“The world is my representation”
Welcome to the magnificent world of Arthur Schopenhauer, where all things are meaningless and we are doomed to be internally frustrated for the rest of our lives… while you’re here, why not grab a guitar?
Arthur Schopenhauer was born on February 12, 1977, in Gdansk, Germany. From day one Schopenhauer’s father had intended for young baby Arthur to take over the family’s merchant and ship owning business when he was older, which is why he had given him a name that was spelt the same in German, French, and English, giving him a head start on all the other baby will-be merchants. But as his young childhood of traveling through Europe gave him a thirst for, and went into university to study once his father had passed away. In university he began thinking of ideas that were contrary to the ones that were forced upon him in childhood. Terrible experiences at a boarding school in Wimbledon had turned him away from Christianity for the rest of his life, and thus began his journey into other ways of thinking.
Schopenhauer’s main concept into the metaphysical word was his interest and dissection of individual motion, which he called “the Will”. His concept of this Will was largely based off of Immanuel Kant’s concept of “thing-in-itself.” But while he did take inspiration from this, he did not fully agree with Kant. Schopenhauer described the Will as the thing that drives us, but also what brings us down. He said that the our individual “will to live” is what is the root cause of all human suffering, and we are all ultimately slaves to it. This was as I said in contrast to Kant’s view on the root of human drive being much more optimistic. With his visions of this Will being the root of all human life, he viewed world as a lonely night drive with absolutely no breaks and no meaningful end in sight. He saw the world as one with no God to be comprehended and the world being ultimately meaningless. His main conception and most detailed description of this and other metaphysical ideas take place in his book Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung, translated into the English as The World as Will and Representation. He says that unfulfilled desires cause pain and suffering, and most desires go unfulfilled.
Basing off his idea of the Will, he also accepted another one of Kant’s views on the world, which is the double aspect view of the world. Which is, as he believed, the phenomenal, which is the world of experience, the one that we can view with the senses that we have, and the noumenal world which is the one that we can not experience with our senses. He that phenomena was the way that our brains perceived the nomunea. Neither cause each other but are just simply the way we perceive one another. The quote at the top of this post describes his view of the phenomenal world.
Now, when I was discovering all of this about Schopenhauer, I pegged him to be a very gloom and doom type person, who would not at all be interested in art, entertainment, aesthetics, or anything of the likes whatsoever. So it became quite a shock to me when I found out that art and aesthetics in general were very important to Schopenhauer, and an integral part of the human experience in his mind. He said that art was a way in which you are able to escape the pain and suffering of being driven by the Will. He admits that while it is only a temporally release, he said that the act of artistic and aesthetic appreciation, the will vanishes from the consciousness. Schopenhauer also viewed music as the purest art form because through music, one could view the will as an individual object itself. It allows us to be able to step outside ourselves and view the “will” from another point of view. He influenced many artists and people interested in the arts in his time, and even nowadays he may be seen to some artists as a man who fought for the important of the arts in culture, and who wanted to show everyone the vitality of music in the world. Metaphysically speaking, he saw the arts as the gateway between phenomenal and the noumenal worlds.
Here is a great video and song that shows the influence that Schopenhauer had on the arts, and gives a great explanation of Schopenhauer as a whole at the same time:
I personally have very conflicting thoughts about Schopenhauer’s ideas. But even so, as I continue read more, I can’t help but becoming insanely intrigued at every corner. I can not say that I agree with his pessimist views on the world and human drive, and how all human suffering is caused by this. But I think that in terms of his views on the arts, and their importance to the study of metaphysics, I would have to agree with him. I personally find art as a sort of an “escape”, and personally do see art as being a bridge between the world we perceive with our senses, and the other form of the world that we can’t perceive, whatever that may be. I agree with the idea that there could be more to it then what we perceive right in front of us, and that we may not be able to perceive these things with the senses we have. Among the countless things surprised me while reading about Schopenhauer, was that he believed compassion to be the only truly morally good drive. I wasn’t surprised by this because I disagreed that compassion was a moral drive, but rather because it just showed me the complexity of Schopenhauer’s thinking. I was amazed at just how surprised I was at each time I would read something new about him, because it was always a much more different idea than what I would have thought he would say. Schopenhauer was a thinker who covered many aspects of metaphysics, and really tried to get down to what reality real is. And whether you agree with his ideas or not, the amount of influence he had on other thinkers and the world around us is something that is truly amazing.