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The World As Will and Representation
By Arthur Schopenhauer, E. F. J. Payne
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 1969 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
THE WORLD AS REPRESENTATION FIRST ASPECT
The Representation subject to the Principle of Sufficient Reason: The Object of Experience and of Science.
Sors de l'enfance, ami, réveille-toi! Jean-Jacques Rousseau
("Quit thy childhood, my friend, and wake up." [Tr.])
The world is my representation": this is a truth valid with reference to every living and knowing being, although man alone can bring it into reflective, abstract consciousness. If he really does so, philosophical discernment has dawned on him. It then becomes clear and certain to him that he does not know a sun and an earth, but only an eye that sees a sun, a hand that feels an earth; that the world around him is there only as representation, in other words, only in reference to another thing, namely that which represents, and this is himself. If any truth can be expressed a priori, it is this; for it is the statement of that form of all possible and conceivable experience, a form that is more general than all others, than time, space, and causality, for all these presuppose it. While each of these forms, which we have recognized as so many particular modes of the principle of sufficient reason, is valid only for a particular class of representations, the division into object and subject, on the other hand, is the common form of all those classes; it is that form under which alone any representation, of whatever kind it be, abstract or intuitive, pure or empirical, is generally possible and conceivable. Therefore no truth is more certain, more independent of all others, and less in need of proof than this, namely that everything that exists for knowledge, and hence the whole of this world, is only object in relation to the subject, perception of the perceiver, in a word, representation. Naturally this holds good of the present as well as of the past and future, of what is remotest as well as of what is nearest; for it holds good of time and space themselves, in which alone all these distinctions arise. Everything that in any way belongs and can belong to the world is inevitably associated with this being-conditioned by the subject, and it exists only for the subject. The world is representation.
This truth is by no means new. It was to be found already in the sceptical reflections from which Descartes started. But Berkeley was the first to enunciate it positively, and he has thus rendered an immortal service to philosophy, although the remainder of his doctrines cannot endure. Kant's first mistake was the neglect of this principle, as is pointed out in the Appendix. On the other hand, how early this basic truth was recognized by the sages of India, since it appears as the fundamental tenet of the Vedanta philosophy ascribed to Vyasa, is proved by Sir William Jones in the last of his essays: "On the Philosophy of the Asiatics" (Asiatic Researches, vol. IV, p. 164): "The fundamental tenet of the Vedanta school consisted not in denying the existence of matter, that is, of solidity, impenetrability, and extended figure (to deny which would be lunacy), but in correcting the popular notion of it, and in contending that it has no essence independent of mental perception; that existence and perceptibility are convertible terms." These words adequately express the compatibility of empirical reality with transcendental ideality.
Thus in this first book we consider the world only from the above-mentioned angle, only in so far as it is representation. The inner reluctance with which everyone accepts the world as his mere representation warns him that this consideration, quite apart from its truth, is nevertheless one-sided, and so is occasioned by some arbitrary abstraction. On the other hand, he can never withdraw from this acceptance. However, the one- sidedness of this consideration will be made good in the following book through a truth that is not so immediately certain as that from which we start here. Only deeper investigation, more difficult abstraction, the separation of what is different, and the combination of what is identical can lead us to this truth. This truth, which must be very serious and grave if not terrible to everyone, is that a man also can say and must say: "The world is my will."
But in this first book it is necessary to consider separately that side of the world from which we start, namely the side of the knowable, and accordingly to consider without reserve all existing objects, nay even our own bodies (as we shall discuss more fully later on), merely as representation, to call them mere representation. That from which we abstract here is invariably only the will, as we hope will later on be clear to everyone. This will alone constitutes the other aspect of the world, for this world is, on the one side, entirely representation, just as, on the other, it is entirely will. But a reality that is neither of these two, but an object in itself (into which also Kant's thing-in-itself has unfortunately degenerated in his hands), is the phantom of a dream, and its acceptance is an ignis fatuus in philosophy.
