Herbart and Schopenhauer. The main line of development of the critical Kantian movement was the idealism of Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel. It was the most perfect expression of the period of German philosophy. There were, however, so many distinct elements in the Kantian doctrine, and these were so loosely tied together by Kant, that one is not surprised to find many divergent lines of its subsequent elaboration. It is difficult to classify all these later philosophers. But most prominent in this group stood Herbart and Schopenhauer. Herbart was a Realist, and Schopenhauer a voluntarist and pessimist. They had a common ground and motive for their respective philosophies, and may be placed together in the second group of the disciples of Kant. They were allied (1) in their emphasis upon the importance of the thing-in-itself and (2) in their strong opposition to the idealist movement. While both published their principal writings before the death of Hegel in 1831, both lived to the middle of the nineteenth century and both represent the reaction against the period of idealism. They speak more for the subsequent nineteenth century than for German ideals and Romanticism. They represented a certain feeling of the time that Kant’s doctrine had not received its due at the hands of the Idealists.
Some philosophers had remained true to Kant, but they could not get the public ear until they were reinforced by the positive science and historical criticism of the second quarter of the nineteenth century. Bands of men had gathered to study Kant even while Idealism was dominant. These were not professional philosophers, but politicians and others engaged in active service. Kant himself in his later years protested against his “false disciples.” Fries and Herbart, even though pupils of Fichte, were true to Kant; and turned attention away from idealistic construction to an examination of the psychological foundations upon which the Kantian criticism rested. Herbart was the most prominent of the empirical psychologists and physicists who turned away from the speculative tendency back to Kant. Schopenhauer was the early spokesman for that mysticism and pessimism which characterized the nineteenth century and appeared in the music of Wagner, the literature of Ibsen, and the philosophy of Von Hartmann and Nietzsche.
What discredited Hegelianism in particular and philosophy in general in the eyes of the nineteenth century was (1) the errors of Hegelianism as to facts; (2) the patronizing tone of the Hegelians toward scientists like Copernicus, Newton, and Lavoisier; and (3) the refusal of the Hegelians to test hypotheses by facts. The opposition against Hegel was against his principles, his method, and his conclusions. At the downfall of Napoleon the age gave up the hope of reconstructing the world either politically or philosophically. The new spirit was scientific and positive. It tried to accept the world as it found it, and to explain it mechanically so far as it could be done. Things are not the creation of thought, and thought cannot change the reality of things. We must observe and experiment, since we cannot construct. We must restore the boundaries of Kant. Yet both Herbart and Schopenhauer were true to the spirit that inspired German idealism, for they could not develop their philosophy of education, psychology, or art except upon a metaphysical background. Metaphysics was necessary. It was as necessary a foundation to the Germans as ethics to the Greeks and psychology to the English.
Johann Friedrich Herbart.68 As “a Kantian of the year 1828” Herbart claimed to have carried the Kantian doctrine a step further by disclosing its psychological grounds. He insisted that analysis was the only true method; and he contended against Fichte that it is impossible to deduce the theory of the world from a single principle. An all-inclusive principle may be the conclusion, but not the premise, of a philosophy. Thus his thought moved in exactly the opposite direction from the monism of the Idealists and Schleiermacher, with which he was in constant hostility. Experience proved to Herbart the existence of independent realities; and he could not reconcile himself with the a priori doctrine of the idealists, which begins by denying the existence of the Thing-in-Itself. On the contrary, philosophy to Herbart had the Thing-in-Itself as its chief concern. Herbart did not see how paradoxical his position must be—how futile must be the results of attempting to know the unknowable. He was impressed with the depth of the problem of existence, and he felt that, if it was to be explained at all, it must be along scientific lines, especially in the fields of psychology and education. The scientific method of Herbart was mechanics; his Realism was the result of his method.
Herbart’s programme at the beginning of his teaching at Göttingen in 1802 was as follows: He defined philosophy in a general way by simplifying the concepts that underlie the different sciences. Thus he (1) reconstructed Realism, (2) restored the principle of contradiction, and (3) established philosophy on the same basis as science. Of all the philosophical schools in the nineteenth century the Herbartian school was the most numerous and compact. Hegel’s attitude had driven many thinkers into science, and the majority of them attached themselves to Herbart for want of something better.
