The irony of the Enlightenment

A Philosopher Lecturing on the Orrery, by Joseph Wright of Derby

The irony of the Enlightenment: Immanuel Kant, the late 18th century thinker, was indisputably the greatest philosopher of Enlightenment. But it is also interesting to note that his critical philosophy project resulted in a devastating blow to the foundation of Enlightenment itself- our trust in reason. The faculty of reason is essentially an impulse for the unconditioned condition, and constantly urges our understanding on. Kant made it clear that man will never know the true nature of reality, and is limited to mere appearances. Despite being championed as the great icon of Enlightenment, with his transcendentalism he set the ball rolling down the mountain of truth and shattered the ideals of the gilded age at the bottom, in the gulch of the 20th century.

We are picking among the remnants for whatever remains salvageable. The consequences of such absurd praise of reason or rationalism in Enlightenment resulted in two great wars in the 20th century, which were committed at the source of naturalistic humanism. Reason and rationalism, secular reasoning especially never achieved its vast promise of transforming a superstitious culture into a rational utopia. At least some of us realize that within this massive failure, liberation is never of the human, but always and only in a negatory manner: from the human. Where does that leave us? The ghost of a lost innocence haunts the age in the form of postmodernist reflections.

World as Will and Representation: Appendix

Appendix: Critique of Kantian metaphysics

Statue of Kant in Kaliningrad, Russia

Schopenhauer devoted the final section of the first volume to a thorough critique of Kantian metaphysics. The critique was intended in order to highlight the greatness of Kant and the quote by Voltaire said it all: It is the privilege of true genius, and especially genius who opens up a new path, to make great mistakes with impunity. Plato and the Hindu are the other intellectual muses, but Kant is the chief golden calf Schopenhauer genuflects before in the majority of The World as Will and Representation, but by the end of the book, he wields the hammer of Uru to clear away the rusty flakes. It is much easier to point out the faults and errors in the work of a great mind than to give a clear and complete exposition of its value. (WWR p. 415) Continue reading World as Will and Representation: Appendix

World as Will and Representation: Book IV

The fourth book, regarding ethics in general and particular context, is the “most serious” discussion, largely because it is the most relevant for everyone. However, Schopenhauer is perceptive enough to recognize how ineffective systems of morals are in the production of virtuous folk, just as poorly as aesthetic theories are incapable of generating geniuses in art. Consequently, “philosophy can never do more than interpret and explain what is present… “ (WWR, p 271 § 53) The only true method of philosophy asks about the what – instead of the whence, the whither, or the why – what lies beyond phenomena, beyond the PSR, what is the inner nature of the world. (P 274) Continue reading World as Will and Representation: Book IV

World as Will and Representation: Book III

“Philosophy has so long been sought in vain because it was sought by way of the sciences instead of by way of the arts.” Schopenhauer is the first thinker to grant art the highest philosophical rank and constructs an anesthetic metaphysics in book III. Contra Kant, Schopenhauer claimed that the aesthetic experience, instead of revealing to us our moral vocations, is the vehicle for escaping the conditions of the Will. Continue reading World as Will and Representation: Book III

World as Will and Representation: Book II

There are two aspects of the world: representation and will, which is the thing-in-itself in appearance. The world as representation consists of individual objects that are spatiotemporal, causally connected. We know representation empirically, including its a priori forms. The world as will is the undifferentiated inner nature of all objects. We know the will immediately and intimately, in each individual case, and for other objects, this is known by philosophical reflection and inference. However, the world as the absolute and ultimate thing in itself is utterly unknowable in principle. Ergo, there is no contradiction when Schopenhauer claims the thing in itself as will. Continue reading World as Will and Representation: Book II

Review of The World as Will and Representation

In The World as Will and Representation, Arthur Schopenhauer spoke as a Teutonic philosopher, with mighty prose and thunderous proclamations from the lofty heights of classic Sophia and utterly uninfected by the pretentious delusions of grandeur that afflicted his German contemporaries. His distinctiveness among the early 19th century thinkers inspired Nietzsche to call him the “un-German to the point of genius,” (Beyond Good and Evil, 204) and Thomas Mann in turn called him the “most rational philosopher of the irrational.” Continue reading Review of The World as Will and Representation