That which knows all things and is known by none is the subject. It is accordingly the supporter of the world, the universal condition of all that appears, of all objects, and it is always presupposed; for whatever exists, exists only for the subject. Everyone finds himself as this subject, yet only in so far as he knows, not in so far as he is object of knowledge. But his body is already object, and therefore from this point of view we call it representation. For the body is object among objects and is subordinated to the laws of objects, although it is immediate object. Like all objects of perception, it lies within the forms of all knowledge, in time and space through which there is plurality. But the subject, the knower never the known, does not lie within these forms; on the contrary, it is always presupposed by those forms themselves, and hence neither plurality nor its opposite, namely unity, belongs to it. We never know it, but it is precisely that which knows wherever there is knowledge.
Therefore the world as representation, in which aspect alone we are here considering it, has two essential, necessary, and inseparable halves. The one half is the object, whose forms are space and time, and through these plurality. But the other half, the subject, does not lie in space and time, for it is whole and undivided in every representing being. Hence a single one of these beings with the object completes the world as representation just as fully as do the millions that exist. And if that single one were to disappear, then the world as representation would no longer exist. Therefore these halves are inseparable even in thought, for each of the two has meaning and existence only through and for the other; each exists with the other and vanishes with it. They limit each other immediately; where the object begins, the subject ceases. The common or reciprocal nature of this limitation is seen in the very fact that the essential, and hence universal, forms of every object, namely space, time, and causality, can be found and fully known, starting from the subject, even without the knowledge of the object itself, that is to say, in Kant's language, they reside a priori in our consciousness. To have discovered this is one of Kant's chief merits, and it is a very great one. Now in addition to this, I maintain that the principle of sufficient reason is the common expression of all these forms of the object of which we are a priori conscious, and that therefore all that we know purely a priori is nothing but the content of that principle and what follows therefrom; hence in it is really expressed the whole of our a priori certain knowledge. In my essay On the Principle of Sufficient Reason I have shown in detail how every possible object is subordinate to it, that is to say, stands in a necessary relation to other objects, on the one hand as determined, on the other as determining. This extends so far that the entire existence of all objects, in so far as they are objects, representations, and nothing else, is traced back completely to this necessary relation of theirs to one another, consists only in that relation, and hence is entirely relative; but more of this later. I have further shown that this necessary relation, expressed in general by the principle of sufficient reason, appears in other forms corresponding to the classes into which objects are divided according to their possibility; and again that the correct division of those classes is verified by these forms. Here I constantly assume that what was said in that essay is known and present to the reader, for had it not already been said there, it would have its necessary place here.
The main difference among all our representations is that between the intuitive and the abstract. The latter constitutes only one class of representations, namely concepts; and on earth these are the property of man alone. The capacity for these which distinguishes him from all animals has at all times been called reason (Vernunft). We shall consider further these abstract representations by themselves, but first of all we shall speak exclusively of the intuitive representation. This embraces the entire visible world, or the whole of experience, together with the conditions of its possibility. As we have said, it is one of Kant's very important discoveries that these very conditions, these forms of the visible world, in other words, the most universal element in its perception, the common property of all its phenomena, time and space, even by themselves and separated from their content, can be not only thought in the abstract, but also directly perceived. This perception or intuition is not some kind of phantasm, borrowed from experience through repetition, but is so entirely independent of experience that, on the contrary, experience must be thought of as dependent on it, since the properties of space and time, as they are known in a priori perception or intuition, are valid for all possible experience as laws. Everywhere experience must turn out in accordance with these laws. Accordingly, in my essay On the Principle of Sufficient Reason, I have regarded time and space, in so far as they are perceived pure and empty of content, as a special class of representations existing by itself. Now this quality of those universal forms of intuition, discovered by Kant, is certainly very important, the quality, that is, that they are perceivable in themselves and independently of experience, and are knowable by their entire conformity to law, on which rests mathematics with its infallibility. Not less remarkable, however, is the quality of time and space that the principle of sufficient reason, which determines experience as the law of causality and of motivation, and thought as the law of the basis of judgements, appears in them in quite a special form, to which I have given the name ground of being. In time this is the succession of its moments, and in space the position of its parts, which reciprocally determine one another to infinity.