The Life and Writings of Herbart (1776–1841). Herbart was the typical scholar. He was a man of quiet and conservative tastes, and his life was never disturbed by dramatic situations arising out of contradictions in his character or environment. His days were spent in study, lecturing, and efforts for social education. The philosophical influences upon his thought were Leibnitz, Kant, and negatively the Idealists. In his early life he had read Leibnitz and Kant, and before he was eighteen he had read enough of Fichte to be repelled by his doctrine. In 1796 he was a student at Jena. From Jena he went as tutor to Switzerland, where he met Pestalozzi and laid the foundation of his own philosophy. In 1802 he was called to Göttingen, where he became full professor in 1805. In 1806 he published Principal Points in Metaphysics. In 1809 he was called to Königsberg, where he published his chief works:—
1813 Text-book of the Introduction to Philosophy.
1816 Text-book of Psychology.
1822 Possibility and Necessity of Applying Mathematics to Psychology.
1824–1825 Psychology as a Science.
1828–1829 General Metaphysics.
In 1830 he was called back to Göttingen, and he died in 1841.
The Contradictions of Experience. All the conceptions of practical life are self-contradictory and are therefore vicious. This applies not only to the conceptions of unreflecting minds, but also to those of scientists and philosophers. To philosophize is nothing else than this: to free our conceptions of their self-contradictions by simplifying and revising them. We think of the world as consisting of things, persons, relations, and laws; but such a view of the world is founded upon the fallacy of thinking an object at the same time as one and as many. This general fallacy takes four specific forms: inherence, change, continuity, and selfhood. For example, it is contradictory to think of a plant as one thing in which many qualities inhere; it is contradictory to think of a plant as the same when it passes through many changes; it is contradictory to think of space as continuous and yet divided into parts; and it is contradictory to think of the self as always the same and yet as a stream of conscious states.69
The Argument for Realism. This inherent contradiction in human conceptions had been a matter of observation by philosophers for many centuries, but it had led to many divergent conclusions. The Greek Skeptics had long ago observed it, and had concluded therefore that there is no such thing as reality. To them thought is discredited because the contradictions of thought are insoluble. Truth does not exist. On the other hand Hegel developed his great dialectic system upon the basis of these contradictions. Is thought self-contradictory? Yes. But is thought discredited because it is self-contradictory? By no means. It is the nature of thought to be self-contradictory, and the highest truth is the knowledge of this. So Hegel, instead of rejecting the conception of reality because thought is contradictory, incorporated contradictions into his conception of the Being of the universe. Indeed, he made contradictions the “head of the corner” of his system. Contradiction to Hegel is cosmic law. However, in such a conception Hegel had to give up entirely the principle upon which formal logic was founded. This was the principle that a thing cannot be different from itself. To Hegel the highest truth was exactly the opposite—everything is self-contradictory.
While Herbart agreed with the Skeptics and with Hegel that experience is self-contradictory, he differed from them in the inference which he drew from such contradictions. In acknowledging the contradictions of experience Herbart did not find himself driven to either one of these alternatives. Philosophy did not mean for him skepticism. On the other hand he was repelled by the turn that Hegel had given to logic, and he refused to accept reasoning as a self-contradictory process. He returned to the demands of formal logic and restored the principle of contradiction70 to the place which it had occupied during the Enlightenment. Herbart took as his fundamental philosophical principle that experiences are not actual when they are self-contradictory.
The self-contradictoriness of experiences shows that they are phenomena and not actualities. It also shows that they have reality as their ground. Seeming things imply realities as the ground of their qualities; seeming occurrences imply actual relations between the reals. Seeming is just so much an indication of Being. Consistency lies behind phenomena. The existence of appearances must be admitted, but appearances are appearances of something. If nothing existed, nothing would appear to exist; and yet things are not in reality what they appear to be.
Herbart agreed with Kant that we can experience only phenomena. There is also a similarity in the two theories as to the relationship between phenomena and the thing-in-itself. The similarity is, however, only superficial. Kant reasoned from the relativity of phenomena to the synthetic unity of apperception, i. e. to consciousness in general, while the thing-in-itself was to Kant an unknowable and irreducible remainder. To Kant phenomena pointed to consciousness rather than to things-in-themselves. On the other hand, Herbart reasoned from phenomena to the existence of things-in-themselves. Phenomena point to an independent, objective reality rather than to a thinking subject. While in Kant’s doctrine phenomena depend for their existence upon the creative power of consciousness, to Herbart consciousness has no creative power, but itself depends on the existence and independence of a plurality of independent Reals. Even the categories and the forms of space and time are not innate synthetic forms. All are the result of the relationships among independent Reals, which are the spring of all activity and existence. Herbart thus gave to the things-in-themselves all the independent functions that Kant attributed to consciousness.
The Many Reals and Nature Phenomena. We must remove the contradictions of experience, if we would get at a true conception of Reality and the meaning of phenomena. The true way is (1) to posit a plural number of Reals, and (2) to interpret the phenomena as derived from the relation among these Reals.
In the first place, a multiplicity of Reals, and not a single Real, is needed to explain the multiplicity of phenomena. Herbart’s doctrine is therefore a pluralism. He conceives the many Reals to exist, not in phenomenal, but in “intellectual space.” They are not subject to any phenomenal limitations whatsoever; they may occupy one point of space at the same time. Their nature cannot be known, but we can say that they have “absolute position.” They cannot be limited nor negated, and even their plurality does not mean that they limit one another.
In the second place, Herbart assumes a multiplicity of relations. Why do the Reals appear as phenomena? Why should the Reals appear to be the qualities that inhere in things, the continuities of things, and the changes of things? Herbart is not altogether satisfactory in his explanation of this problem. It is the problem of the unity of the manifold, which Kant could explain as due to the synthetic power of consciousness; but such an explanation was precluded from Herbart’s Realism. Herbart speaks of two kinds of relations. There are the actual relations among the Reals. Although the Reals are conceived by Herbart as simple and unchangeable, he also thinks of them as “coming and going in intelligible space.” We can never know what the nature of these actual relations is. The actual relations between two Reals are not essential to either Real, nor can such relations have their basis in the Reals. All that we can know are the seeming relations among things. These are the relations of phenomenal space—of inherence, continuity, and change. Herbart calls these phenomenal relations “contingent views” (zufallige Ansichten), and looks upon them as having a semi-existence. That is to say, Herbart regards the world of experience as a world of relations which are not the actual relations among Realities, but merely the phenomenal relations, or relations as they appear to us.
The Soul and Mental Phenomena. Each Real has one single function, viz., self-preservation; and inasmuch as the Reals “co-exist,” they mutually disturb each other. The disturbances take the form of inner reactions on the part of the Real in its effort at self-preservation. Prominent among the Reals is the Soul-real. Like all the other Reals, it is unknowable. We have, however, immediate knowledge of its manifestations in its self-preservation among the other Reals. Psychology is the science of the relations which the Soul-real bears to other Reals. From the conflict of the Soul with other Reals, mental phenomena take their rise. Consciousness is, therefore, not the same as the Soul; it is the sum-total of the acts of the Soul in self-preservation. Consciousness is the aggregate mental states, and is not essential to the Soul. Nevertheless, isolated souls do not think; they have no states of consciousness. Consciousness can arise only in a community of Reals.
Our knowledge consists therefore of ideas, which are the results of the disturbance of the Soul-real by other Reals. These ideas live within the Soul, which is merely an indifference point where they are held together. The ideas in turn disturb and inhibit one another, and the description of our mental life is a description of the reciprocal tension of ideas. The tension among the ideas modifies the intensity of each, and consciousness of an idea is proportional to its intensity. An idea is just on the threshold of consciousness when it has the lowest degree of intensity, and is still actual. When it drops below that threshold it is changed into an impulse. The primary ideas are sensations. They are not the images of things, but the primary acts of the Soul in its attempt at self-preservation. All other mental states, like memory, imagination, feeling, and will, are to be described as kinds of tension of the ideas. Feeling and will are kinds of inhibitive tension. The coming of sensations and the interplay of sensations can be reduced to a mechanical law. Therefore, according to Herbart, psychology is the “statics and mechanics of ideas,” and must be treated mathematically.
