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A SHORT HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY

ARCHIBALD B. D. ALEXANDER - 1922 - Table of contents

Diccionario filosófico
Voltaire.
Complete edition

Diccionario de Filosofía
Brief definition of the most important concepts of philosophy.

 

A Dictionary of English Philosophical Terms Francis Garden

Biografías y semblanzas Biographical references and lives of philosophers

Brief introduction to the thought of Ortega y Gasset

History of Philosophy Summaries

Historia de la Filosofía
Explanation of the thought of the great philosophers; summaries, exercises...

Historia de la Filosofía
Digital edition of the History of Philosophy by Jaime Balmes

Historia de la Filosofía
Digital edition of the History of Philosophy by Zeferino González

Vidas, opiniones y sentencias de los filósofos más ilustres
Complete digital edition of the work of Diogenes Laertius

Compendio de las vidas de los filósofos antiguos
Fénelon

A brief history of Greek Philosophy
B. C. Burt

 

A SHORT HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY

 

INTRODUCTION

Part I. GREEK PHILOSOPHY


Its origin and character

PHYSICAL PERIOD
MONASTIC THEORIES
PLURALISTIC THEORIES

MORAL PERIOD
THE SOPHISTS
SOCRATES. Cynics and Cyrenaics

SYSTEMATIC PERIOD
PLATO
ARISTOTLE

Part II. PHILOSOPHY IN THE GRECO-ROMAN WORLD

ETHICAL THEORIES
Stoicism. Epicureanism
Scepticism

RELIGIOUS TENDENCIES
Roman Moralists: Seneca, Epictetus, M. Aurelius
Alexandrian Mystics: Philo, Plotinus, Proclus

Part III. PHILOSOPHY OF MIDDLE AGES

THE PATRISTIC PERIOD Augustine and Church Fathers

SCHOLASTIC PERIOD Nominalism and Realism

PLATONIC INFLUENCE
Anselm, Abelard, Peter Lombard

ARISTOTELIAN INFLUENCE
1. Alexander of Hales, Albertus Magnus, Thomas Aquinas
2. Duns Scotus, Francis of Assisi, William of Occam
 

Part IV. REVIVAL OF PHILOSOPHY

TRANSITION PERIOD
1. Revival of Learning
2. Reformation
3. Rise of Sciences
Bruno, Böhme, Montaigne

REALISTIC TENDENCY
Bacon
Gassendi
Hobbes

IDEALISTIC TENDENCY
Descartes

PANTHEISTIC TENDENCY
Geulinx, Occasionalism
Malebranche, Pantheism
Spinoza, Acosmism

Part V. PHILOSOPHY OF THE ENLIGHTENMENT

[Introduction]

SECT. I. ENLIGHTENMENT IN BRITAIN
Empiricism-Locke
Development of empiricism-Berkeley
Sceptical Conclusion-Hume

THEOLOGICAL AND ETHICAL QUESTIONS
Natural Philosophy
Theological Controversy
Ethical Theories
Scottish Philosophy

SECT. 2. ENLIGHTENMENT IN FRANCE
Earlier Rationalism
Bossuet, Fontenelle, Bayle, Montesquieu, Condillac, Helvetius
Materialistic Tendencies
Voltaire, Diderot, D'Alembert,  La Mettrie, Holbach, Rousseau

SECT. 3. ENLIGHTENMENT IN GERMANY
INDIVIDUAL IDEALISM—LEIBNITZ

FOLLOWERS OF LEIBNITZ
Thomasius, Tschirnhausen, Wolff

POPULAR PHILOSOPHY
Mendelssohn, Nicolai
Lessing

Part VI. GERMAN IDEALISM


SECT. I. CRITICAL PHILOSOPHY—KANT
INTRODUCTION

KANT'S THEORETIC PHILOSOPHY

KANT'S MORAL PHILOSOPHY

PHILOSOPHY OF ART AND RELIGION

SECT. 2. DEVELOPMENT OF IDEALISM

PHILOSOPHY OF FEELING
Hamann, Herder, Jacobi
Schiller and Humboldt

SUBJECTIVE IDEALISM—FICHTE
1. Science of Knowledge
2. Its Theoretic Principles
3. Its Practical Sphere

OBJECTIVE IDEALISM—SCHELLING
1. Philosophy of Nature
2. Philosophy of Identity
3. Mythology and Revelation

ROMANTIC SCHOOL
1. Novalis and Schlegel
2. Baader and Krause
3. Schleiermacher

 

SECT. 3. ABSOLUTE IDEALISM—HEGELIANISM
CONCEPTION AND METHOD
STAGES OF DEVELOPMENT
REACTION AGAINST HEGELIANISM
1. Herbart
2. Beneke
3. Schopenhauer

