ABSTRACT

schopenhauer’s literary and philosophical reputation rests firmly on The World as Will and Idea. A lengthy analysis is impracticable, but an adequate impression of its contents and character may be obtained from a clear outline of its principal features. Unfortunately, its English Title is somewhat misleading. In the first place, the term “World” should always be given the wider meaning of “Universe,” even though this word naturally possessed a much more limited significance in Schopenhauer’s day than it does in our own, in view of all that current science has revealed about its properties and its vast extent. Similarly as regards “Will”; usually this denotes deliberate or purposeful activity on the part of some individual or some social group. This is of course quite accurate; but it must also be noted that whenever “Will” is employed in this manner, it involves the influence of reason or rationality. This fact is however far too frequently forgotten, mainly because “reason” is usually identified with argument, or with calculation, or with the more technical aspects of logic. Unquestionably “reason” does assume these forms in many instances; on the other hand, the vast majority of our voluntary or “willed” 140actions are not the outcome of any such explicit calculative processes, but are on the contrary rapid responses to the demands of the given situation. Nevertheless, they are deliberate actions to a greater or less degree, in the sense that some amount of consideration has been given to them, either by ourselves or other persons, in the light of the merits of the alternative courses that have suggested themselves to us; and finally one of these alternatives has been chosen as the guide of our conduct. Still further, whenever we undertake any specially important task, then argument with ourselves or other people becomes essential to success; and all this is yet more true when social groups, like committees or parliaments, embark on some large schemes. In this latter case it is the group will that expresses itself, but always as the result of the preceding deliberative processes; and since these are plainly processes of reasoning, no matter how unwise they may eventually prove to be, it should be obvious that “Will involves the influence of reason or rationality.” This principle must however be immediately qualified by observing that will and reason are never absolutely identical with each other; it is impossible to transform either completely into the other; none the less they remain indissolubly connected together. Again, actions that commence by being deliberate very often become habitual or mechanical through repetition, and then volition proper falls into the background.