Herbart’s contribution to modern thought lies in his psychology. Modern thought has not accepted his metaphysics, but it has been influenced to a not inconsiderable degree by his psychology. Herbart gave the death-blow to the old “faculty psychology,” and he placed psychology upon the same basis as the natural sciences. The science of psychology was not to Herbart a discussion of the nature of the soul, for that is unknowable. It is the study of the aggregate of the contents of consciousness. It is not a study of psychical faculties, but of psychical elements. This reduces psychology to an atomism, like other sciences, and thereby frees it from the influence of theology. Thus was the so-called modern psychology made possible by Herbart. Herbart’s theory was also of incalculable value to modern educational theory. The conception of the influence of environment upon mental life, the theory of the development of mental life, the natural method of “preparation, presentation, association, systematization, and application” of an educational subject, the theory of the correlation of subjects—all are founded upon his psychology. Herbart’s attempt to apply mathematics to the laws of psychological phenomena was not so fortunate. At one time, during the nineteenth century, psychologists hoped much from mathematics in their science; but the hope has been practically abandoned. In recent years the demand for exactness has been met in psycho-physics, which operates with mathematics in a different way.
Arthur Schopenhauer71 and his Philosophical Relations. Schopenhauer is grouped with Herbart because (1) both had an especial dislike for the idealistic development that the Kantian movement took; and (2) both built their theories upon interpretations of the Kantian thing-in-itself. While Herbart was a Realist, Schopenhauer was a Mystic; which only shows how theories, seemingly very different, can have the same source. Herbart’s Realism was an interpretation of Kant’s thing-in-itself as many realities; while Schopenhauer’s Mysticism was an interpretation of it as one reality. In both theories the consciousness, and with it the reason, were conceived as derivations of the thing-in-itself.
The best approach to Schopenhauer’s doctrine can perhaps be made by contrasting it with his pet aversion—the doctrine of Hegel. Schopenhauer was to Idealism what Mephistopheles was to Faust—he turned Romanticism into pessimism. The theory of empirical evolution, which was to be highly developed in the nineteenth century, lay in theoretical germ in the teaching of the immediate followers of Kant. To Hegel the historical development of the cosmos is the struggle of reason, which with all its essential contradictions is futilely striving to come to itself. To Schopenhauer the history of the cosmos is also an endless struggle, although a struggle in which all reason is absent. Hegel could conceive the history of the cosmos as a development worthy of investigation. Schopenhauer, on the contrary, took no interest in history, because to him it could not be a development. To Hegel, phenomena form an intimate part of the cosmic struggle, since they are the content of the cosmic-reason; to Schopenhauer, phenomena are the surface illusions of an ebullient, unreasoning Will.
As the first theoretical pessimist of Europe, Schopenhauer expressed for the nineteenth century one of its most essential characteristics. He got scant recognition during his lifetime on account of the vogue of Hegel; but to-day it is Schopenhauer, rather than Hegel, who has a popular influence, and is widely read. This is partly on account of his masterly literary style and partly by reason of the content of his doctrine. The nineteenth century was carried along upon a strong current of pessimism because of (1) industrial problems, which involved many ethical considerations, and because of (2) its breaking away from traditional religious ties. So long as the unbounded optimism of Idealism prevailed, the world had little room for Schopenhauer’s teaching; but when Realism with its limitations took hold of the nineteenth century, then did Schopenhauer’s day of recognition come. The popular mind has found in Schopenhauer its best philosophical expression, and representatives of his teaching have been numerous. Among them are Richard Wagner (1813–1883) with his music dramas; Von Hartmann (b. 1842) with his theory of the unconscious; Nietzsche (1844–1900) with his extreme statement of egoism—that in view of universal evil, the only hope is in the survival of the strongest and in the virtue of selfishness.
