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Thread: Schopenhauer's definition of Will and how I disagree with it

  1. #1

    Schopenhauer's definition of Will and how I disagree with it

    I took some time to become more familiar with Schopenhauer's concepts of Will and will to life. Schopenhauer's concept is Will seems very similar to what we've been talking about on this thread:

    http://www.online-literature.com/for...ition-of-Power.


    In short, his concept of Will is a "force of nature" that drives all life in the universe.

    I however disagree with Schopenhauer on some key points about the nature of Will:

    1) Schopenhauer sees our desires as the manifestation of Will. So he associates Freud's Id with Will. I firmly disagree. To me desires are distractions from our Will. He also believes that we are slaves to Will and therefore our life is restless struggle to manifest more and more Will. He has adopted the Eastern philosophical approach of "Life is suffering". This has lead him to believe that we need to get rid of our goals and desires, go live in a monastery and give ourselves thirty lashes every time we think of boobs. To me this approach only tries to deny the true state of affairs instead of trying to find a meaningful response to it. The world is still going to be out there even if you go to live in a monastery and try to ignore all the horrors that our collective Wills manifest.

    2) Schopenhauer states that it's impossible for people to live meaningful lives by setting and accomplishing life goals. I could not disagree more. Everyone with a fraction of common sense understands that a person who has a happy family, a flourishing social life, a satisfying sexual life and an inspiring job lives a much more satisfying life than a homeless drunkard with syphilis. Will (or Power) brings happiness, since everything we could ever desire can be accomplished through power. A meaningful life derives from one's desire for life. One has to have passion for life, a passion to accomplish great things and to cause desirable change in one's internal and external reality. We will all die one day and therefore we will ultimately lose all our Power (or Will), but that doesn't mean that a life that celebrates life instead of denying it is a much more satisfying and meaningful one.


    Any thoughts about the nature of Will are highly appreciated.
    Last edited by Freudian Monkey; 12-19-2017 at 12:37 AM.
    De omnibus dubitandum.

  2. #2
    Maybe YesNo's Avatar
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    This is an interesting topic. Is there an online source that you are using so we can reference a common text?

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    A User, but Registered! tonywalt's Avatar
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    Jean Paul Sartre sums up what brings us unhappiness. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xxrmOHJQRSs

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    Maybe YesNo's Avatar
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    Good video, Tony. It is one way of psychologically explaining why some people like to argue that they are determined. I'll have to keep it in mind.

  5. #5
    The topic was inspired by this video:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zNDw9lO8uKg

    I'm honestly not sure how closely what I wrote matches with Nietzsche's view of Power, but it seems to match pretty well. I have come up with my criticism of Schopenhauer through my own reasoning, but it seems to be in line with how Nietzsche thought as well.

    I think Sartre also emphasized in the video the importance of having passion for life. People without Will get stuck in a dead-end job and never have the courage to try to accomplish their dreams. That's what brings them unhappiness. They know that they could live a different, more fulfilling life, but they are too afraid of change and too stuck in their comfortable, mundane routines. I completely agree with Sartre, although I'm not sure what is his view of Will (or Power). His philosophy doesn't seem to focus on Will the same way Schopenhauer's and Nietsche's philosophies do.
    Last edited by Freudian Monkey; 12-18-2017 at 12:39 AM.
    De omnibus dubitandum.

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    The Gnu Normal Pompey Bum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Freudian Monkey View Post
    This has lead him to believe that we need to get rid of our goals and desires, go live in a monastery and give ourselves thirty lashes every time we think of boobs.
    Is it fifteen per boob or 30 apiece? I probably owe myself a few.
    And this from a man in a bunny suit.

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    The Gnu Normal Pompey Bum's Avatar
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    I haven't read The World as Will and Representation so I'm mostly talking out of my bottom. It is my impression that Schopenhauer's Wille zum Leben operates independently of or at least subordinates rational or moral choices, so it's not exactly will as we use the term colllquially. Your statement that desires (by which I think you mean the Wille zum Leben) are distractions from our will could mean that you see the Wille zum Leban not as a primary, subordinating force but secondary and a perhaps trifling one. Am I understanding you correctly?

    I do not see the Wille zum Leben (if I am even understanding the term correctly) as a distraction but a rather dangerous aspect of will. A drowning swimmer will drown a would-be rescuer in a desperate attempt to remain above the water. I have written elsewhere about a fire that destroyed a packed nightclub not far from mee a few years ago. Victims jammed the doors and burned alive in great human plugs because they could not work together to extract themselves and pass to safety one by one. There are many examples of people in crowds breaking into panics and trampling one another to death. In point of fact the Wille zum Leben seems like a rather stupid slavemaster. It can be snookered into presuming it's making babies by a mere sheath of rubber or (excuse me) even masturbation. The rational or moral mind should at least stand a fighting chance.

    So I suppose I am asking whether I'm understanding the concept correctly and, if so, how it differs from (presumably evolved) human instinct? One of Schopenhauer's more famous beliefs (as I understand it) is that the Wille zum Leben chooses our life mates for us--badly in that it does so for its own purposes rather than "ours." A gentle or intellectual individual will be attracted to an aggressive or insensitive one because that's what it's going to take for the couple to find enough security to conceive and raise children. This seems an awful lot like the Social Darwinistic position in which the cute girls like the football players because nature knows best. But Schopenhauer published The World as Will and Representation in 1818, long before Darwin, Huxley, or Freud's work. If nothing else, I suppose, we owe him recognition for being ahead of his time.

    Finally, what's the matter? That joke about 15 lashes per boob wasn't funny? I mean, you didn't even laugh. If the psychology of power has no sense of humor then it's not going to have a very good time.

    I look forward to your response.
    Last edited by Pompey Bum; 12-19-2017 at 04:41 PM.
    And this from a man in a bunny suit.

  8. #8
    Thanks Pompey Bum for your interesting thoughts! I also haven't read any of Schopenhauer's books and base my views on lectures and other introductory material. I have acquired a somewhat different impression of Schopenhauer's will to life - it's not only a simple survival instinct, but more generally a force of life trying to manifest itself. It can manifest itself in ways you describe in your post, but that's only a past of what the concept is about. Any intentional action taken is really an expression of will to life, since every intentional (or semi-intentional) action is aimed to cause desired change in one's internal or external reality. Seen this way, the lack of will to life is actually the definition of death. As long as a being takes any action to uphold it's ability to function, it has will to life. When it can no longer initiate any change to it's internal or external reality, will to life is no longer present.

    This interpretation might be affected by my views about Nietzsche's Will to Power though.

    Hehe, the 15 boob joke was very funny.
    De omnibus dubitandum.

  9. #9
    The Gnu Normal Pompey Bum's Avatar
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    Thanks, that's a helpful perspective. One of the nice things about studying Schopenhauer is that you only really need to worry about The World as Will and Representation (or so I hear). I keep meaning to read it so perhaps I'll throw it into my 2018 book line. