By Patrick Gardiner
Evaluates the most good points of Schopenhauer's proposal, its ancient value, and its relation to fashionable philosophical preoccupations.
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Additional resources for Schopenhauer (Key Texts)
The kernel of that truth could be formulated succinctly in the proposition ' The world is my idea' ('Die Welt ist meine Vorstellung'), implying that all knowledge of objects is necessarily confined to the sphere of ' ideas ',1 or representations of a perceiving subject, this knowledge including from one standpoint the knowledge we have of ourselves. For, viewed as bodies occupying space and enduring through time, we are just as much phenomenal i. The German word Vorstellung has a wide sense, covering representations, concepts, notions, and mental images; and Schopenhauer's own use of it, as comprising what is present to and lies within the consciousness of the knowing or perceiving subject, is extremely comprehensive.
The raw material of our sense-experience is (Kant held) ordered and arranged in certain determinate ways and according to certain determinate rules or principles; and this ordering and arrangement is our own work - it is something we ourselves bring to the bare representations of sense in such a way as to make our normal experience of a coherent objectively-known world possible. As a result of the operations of the mind, conceived as an agency rather than simply as a recipient of discrete sense-impressions, we perceive things as having spatial and temporal characteristics and positions, regard them as acting upon one another according to causal laws, and so on.
All the same, Schopenhauer believed that total inability to feel the force of fundamental questions such as those that have in one way or another occupied the attention of philosophers throughout the ages is in fact rare. The kind of approach to the world he had in mind was not, he thought, confined to the relatively sophisticated; it was also to be found among the simple and ignorant, although it was true that it manifested itself in exceedingly different forms. Such an attitude towards B 34 SCHOPENHAUER experience is, in other words, deeply founded in our character and make-up as human beings, and accounts for the continuous survival of metaphysical thinking as an activity capable of retaining its hold upon the human mind and imagination; it is ' the pendulum which keeps the clock of metaphysics in motion'.