The Life and Writings of Schopenhauer (1788–1860). Schopenhauer was the kind of genius who is always an alien to the world of men. He lived a long, lonely, isolated life, in which his inherited emotional and brooding nature became more and more cynical and pessimistic. Even in his paternal home he found himself a stranger. His father pushed him into mercantile business, which he hated; and after the death of his father his brilliant mother told him that he was welcome to her Weimar home only as a visitor. The doors of all academic circles were closed to him; and he, in commenting on it, said that he had failed to get an academic hearing, because the German did not believe in a metaphysics which was so expressed as to be understood. But the cause of his isolation lay mainly in himself. He was neurasthenic and peculiar—the subject of ill-temper, night-terrors, causeless depressions and dreads. With the genealogy of Schopenhauer’s family on his father’s side before us, who could wonder?—the grandmother insane, one uncle insane, one uncle idiotic, one neurotic, and his father a suicide. Schopenhauer’s own peculiarities were not pathological. He had a genius that blossomed as early in his years as Hegel’s blossomed late. He wrote his two important works before he was thirty.
1. Period of Education (1788–1813). The parents of Schopenhauer were wealthy, and in 1803 he traveled with them in England, France, and Holland. In 1804 he entered business, which he gave up the next year on the death of his father. In 1809 he was busy studying the classics, philosophy, and Hindu learning in Weimar, Göttingen, and Berlin.
2. Period of Literary Production (1813–1831). In 1813 he wrote the Four-fold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, in the Thuringian forest, when other German young men were rallying to arms against Napoleon. This was accepted as a doctorate thesis at Jena. From 1814 to 1819 he lived in Dresden at work on The World as Will and Idea, which is the complete exposition of his doctrine. The work is divided into four parts: 1. Theory of Knowledge; 2. Description of the Forms of the Will; 3. Art as a Deliverance from the Will; 4. Morality as a Deliverance from the Will. In 1820 he got a position as Privat-docent in the University of Berlin. This was the only year of his teaching and was an utter failure.
3. Period of Retirement (1831–1860). In 1831 he went to Frankfort-on-the-Main to live alone and in retirement. Slowly he became known and gathered a little circle of disciples about him. He died in 1860.
The Influences upon Schopenhauer’s Thought. The principal influences upon Schopenhauer’s thought were three: (1) Kant, from whom he got his transcendental theory of knowledge (he always considered himself to be Kant’s true heir); (2) Plato, from whom he got his formulation of eternal Ideas as offering an escape from the Will; (3) the Hindus, from whom he got his ethical-Mysticism and the confirmation of his pessimism.
Schopenhauer is unique among the philosophers of Europe, because he denied all for which the Enlightenment stood. Even such reactionaries against the Enlightenment as Rousseau were a part of its essential spirit; for the presupposition of traditional theology and philosophy has been that existence is essentially a harmony. Schopenhauer, however, appealed to the discordances and the sorrow of existence, and drew the inference that fundamentally existence is irrational. For the source of Schopenhauer’s unique teaching we have to look, therefore, farther than modern Europe. The preceding modern European philosophers whom we have studied, developed their philosophies from purely Occidental sources. Schopenhauer drew from the Orient as well as from the Occident. The Romanticists had re-discovered Orientalism. The study of the Hindus had been interesting European scholars since the beginning of the nineteenth century. Schopenhauer, who was introduced to Indian philosophy by Goethe’s friend, Fr. Mayer, read the Upanishads in a Latin translation; and they contributed much to the development of the theory which his own emotional and cynical nature had presaged. The Hindus had long felt that the main problem of existence is moral and physical evil. Schopenhauer found in this teaching the statement of his own attitude.
He esteemed the principles of Christianity and Buddhism because their central requirement was faith in a redeemer rather than a creator. Christianity had no original metaphysics, but Buddhism on account of its metaphysics had an especial importance in Schopenhauer’s eyes. It was not only a pessimism, but a philosophy of pessimism. Our existence is only a blind struggle for enlightenment and arises out of a flowing chain of perennial re-births. Man needs to be freed from the illusion of existence and released from re-birth.