Anyone who has clearly seen from the introductory essay the complete identity of the content of the principle of sufficient reason, in spite of all the variety of its forms, will also be convinced of the importance of the knowledge of the simplest of its forms as such for an insight into his own inmost nature. We have recognized this simplest form to be time. In time each moment is, only in so far as it has effaced its father the preceding moment, to be again effaced just as quickly itself. Past and future (apart from the consequences of their content) are as empty and unreal as any dream; but present is only the boundary between the two, having neither extension nor duration. In just the same way, we shall also recognize the same emptiness in all the other forms of the principle of sufficient reason, and shall see that, like time, space also, and like this, everything that exists simultaneously in space and time, and hence everything that proceeds from causes or motives, has only a relative existence, is only through and for another like itself, i.e., only just as enduring. In essence this view is old; in it Heraclitus lamented the eternal flux of things; Plato spoke with contempt of its object as that which for ever becomes, but never is; Spinoza called it mere accidents of the sole substance that alone is and endures; Kant opposed to the thing-in-itself that which is known as mere phenomenon; finally, the ancient wisdom of the Indians declares that "it is Mâyâ, the veil of deception, which covers the eyes of mortals, and causes them to see a world of which one cannot say either that it is or that it is not; for it is like a dream, like the sunshine on the sand which the traveller from a distance takes to be water, or like the piece of rope on the ground which he regards as a snake." (These similes are repeatedly found in innumerable passages of the Vedas and Puranas. ) But what all these meant, and that of which they speak, is nothing else but what we are now considering, namely the world as representation subordinated to the principle of sufficient reason.
He who has recognized the form of the principle of sufficient reason, which appears in pure time as such, and on which all counting and calculating are based, has thereby also recognized the whole essence of time. It is nothing more than that very form of the principle of sufficient reason, and it has no other quality or attribute. Succession is the form of the principle of sufficient reason in time, and succession is the whole essence and nature of time. Further, he who has recognized the principle of sufficient reason as it rules in mere, purely perceived space, has thereby exhausted the whole nature of space. For this is absolutely nothing else but the possibility of the reciprocal determinations of its parts by one another, which is called position. The detailed consideration of this, and the formulation of the results flowing from it into abstract conceptions for convenient application, form the subject-matter of the whole of geometry. Now in just the same way, he who has recognized that form of the principle of sufficient reason which governs the content of those forms (of time and space), their perceptibility, i.e., matter, and hence the law of causality, has thereby recognized the entire essence and nature of matter as such; for matter is absolutely nothing but causality, as anyone sees immediately the moment he reflects on it. Thus its being is its acting; it is not possible to conceive for it any other being. Only as something acting does it fill space and time; its action on the immediate object (which is itself matter) conditions the perception in which alone it exists. The consequence of the action of every material object on another is known only in so far as the latter now acts on the immediate object in a way different from that in which it acted previously; it consists in this alone. Thus cause and effect are the whole essence and nature of matter; its being is its acting. (Details of this are to be found in the essay On the Principle of Sufficient Reason, § 21, p. 77.) The substance of everything material is therefore very appropriately called in German Wirklichkeit, a word much more expressive than Realität. That on which it acts, again, is always matter; thus its whole being and essence consist only in the orderly and regular change produced by one part of it in another; consequently, its being and essence are entirely relative, according to a relation that is valid only within its limits, and hence just like time and space.
Excerpted from The World As Will and Representation by Arthur Schopenhauer, E. F. J. Payne. Copyright © 1969 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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