Part VII. MOVEMENTS SINCE HEGEL TO THE PRESENT


GERMAN THOUGHT—AFTER HEGEL
1. Influence of Hegelianism
2. Materialistic Tendency—Haeckel
3. Idealistic Tendency
Fechner, Lotze, Hartmann, Wundt
4. Modern Psychology
5. Neo-Kantianism
Dühring, Schuppe, Ritschl
6. Eucken and Activist Tendency

FRENCH THOUGHT—FROM THE REVOLUTION
1. Cousin and Eclecticism
2. Comte and Positivism
3. Religious Philosophy
4. Philosophy of Development—Taine, Renan, Fouillée

BRITISH PHILOSOPHY IN THE VICTORIAN ERA
1. Utilitarianism—Bentham and Mill
2. Evolution—Darwin and Spencer. Maurice, Newman, Martineau
3. Influence of German Idealism. Caird, Green, Bradley, etc.

THE TREND OF THOUGHT IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
Anti-Conceptualism—Bergson
Pragmatism—Wm. James
Neo-Realism. Revival of Idealism in Italy. The Philosophy of the Gifford Lectures

 

CONCLUSION

 

BOOKS OF REFERENCE

 

Part VI. GERMAN IDEALISM
SECT. 3. Absolute Idealism - Hegelianism

Chap. III. Reaction against Hegelianism

It was inevitable that the two conflicting systems of idealism represented by Fichte and Schelling should awaken an effort in the heart of philosophy to overcome the opposition and attain a position in which their one-sided views should be refuted or reconciled. This counter movement assumed a double form, a negative and a positive. In Hegel, as we have seen, we have an acknowledgment of the truth, or half truth, of both Fichte and Schelling, and an attempt to reconcile their opposition in a higher unity. In Herbart, Beneke and Schopenhauer, on the other hand, we have a denial of both and an endeavour to controvert their errors by a return to the Kantian standpoint from which they both started.

 

It is true that beyond their equal reverence for Kant and their contempt for the "Fashionable Philosophy," as Fichte's science of knowledge and Schelling's system of identity were called, Herbart, Beneke and Schopenhauer have not much in common. Indeed, they themselves form an opposition almost as sharp as that between the systems combated by them. 

While Herbart retains the individualism of Fichte but censures the pantheism of Schelling, Schopenhauer glories in pantheism and rejects individualism. Both seek to return to Kant, and to find in his Transcendental Aesthetic the basis of their explanation of reality. Kant had made an absolute distinction between sensibility and understanding. Sense was the material principle, understanding the formative factor in the synthesis of knowledge. The "aesthetic" and the "analytic" are the two fundamental elements of the critical philosophy. Fichte took his departure from the analytic or the formative factor, and made consciousness the starting-point of his system. Schelling took a mediate position and imagined that in his point of "indifference" he had discovered the union or identity of subject and object. Herbart and Schopenhauer reject the position of self-consciousness or understanding and take their start from the aesthetic side of the critical philosophy. While Herbart finds the root of experience in pure feeling, Schopenhauer discovers it in the personal will.

That which unites these three thinkers is their antagonism to the philosophy which culminated in Hegel. Herbart represents a Realistic, Beneke a Psychological, and Schopenhauer a Voluntarist movement.

Johann Frederick Herbart was born at Oldenburg in 1776, where his father held an official position. In his eighteenth year he became a pupil of Fichte at Jena, but took an independent position, and from the time when he taught as privat-docent in Göttingen and during the period of his professorship in Königsberg, where he succeeded Kant, till his death at Göttingen in 1841, his philosophical activity was directed against the idealism of Fichte and the pantheism of Schelling.

Herbart professed to be a follower of Kant, but he rejects Kant's idealistic theories of time, space, and the categories, as well as his Critique of Judgment. He starts, indeed, from the Kantian position of analysing experience, but he rejects the idealistic conclusions which Kant's successors drew.

The most important contributions which Herbart has made to philosophy are in the spheres of metaphysics and psychology. His principal works are: Hauptpunkte der Metaphysik, 1806; Logik, 1808; Psychologie, 1806; Allgemeine Metaphysik, 1829; and his Text-book of Philosophy, which gives a conspectus of his whole system, 1813. Herbart begins by rejecting Kant's distinction between phenomena and things in themselves. He holds, indeed, that we are only conscious of appearances, but these appearances must imply real existences behind them, and Herbart professes to be able to give an account of these real things as noumena, which he regards, in opposition to Schelling and in agreement with Wolff and Leibnitz, as individual, simple, and independent entities. He emphasizes the thought that all philosophy begins with a study of conceptions and proceeds by reflection to an elaboration of conceptions.

Philosophy consists of three principal departments, Logic, Metaphysics, and Aesthetics.

Logic deals with the formal elements of thought, and the chief object to be attained here is clearness of conception. Distinct notions lead to correct judgments. The unalterable result of Logic is that it supplies to all the departments of philosophy the principle of "identity, contradiction, and excluded middle," according to which conceptions which are contradictory must be rejected and their opposite accepted.

Metaphysics deals with the contents of thought. Here we pass from the merely formal aspect of conceptions to their matter. And here they fall into two classes—conceptions by which we comprehend the given world, to which we apply the term Metaphysics proper; and conceptions which have nothing to do with the reality of the thing conceived, inasmuch as they are capable of being applied to imaginary facts. It is the province of Aesthetics and Ethics to deal with this second class.

Aesthetics deals with such notions as it is impossible for thought to suppress or change, but which involve judgments of approval or disapproval. Ethics is a branch of Aesthetics, and its province is to investigate the agreement or disagreement which obtains between the relations of volition and certain fundamental moral ideals, such as personal freedom, perfection, benevolence, justice, and equity. In his Text-book to the Introduction of Philosophy, Herbart makes a sharp distinction between metaphysics and practical philosophy, and he actually places the practical part before the theoretic part. It will be more convenient, however, to consider his metaphysics first.

By Metaphysics Herbart understands with Wolff, the whole theoretic side of philosophy. Kant, he says, has the merit of proving that all that is known, all we call nature, contains only phenomena, but at the same time distinguishes things in themselves from phenomena, and so recognises the principle that wherever appearance is, there reality must also be. All theoretic philosophy must start with "the given," but must not stop there, but go on to inquire after the being which is behind the appearance, and thus become metaphysics.

Herbart retains in the main the Wolfrian division of metaphysics. The first part he terms "General Metaphysics," and the second "Applied Metaphysics."

Under General Metaphysics he deals first of all with the question of procedure—and he calls this Methodology. All our knowledge comes from experience, but the conceptions in which experience presents itself to us are full of contradictions. What are we to do with these contradictions which are involved in all our thinking? We cannot deny our perceptions, nor can we accept them as they are. A contradiction occurs when intelligibility and fact do not coincide—as when two terms are found together, which, however, are only conceivable in separation. An example of this is cause and effect, where the cause in preceding the effect cannot be considered as equivalent to it, and, on the other hand, in so far as it implicitly contains the effect, must be considered equivalent. How are we to proceed in such a case? Obviously we must endeavour to "transform the notions" of experience,— that is, we must so deal with them as to eliminate the contradiction. This is what Herbart calls the method of relations, which he compares to the reduction of a composite force in mechanics into its component parts.

The fundamental form of contradiction is when a thing is thought of as being simple yet made up of a plurality of differences. The difficulty can only be got over by assuming a variety of simple things, through the relation of which to each other the illusion of the manifold is produced. The things in themselves must be as numerous as the appearances which we apprehend with our senses. For from a single substance the multiplicity of qualities could never be explained. Each of these things must be thought of as entirely simple and unchangeable—to these he gives the name of "reals."

Ontology, which is the second part of the Metaphysics, deals with the nature of the real or actual. The actual is not given to us in experience. We must, however, assume reality as the basis of what appears. Every phenomenon points to a real. "So much appearance, so much being." It is the contradictions which phenomena involve which compel us to assume a reality. There are in particular two contradictions which run through all our conceptions of things; these are the contradiction between a thing and its many qualities, and the contradiction involved in change and identity. The thing as we think it is not as it is in itself. We perceive it made up of a variety of qualities, or as passing through various changes in time and space. But behind each of these many qualities and these manifold variations we are driven to assume that there must exist a simple unalterable and independent essence or "qualitative atomism," as Herbart calls it,— spaceless, timeless, and unconditioned. But now, it may be asked, if these atoms or essences are wholly independent in themselves, how are they related as appearances in our experience? How, in other words, are we to account for the ideas of causality, change, relation, which phenomena suggest?

To meet this difficulty Herbart propounds his theory of "Disturbances and Preservations of the Reals" (Störungen und Selbsterhaltungen). The real essences must be conceived as reciprocally "disturbing" each other and calling forth in a form of reaction against these disturbances inner states which have the character of self-preservation. The meeting of two or more atoms produces in each of them a disturbance, and in consequence of this, a resistance or self-conservation. This kind of action and reaction of the "reals" gives rise in the realm of phenomena to what Herbart calls "Contingent Aspects" (Zufällige Ansichten),—a conception borrowed from mathematics, which means, speaking generally, that the same thing without absolute alteration in itself may assume, in relation to others, another aspect or value. By these disturbances and self-conservations, all the phenomena given in experience of physics and psychology, may be explained. They may, therefore, be regarded as the groundwork of the philosophy of Nature and of psychology.

Synechology is the name which Herbart gives to the third part of his metaphysics, and here he treats generally of natural philosophy, and particularly of the relations of space and time and matter. Space is, indeed, appearance, but not as Kant imagined, subjective, but rather an objective appearance. Everything must assume the form of externality. But space is not to be conceived as a continuation as it appears to us. It is to be thought of as intensive rather than extensive. So with time, it consists in a sum of points of succession. It only appears as a continuation, because at the close of one series of changes another immediately begins. Space and time, in other words, are only accidents, not real properties of the essences—hence it follows that the essences are not subject to space-relation at all. Motion, therefore, is not a property of bodies. Without an observer there would be neither motion, time, nor space.

Psychology, the fourth part of the metaphysics, arises directly from his ontology. What is the soul, the ego? The moment we think of it we are involved in the metaphysical contradiction of a thing and its qualities. Self-consciousness is one, yet its perceptions are many. It is a real with many states, powers, faculties, involving, therefore, innumerable contradictions. But the soul is also a psychological principle, and here those contradictions are to be considered which lie in the identity of subject and object. The ego affirms itself, and is consequently an object to itself. The object affirmed is, however, identical with the subject affirming. The appearance of such an identity is the constant problem which confronts us. The only explanation that is satisfactory, according to Herbart, is that the soul, like all other "reals," is a simple substance, eternal, indissoluble, unchangeable, spaceless. It cannot, therefore, be the substratum of a plurality of faculties. In itself it is unknowable, and is known only through its self-preservations, which are its ideas.

These ideas disturb and restrain each other, and the whole course of the psychical life is to be explained from the reciprocal tension of ideas.

Several similar ideas acting together coalesce and intensify consciousness. When, however, some are opposed to others, they counteract, modify or neutralize each other, and so reduce the consciousness. Consciousness is the sum of these relations, and is greater or less according to the degree of the intensity of the ideas.

Neutralized ideas do not, however, wholly disappear, but lie, as Herbart quaintly puts it, at the "threshold of consciousness." These ideas which thus lie just without, on the threshold, he calls "feelings." If, however, they are pressed still further back to a position even below the threshold, they become mere impulses.

Impulses, feelings, ideas, severally become stronger or weaker according as different powers coalesce with or oppose them. Ideas may thus be reduced to impulses or impulses may be raised to ideas.

Herbart lays particular stress upon the investigation of the process by which newly-entering ideas are assimilated and altered by the ideas already present in consciousness. The assimilating and assorting power of the soul he calls "apperception." The starting-point with Herbart is his definition of being. From his conception of being he is led to regard psychology as "the mechanics of the mind," and he seeks to explain all the modifications of the soul by mathematical formulae. "As in physiology the body is built up of fibres, so in psychology the mind is built up of representations." Our ideas react upon and balance one another in obedience to mechanical laws. This is the whole life of the mind. Herbart will hear nothing of special faculties. The soul is a primordial monad, and psychology is nothing else than the endeavour to discover the mathematical laws which govern the action and reaction of its ideas.

It is interesting to notice that in attempting to reduce the psychic life to a mechanism, Herbart forestalled in a measure the efforts of Fechner and Wundt to make psychology an exact science.

Aesthetics has to do with the practical side of philosophy. Its immediate object is the idea of the beautiful. But inasmuch as the beautiful, in contradistinction to the desirable and the pleasant, is that in an object which necessarily pleases, aesthetics has to do in general with everything which calls forth an approval or disapproval.

Herbart thus founds his practical philosophy wholly on aesthetic judgments. The morally beautiful gives rise to the consideration of ethics, which is regarded as a branch of aesthetics. The function of ethics is to investigate the agreement or disagreement which obtains between the relation of volition and certain fundamental ideals, five in number,—Freedom, Perfection, Benevolence, Justice, and Equity. Duties may be divided into those which concern oneself, those which relate to society, and those which have to do with the future.

The State springs from the needs of society. For its very preservation society requires an outward bond or power which will uphold and protect its institutions and relationships.

Herbart attaches much importance to education, and his views on this subject have not been without their influence on modern educational science. Its end is the moulding of moral character. Free-will and fatalist theories of character are alike to be rejected. Circumstances must be taken into account by the teacher; but the will can be strengthened, and individuality developed. Herbart rests the claim of religion upon the ethical needs of humanity. Its function is to comfort the sad, to guide the erring, and give peace to the guilty. All need its help on account of human weakness. The Church is necessary to the State, as the inner spiritual bond which holds men in peace when their material interests are liable to conflict.

With regard to the being of God, Herbart expresses no opinion. All he says is, there must be a supreme intelligence to account for the wonderful wisdom and purpose which are everywhere manifest in the world of nature and life.

The philosophy of Herbart as a whole may be regarded as a development of the Monadology of Leibnitz. It is a form of realism, and is a protest against the one-sided idealism of Kant's successors. It is founded on the idea of simple fundamental essences, which are supposed to be at the basis of all reality. As a system, it is grotesque and fanciful, full of ingenuity but devoid of influence. A certain reasonableness has been afforded it by its mathematical precision. It creates, however, more difficulties than it explains, and it is not easy to understand the attention which German writers have devoted to it.

Friedrich Edward Beneke (1798-1854) stands closely connected with Herbart, not only in his psychological studies, but also in his practical and educational theories. But while Herbart founds his psychology on metaphysics, Beneke bases metaphysics on psychology. After serving in the army, he studied philosophy and theology first in Halle and afterwards in Berlin. In 1822 he became privat-docent, but his lectures were interdicted by the Minister of State because of their pronounced opposition to Hegel. Later, however, he was permitted to resume his teaching, and was actually called to succeed his opponent. He is the author of many important works, of which we may mention his Text-book of Psychology, his Outlines of the Natural System of Practical Philosophy, his System of Metaphysics and Philosophy of Religion, and his Pragmatic Psychology, besides works on Education.

Beneke starts with Psychology, and endeavours to deduce the life of the soul from its prime elements. Philosophy can only proceed from what is immediately given, and that we can only discover from our own consciousness. Our starting-point must therefore be our own inner experience. The soul is the only thing we may be said to know, as it is in itself. Psychology therefore is the basis of all science, which must be pursued on the same inductive principles as the other sciences.

When we come to examine the soul we find within it four prime elements or 'ground-processes,' to which all the complex phenomena of our experience may be traced—the process of receiving impressions, of forming new faculties, of transferring impressions, and of reciprocal attraction and repulsion (association).

From these fundamental activities of the soul Beneke further derives two main classes, the products of the mind and those of the temperament—the intellectual and the moral powers.

While the mental activities fall within the province of logic and metaphysics, both of which are based on psychology, the constitutional or emotional powers belong to the realm of practical philosophy. In the matter of morals we estimate the worth of things by the heightening or lowering of the feelings which they excite in us. The stronger the feeling roused, the higher the value we set upon a particular thing. A pleasure of the higher senses ought to be preferred to one of the lower. That which we perceive to be higher is morally good, and duty is that which we instinctively feel to be morally necessary.

 

  Religion is the common product of theoretic and practical motives. On this subject, however, Beneke has little to say. He defends the immortality of the soul against the attacks of materialism, but he does not disguise the fact that our knowledge of God and the future is vague, and he maintains that our faith must rest more upon feeling than upon thought.

Beneke's significance pertains chiefly to the realm of psychology and paedagogy, and his strength rests on the keenness of his observations and the subtility with which he analyses the nature of our consciousness, thus preparing the way for the researches of Fechner and Wundt and the later psychological school.

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), the founder of modern Pessimism, was born at Dantzig, where his father was a banker. His mother, from whom he inherited his literary gift, was a writer of stories. On her husband's death she removed to Weimar, where she became friendly with Goethe. After relinquishing a mercantile pursuit, for which he was trained by travel and residence in France and England, Schopenhauer, in 1809, became a student first at Göttingen and afterwards at Berlin. He attended the lectures of Fichte, Schelling, and Schleiermacher. He graduated at Jena with his first work, on the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, a treatise in which he seeks to lay down the principles which determine respectively the provinces of Physics, Logic, Metaphysics, and Ethics. He lectured as privat-docent in Berlin, but met with little success, attributing his failure to professorial spite and concerted opposition. Schopenhauer's philosophy can scarcely be understood apart from his personality. Inner discord was the keynote of his life. His disposition was morose and gloomy, and he was habitually suspicious and distrustful of others. He was, moreover, possessed of an inordinate self-esteem and egotism, which led him to believe that he had produced a philosophy which made him the equal of Socrates. He maintained that there was a conspiracy in university circles against him which accounted for his neglect. He retired eventually to Frankfort, where he remained in supreme isolation till his death in i860. His principal works are: The World as Will and Idea, 1819; On the Will in Nature, 1836; and a series of occasional essays entitled, Parerga and Paralipomena, 1851.

Schopenhauer's philosophy forms an antithesis to the realism of Herbart, and may be characterized as a kind of subjective Idealism. Both start from Kant. But while Herbart opposes Kant's assumption that we cannot know the "thing-in-itself" by his theory of "Reals," Schopenhauer affirms that there is nothing real but the forms of our own mind. While, therefore, Herbart's realism logically leads to idealism, Schopenhauer's idealism naturally degenerates into a hard pantheistic materialism.

Kant's signal service to philosophy, Schopenhauer holds, was his distinction between appearance and noumenon. What previous thinkers, such as Plato, Descartes, Locke, and Berkeley only imperfectly saw, Kant clearly established, viz. that the world is nothing else but appearance and idea. The perceiving subject sustains the whole world. But Kant's position laboured under a twofold defect, which Schopenhauer proceeds to correct.

First, the manifold à priori sources of our ideas which Kant sought to establish must be reduced to one; and, second, the thing-in-itself must be wholly banished.

All our forms of thought, says Schopenhauer, may be refered to the principle of Causation, the "principle of the ground" (Satz von Grunde). This is the essential form of all objects. In particular, however, this principle assumes a fourfold form.

1. The ground of becoming (ratio fiendi) or the law of causality—which we call "cause" in relation to nature; impulse or excitement in regard to organic life; and motive in the sphere of conscious action.

2. The ground of being (ratio essendi), from which there spring our notions of the relation and sequence of things in time and space. The ratio essendi is nothing else than the time and space-form of the inner and outer sense— succession and co-existence.

3. The ground of knowing (the ratio cognoscendi), from which arises our power of thinking. The faculty by which thought works is Reason, whose principal function is to deal with the perceptions, to combine them into ideas, and thence to form judgments.

4. The ground of action (ratio agendi), which discloses the law of motives by which our moral actions are inspired and guided. It is the principle of the individual will.

The principle of cause in its four forms thus interpenetrates the world, but inasmuch as it is only a principle belonging to our faculty of presentation, it follows, that the world itself is nothing but our representation. The ego itself is only phenomenal, and only appears in an individual form in so far as it is an object in space and time.

Having thus led back all the forms of perception to one ground principle, Schopenhauer next proceeds to emancipate the mind from Kant's "thing-in-itself," in other words, to deny its existence as the cause of our sensations.

But if the world is all appearance and delusion, whence comes the appearance? How are we to account for the manifold phenomena around us?

The investigation into the nature of experience discloses a something which we call the "world" appearing under various forms, which, however, are all modes of causation. What is this thing considered apart from its appearance? That which appears is not consciousness, for however far back you go, consciousness is only the form assumed by the thing itself. The matter of the world is not thought, but will. All previous philosophers have assumed the indissoluble unity, says Schopenhauer, of will and intellect. It is the merit of his doctrine that he distinguishes between these. It is not the soul that is the eternal and indestructible principle in life, but what may be called the root of the soul—the will. The soul is really a compound—it is made up of intellect and will. The intellect is secondary, a mere function of the brain; the will, on the contrary, is primary. Man is not primarily a thinking being. He is first of all active, willing. But how do we become conscious of the primacy of the will? Among the things which make up the world of which we are conscious is one which has a unique significance for us—our own body. It is perceived by us not like other objects, by the senses or through reflection, but in a direct immediate way, through our action and movement. Our bodies move in response to an act of will. Every act of will produces a movement of body. The whole organism is conditioned by the will. It is only by virtue of the forms of cognition, i.e. by virtue of the functions of the brain, that one's body is seen to be something extended and organic. But in its inner essence it is will. In all its organic functions just as in its external actions, the will is the agent. The body is just the will externalized, and its various parts are the visible expression of desires. "The brain is the will to know, the foot the will to go, the stomach the will to digest—it is only on the basis of their active self-expression that the thought-life arises." We think in order to do. The active impulse precedes every conscious motion and act. The will is the essence, not of man's life only, but of the whole world. Just as our bodies are the realizations of our wills, so all other bodies, and all that is acted upon by them, the whole natural world—are the embodiment of will—not, indeed, of my will or your will, but will in general, will as the idea. It is the same impulse which expresses itself in the growth of the plant, in the reproduction and development of the animal, and in the mind of man. Every power in nature must be thought of as will. Will, in short, is the principle of the world.

But the will which is the essence of the world must be distinguished from the particular empirical will of individuals. From the ground-will of the universe we must abstract all predicates which we attribute to things as they appear to us in time. We must think away all ideas of cause and effect, of purpose and end, all relations of space and time, and regard this principle of the universe as causeless, blind irrational impulse. In itself it is unconscious and purposeless striving. It is the stress pervading all phenomena. As gravitation impels all bodies to the centre, as the magnet attracts the iron to itself, as growth works in Nature, instinctively and unknowingly, so the eternal will works in all things without ground or reason. It is one amid all change, the unmoved ἓν καί πᾱν. Though Schopenhauer does not fear the name of pantheist, he will not use it, for he denies the existence of God altogether. The idea of God implies intelligence and purpose. But he sees nothing in the world but blind impulse and irrational instinct.