The World as Will and the World as Idea. In The Four-fold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, Schopenhauer summarizes knowledge as, “The world is my presentation,” which is Kant’s theory of knowledge. A conscious subject vitalizes all things. But the presentations have no corresponding reality in the outer world. They are created by my own subjectivity from the “principle of sufficient reason.” This has a fourfold root: logic, cause, mathematics, and will-activity. “The world of phenomena is my idea,” and in The World as Will and Idea Schopenhauer says, “This is a truth which holds good for everything that lives and knows.” Man alone can reflect upon this truth. When man comes to the realizing sense that the world is an ideal construction, he begins to philosophize as to the nature of the reality behind it. We remember that Herbart started from the same proposition. However, Schopenhauer departs from Kant’s teaching in one important respect: although he agrees with Kant that the thing-in-itself cannot be understood by ideas or a chain of reasoning, he holds that the thing-in-itself is knowable. The World as Idea is a world of appearances, but we can know the thing-in-itself by intuition—by “the look of genius.” The certainty of this first-hand or immediate knowledge shows how poor our second-hand or mediate knowledge is. For even reasoned or mediate knowledge in its most perfect form, viz., science, is under the law of cause and can therefore reveal nothing absolute. Science never gets below phenomena.
If reason reveals only the World as Idea, what revelation does intuition give of the thing-in-itself? Intuition reveals the thing-in-itself to be Will. Man finds, first, the Will to be in himself. He finds it objectified in his own body and in its members. All the members of the body are structures of some function. Every part is the visible expression of some desire. Hunger, speech, locomotion, have their different instruments. Will is immediately known to us as the reality in us. In spite of the exaltation of the reason by the modern Enlightenment, is it not secondary to Will?
For behold! Let me look beyond myself. The revelation of the reality within myself illuminates the reality of the outer world. My Will meets resistance in other things. The everlasting striving of the Will appears in all nature. It appears in the fall of a stone, the crystallizing of the diamond—in all the mechanical movements of matter. “The impulse with which waters hurry to the ocean,” the persistence of the magnet for the pole, the perennial push of vegetation, the motivation of animals, show by an analogy stronger than any proof that the reality of the world is fundamentally Will. All nature is in reality the “World as Will.” This Will is always one and the same. Only in the “World as Idea” do differences appear. Will is common to all and is the only reality. Differences are illusions, and the reason which exists only in man is one of those differences.
The World as Will and the World as Idea do not stand in the relation of cause and effect, but the World as Idea is the objectification of the World as Will. Will is to phenomena what essence is to expression. Will is the freedom that is within all things; and yet all things are determined when they have the form of ideas. There is only one Will, and so the world is in reality a unity. In essence all things are the same—in appearance they are different. The Will has no content; it wills to will—to live—to be actual. In the pantheism of the Will the World as Idea is an illusion.
The Will as Irrational Reality. Before Schopenhauer’s time European mysticism had been of one general type. However universal the character of illusory appearances had been to the European mystics, there had always been supposed behind the veil a rational reality. Indeed, the illusions themselves had been proof of the existence elsewhere of a governing reason. The mediæval churchman often preached a mysticism, and his exhortation to turn away from illusions of “the world, the flesh, and the Devil,” was based upon the compensation to be found in Heaven and in God. The ineffable rest in the bosom of God was reason enough for averting the eyes from the passing show of sensuous things. Schopenhauer now presents to the Occident another type of mysticism, and in this there is no refuge from illusions. This conception had long been common enough in the Orient. The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, written about 1100, represents fundamentally the attitude of the Persians of his time. “He is said to have been especially hated by the Sufis, whose practice he ridiculed, but whose faith amounts to little more than his own when stripped of the mysticism and formal recognition of Islamism.” (FitzGerald.) But in Europe Schopenhauer’s doctrine was unique, and he arrived at its construction by stripping mysticism of all its religious elements. Faith and belief are eliminated because they have no reality as their object. Reason produces only a world of illusory ideas; the Will is a reality, but it is a reality which is only a blind urgency—an instinctive blind force. The essence of things is undirected striving. Life is the expression of the absolute unreason of the Will. It is a Will without an object. Nature is the objectification of the Will that perpetually creates itself and is forever unsatisfied, unresting, and unhappy.
