential to this phenomenon of the will, arises also from the fact that they both exhibit themselves merely as the higher powers of expression of that in which all the rest of life consists. This is everywhere nothing but a constant change of matter under a fixed permanence of form; and this is precisely the transitoriness of the individuals with the imperishableness of the species. Constant nourishment and renewal differ from generation only in degree, and only in degree does constant excretion differ from death. The former shows itself most simply and distinctly in the plant, which is throughout only the constant repetition of the same impulse of its simplest fibre grouping itself into leaf and branch. It is a systematic aggregate of homogeneous plants supporting one another, and their constant reproduction is its simple impulse. It ascends to the complete satisfaction of this impulse by means of the gradation of metamorphosis, finally to the blossom and the fruit, that compendium of its existence and effort in which it attains in a shorter way what is its sole aim. It now produces at one stroke a thousandfold what till then it effected in the particular case, namely the repetition of itself. Its growth up to the fruit is related to that fruit as writing is to printing. In the case of the animal, it is obviously exactly the same. The process of nourishment is a constant generation; the process of generation is a higher power of nourishment. The pleasure that accompanies procreation is a higher power of the agreeableness of the feeling of life. On the other hand, excretion, the constant exhalation and throwing off of matter, is the same as what at a higher power is death, namely the opposite of procreation. Now, if here we are always content to retain the form without lamenting the discarded matter, we must behave in the same way when in death the same thing happens at a higher potential and to the whole, as occurs every day and hour in a partial way with excretion. Just as we are indifferent to the one, so we should not recoil at the other. Therefore, from this point of view, it seems just as absurd to desire the continuance of our individuality, which is replaced by other individuals, as to desire the permanence of the matter of our body, which is constantly replaced by fresh matter. It appears just as foolish to embalm corpses as it would be carefully to preserve our excreta. As for the individual consciousness bound to the individual body, it is completely interrupted every day by sleep. Deep sleep, while it lasts, is in no way different from death, into which it constantly passes, for example in the case of freezing to death, differing only as to the future, namely with regard to the awakening. Death is a sleep in which individuality is forgotten; everything else awakens again, or rather has remained awake.136
Above all, we must clearly recognize that the form of the phenomenon of the will, and hence the form of life or of reality, is really only the present, not the future or the past. Future and past are only in the concept, exist only in the connexion and continuity of knowledge in so far as this follows the principle of sufficient reason. No man has lived in the past, and none will ever live in the future; the present alone is the form of all life, but it is also life’s sure possession which can never be torn from it. The present always exists together with its content; both stand firm without wavering, like the rainbow over the waterfall. For life is sure and certain to the will, and the present is sure and certain to life. Of course, if we think back to the thousands of years that have passed, to the millions of men and women who lived in them, we ask, What were they? What has become of them? But, on the other hand, we need recall only the past of our own life, and vividly renew its scenes in our imagination, and then ask again, What was all this? What has become of it? As it is with our life, so is it with the life of those millions. Or should we suppose that the past took on a new existence by its being sealed through death? Our own past, even the most recent, even the previous day, is only an empty dream of the imagination, an...


  2. Title Page
  3. Copyright Page
  4. Translator’s Introduction
  5. Preface to the First Edition
  6. Preface to the Second Edition
  7. Preface to the Third Edition
  8. Selected Bibliography
  9. Table of Contents
Estilos de citas para The World as Will and Representation, Vol. 1

APA 6 Citation

Schopenhauer, A. (2012). The World as Will and Representation, Vol. 1 ([edition unavailable]). Dover Publications. Retrieved from (Original work published 2012)

Chicago Citation

Schopenhauer, Arthur. (2012) 2012. The World as Will and Representation, Vol. 1. [Edition unavailable]. Dover Publications.

Harvard Citation

Schopenhauer, A. (2012) The World as Will and Representation, Vol. 1. [edition unavailable]. Dover Publications. Available at: (Accessed: 14 October 2022).

MLA 7 Citation

Schopenhauer, Arthur. The World as Will and Representation, Vol. 1. [edition unavailable]. Dover Publications, 2012. Web. 14 Oct. 2022.