The eternal will as thing-in-itself—which opposed to the will as phenomena manifested in time and space,—expresses itself in the forms of stages of being which are equivalent to what Plato would call "ideas." Things come and go, but these ideas or general types are unalterable.

These ideas which are the inner essences of things form a graduated series, which begins with the most general forces of inorganic matter and rises to the higher forms of life and thought. As each member of this series is a particular expression of will, it has its own special forces. The various forces act and react on each other in a state of constant conflict. In this perpetual strife there is a survival of the fittest. At the head of the evolution Schopenhauer places man with his consciousness and thought. But thought itself is only a form of mechanism, by and through which the will expresses itself. Of freedom of the will we cannot speak. It is without knowledge. It is a mere will to live, a blind impulse to objectify itself. What the soul really is, is a problem which only the surgeon's knife will discover, for the intellect, after all, is merely a function of the brain. It will be seen that Schopenhauer ultimately arrives at a crass materialism. It is a pantheism, an apotheosis of the will, a blind irresistible energy which holds together all the processes in the universe, from the lowest to the highest.

From this view of the irrational nature of will there follows the pessimism of Schopenhauer. All willing arises from want, and, therefore, from suffering. For every wish gratified there remain ten unsatisfied. Every satisfaction is only illusory. The gratified wish at once gives place to a new one. Satisfaction is like the alms thrown to a beggar, which prolongs his life for a day only to postpone his misery till to-morrow. So long as we are given up to the stress of our desires with its perpetual hopes and fears, so long as we are the subjects of willing, we can never have lasting peace. "Whether we pursue or flee, fear injury or seek enjoyment, it is ever the same, the care for the constant demands of the will occupies and sways the consciousness." Without rest no true happiness is possible. "The subject of willing is thus perpetually bound to the revolving wheel of Ixion; thus does it ceaselessly pour water into the sieve of the Danaides; thus is it like the ever longing but never satisfied Tantalus."

Everywhere there is strife, pressure, war,—an endless medley of struggling and tumult. What is all trade and commerce, all politics and enterprise, but ceaseless intrigue and effort and self-seeking? All for what?—to sustain ephemeral and tormented individuals through a short span of life. If we consider the disproportion between the trouble and the reward, the will to live is a folly or a delusion—a senseless effort to gain something which, after all, is valueless. The common mind regards pleasure as something positive, and pain as negative. The very opposite is the truth. Human existence is a condition of perpetual pain, and pleasure consists only in its removal. In short, as all will implies action, and all action want, and all want pain, it follows that pain is the essential condition of will.

Life is suffering. The world contains infinitely more pain than pleasure. Instead of being the best possible world, as some teachers of philosophy have affirmed, it is the worst possible. There is truth in the old saying, "it is better not to be than to be." Why the whole mockery of life goes on no one can tell. What purpose does it serve, what advantage does it yield? There is no proportion between the ceaseless care and the momentary rewards of life. Yet the strange thing is that everyone carefully guards his life as if it were a good. The instinct to live is universal. The will wills itself. This is what Schopenhauer calls "the will to live," which is an irrational tendency no one can justify. We pursue our life with the greatest interest and keenest solicitude as long as we can. "Life, in short, is a soap-bubble which we blow out as long and as large as possible, though each of us knows perfectly well it must sooner or later burst."

Is there then no deliverance from this condition of suffering, no palliation of the misery of life? Yes, according to Schopenhauer, there is; and in the third and fourth books of his work, The World as Will and Idea, which treat of Aesthetics and Ethics, he deals with the two means of attaining deliverance and peace from the bondage of the will. But in working out these ideas it will be observed that Schopenhauer is not consistent with himself. At the outset, he affirms that all our ideas are under the dominion of the law of causality, whereas he now declares that there is a higher kind of cognition which is not subject to the causal relationship, viz.—the aesthetic and philosophical contemplation. Formerly he asserted that the intellect was the creation and servant of the will; but now we are told that in certain elect souls the yoke of bondage is thrown off, and that by means of pure thought the mind is enabled to slay the power of the will and attain to the region of blessedness. How this comes about, however, Schopenhauer nowhere informs us. It is true that in an earlier part of his work Schopenhauer draws a distinction between the pure ideas or images of things and the actual forms which the empirical will takes in the world of time and space. These ideas, though not subject to the principle of causality, may become the direct objects of contemplation. Man alone has the power of attaining to a knowledge of the ideas, and in doing so he severs himself from obedience to his particular will and reaches a position of universality.

