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Representationalism and the Personal, Unique World – Kelly

Arthur Schopenhauer was a nineteenth century German philosopher and metaphysician.  His father gave him a choice as a young man: become a businessman with my financial support, or pursue philosophy, get cut off from the family fortune, and ultimately be impoverished.  Ultimately, he chose business, but returned to philosophy when his father passed away.  Schopenhauer had a very large ego, and liked to challenge the status quo, primarily with his critiques of Immanuel Kant.

To be completely honest, there is very little that I have found on Schopenhauer that has not made me want to either rip my hair out, throw my laptop at the

Arthur Schopenhauer and his truly spectacular hair

wall, or stab needles into my eyes.   Not only is the internet far too large and far too general, but all the articles on the metaphysical ideas of Schopenhauer were written by scholars, so a dictionary was required for nearly every single word.  I think, though, I eventually found the main ideas that Schopenhauer is known for (but, like I said, I really do not understand very much of this, so if you know more than me, let me know where I went wrong).

Schopenhauer strongly believed in representationalism, a school of thought which states that our senses demonstrate the way we perceive the world, ultimately allowing us each to change it.  He argued that we can never truly know the world as it really is because each man’s opinion is influenced by his self.  He believed that a person could know who he or she was through experiences and will, but he also believed strongly that will could not be appeased.   Schopenhauer was a very pessimistic person, and thought that people willed something they were unhappy about not having, or were bored of what they had already willed to possess.  He said that the best way to please the will was to live a silent, solitary life in a beautiful location.

Schopenhauer’s ideology, combined with the philosophies of many others, contributed to today’s views of personal outlook and ambition.  Everyone sees the world differently, everyone wants something different, and every new thought and idea is discoloured with different past experiences and preconceived notions.  Two people can lay side by side in a field, looking at the same sky, and see completely different things, simply based on connections they make with past experiences and aspects of the self and the will.

‘Man can do what he wills but he cannot will what he wills.’   
-Arthur Schopenhauer


2 thoughts on “Representationalism and the Personal, Unique World – Kelly

  1. Schopenhauer to me seemed like a very cynical and pessimistic individual in his views as he believed that humans were motivated by their own desires. I could be wrong but, I see happiness to Schopenhauer negative in his point of view, as it’s something that only temporarily satisfies a desire. What do you think?

    Posted by yasmeenmezban | October 25, 2012, 6:11 pm
    • That seems like a very accurate description. In all of the articles I have read, Schopenhauer was described as a cynical pessimist who did not believe in happiness. His beliefs lay in the idea that when something is proclaimed as a desire, it becomes unattainable. So, essentially, I think he believed that long-term happiness was impossible.

      Posted by kellyannebryant | October 26, 2012, 5:49 pm

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