“A Moment’s Halt—a momentary taste
Of Being from the Well amid the Waste—
And Lo! the phantom Caravan has reacht
The Nothing it set out from—Oh, make haste!”72
The Misery of the World as Idea—Pessimism. The fundamental irrationality of the Will reveals the absolute misery of the World as Idea. The despair of pessimism follows from the very nature of the Will; for it must be remembered that Schopenhauer’s pessimism does not merely mean that the appearances of life are illusory, but that reality itself is irrational. The World as Idea is the objectification of such misery. Willing has its source in want, and want arises from suffering. Moreover the proportion of our wants that are satisfied is very small. To one that is supplied there are many that are not. Furthermore, while our desires last long, their satisfaction is short and scanty, “like the alms thrown to a beggar that keeps him alive to-day that his misery may be prolonged to-morrow.” Our ever-springing wants make lasting peace impossible. The finite world is not adequate to the infinite craving which it contains, and there is no equation between the cares and the satisfactions of life. The greatest evil that can befall a creature is to have been born; and this is a thousand-fold worse in man than in any other. To live is to go from willing to attaining and then to willing again. Attainment means new striving, and the Will shows “the ache of the not-yet-satisfied.” After all is said and done, satisfaction destroys not only the desire, but the satisfaction itself. There is no meaning in life. Pain is positive; pleasure is negative, and is merely the absence of or respite from pain.
The Way of Deliverance. The relief from misery that Schopenhauer offers is tinged with the grim despair of life itself. It is an escape that he finds, rather than a haven—an escape that consists in giving up all that life means. Why not, then, give up life, since it is misery and torment? But escape is not in suicide, for the act of taking one’s own life is the performance of the greatest act of affirmation of the Will; and in the Buddhistic doctrine the suicidal soul only passes by re-birth (metempsychosis) into another form of Will. Schopenhauer uses two phrases that have become classic in the description of the two attitudes possible to man: (1) if man is merely a part of the World as Idea he is “affirming the Will to life”; and (2) if he seeks a way of deliverance he “is denying the Will to life.” Suicide is an act of affirmation of the Will to life.
How may the Will be denied? and since we are in essence Will, the question takes this form, How may the Will deny the Will? This question presupposes a transcendental freedom which may be sought in two ways: one in which the freedom is temporary and the other in which it is permanent.
1. The temporary deliverance of the Will may be found in artistic contemplation (Schiller’s disinterested contemplation). Art deals not with particular forms, but eternal types (Platonic Ideas). Art isolates an eternal object from out the stream of the world’s changes, and places it beyond all relations of time, place, and cause. Art not only removes its object from the World as Idea, but it removes the contemplator as well. The contemplating subject and the contemplated object thus become one, and the subject is temporarily saved, for he is elevated above all desire and pain. This, however, is possible not to the majority of men, but only to those few possessing æsthetic fancy, and for them only at intervals. Music is ranked by Schopenhauer as the highest form of art,—even above poetry,—and it is not surprising therefore that among the Schopenhauerian worshipers have been many prominent musicians.
2. But artistic ecstasy is too fleeting and restricted to offer lasting deliverance from the affirmation of the Will to life and the World as Idea. Another act of transcendental freedom will bring man into more complete freedom; but this act is a miracle and a mystery, since it is the complete transformation of our nature. This act must be supernatural, and the church is right in calling it a new birth and a work of grace. Complete freedom from the Will comes through moral deliverance.
This lasting escape from the Will is open to the man who appreciates two facts: that all striving for happiness is vain; and that all men are alike manifestations of the Will. To take this double view of life involves the feeling of sympathy with others in their misery. Sympathy is thus the only true moral motive and the fundamental ethical feeling. The Will in us is moral if we feel another’s hurt as our own. But sympathy is only a palliative, and it does not remove the cause of disease. The misery still exists, and our sympathy has only changed its form. Even though our sympathy goes out to the whole world, the endless tragedy would still pass on.
In the moral deliverance sympathy can be made complete by absolute denial, and this will come by asceticism, mortification, and complete eradication of want and desire. The Hindu sannyasi shows the way. This is the mystery of the Will. But Schopenhauer is not quite sure that extreme asceticism can be made effective, since we are full of Will. At the close of his work he says that even if we could be completely ascetic the result would be Nothingness. “In thy Nothing I hope to find the ALL.” Schopenhauer despairs of deliverance for himself, but does not count it unachievable by others. Absolute deliverance even by asceticism seems impossible to him. The only hope is that through art and science the Will may be some time overcome.