Hence the third book deals with Art as the embodiment of pure ideas. Therefore, the first and partial means of deliverance is through art. The aim of art is the presentment of those ideas which are essential and permanent amid all the phenomena of the world. Art, in other words, has to do not with particular things, but rather with the ideas which are independent of all time and space relationships,—with the eternal types which are represented in the manifold objects of the world.

Schopenhauer's reflections on art, apart from the connection with his system, are full of valuable suggestion. He holds that there are various gradations rising from the sensuous to the more ideal. In architecture we have the lowest form of the manifestation of the idea. Sculpture and painting express the idea with more purity; while music, which stands by itself and is completely independent of the phenomenal will, manifests the idea in its highest perfection. Music could exist even though the world were not. It is not like the other arts, a copy of the idea, but is the immediate image of the eternal will itself.

The delight afforded by a contemplation of the beautiful depends on the fact that in art the striving of the will is temporarily stilled. In aesthetic contemplation we cease to strive. We rest in pure knowledge. The idea is everything. Time and space have for the moment ceased to be. In the pure contemplation of these ideas, therefore, the soul finds momentary release from striving. Thought frees itself from the bondage of the will and loses itself in the object. Man forgets his individuality and rests in pure will-less, time-less contemplation. But it is only the few who can attain to this condition, and it is given to genius alone to lose itself entirely in the ideal world, and to abide there. The common mortal is not capable of this disinterested thought, and most of us sooner or later are involved again in the world of particular ends.

But even for the most gifted souls the alleviation of art is but passing and transitory. Though a quietude of the will, its deliverance is not permanent.

Is there then no other way—no way accessible to all? Yes, says Schopenhauer—entire deliverance may come about by the "complete suppression of the will to live."

This final deliverance, which constitutes the ethical side of Schopenhauer's philosophy, is treated of in the fourth book of The World as Will.

"The will to live," which, as we have seen, involves ceaseless strife and never-ending suffering, may be either affirmed or denied by us. It is affirmed by us when we yield to our will and obey its impulses, when we seek to preserve our life and perpetuate the species. It is denied, when we seek to suppress all individual desires, and to renounce everything that leads to self-assertion and self-realization. True morality consists in denying the will to live, in suppressing in ourselves and others all selfish impulses; and our deliverance is finally accomplished when the will to live is wholly annihilated in us. This is not, of course, to be brought about by suicide, by the escape from life. The suicide, instead of denying the will, actually yields to his will. Deliverance does not come by rejecting life, but by quenching in the soul the desire of life, not by shunning sorrow, but by withdrawing from joy. The aim of the moral life will, therefore, be, to remove as far as one can from his own life and from the lives of others all that causes suffering and woe. For, after all, there is no difference between my suffering and the suffering of another. It has one common root, the desire to live, the bondage to impulse. Let us seek to extinguish this desire everywhere. The basis of all practical morality is, therefore, sympathy with the suffering which is inseparable from life. Life is common to all—another's weal and woe are just my own. In alleviating the misery of others by sympathy I am alleviating my own, for all suffering is the manifestation of the all-will, and the one mighty evil of the world is the will to live.

But the alleviation of the world's misery through sympathy is only a palliation. It does not go to the root of the matter, it does not abolish the will, which is the source of all suffering.

The complete deliverance from the pain and delusion of the world is only possible through the complete negation of the will itself—the way to which is to be found in asceticism. True release only comes when we cease to strive, when we mortify the deeds of the body by the voluntary extinction of all desire and all activity.

The highest virtue of man lies in self-denial, in withdrawal into the realm of quiet, the Nirvana of the Buddhist, where, freed from all desire, he may pierce the veil of Maya, the curtain of illusion, and rest in the calm of unconsciousness. Is then nothingness the final goal of holiness? "We freely confess," says Schopenhauer, "that after the complete extinction of the will, what remains for those who are still immersed in the things of this world is nothingness. But, on the other hand, for those in whom the will has already turned against and denied itself, this, our world which is so real, with all its suns and constellations, is also nothing."

The system of Schopenhauer thus ends in a paradox. There could be no world at all if we were to universalize the virtue of ceasing to will. It is the acme of contradiclion, the last word of irrationalism. Suicide, although Schopenhauer refrains from drawing this conclusion, is the logical solution of life, the secret of final satisfaction.

In spite of the ridicule which Schopenhauer pours forth upon his predecessors, Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel, it is clear that he owes much to all of them. His chief merit lies in the consistency and determination with which he carries out certain of their ideas to their conclusion.

For a considerable time the views of Schopenhauer received little attention, but eventually the doctrines of pessimism found expression in the writings of Hartmann, Feuerbach, Ruge, Wagner, and Nietzsche.

Hegel. Stages of development                                                                            German Thought. After Hegel

 

 

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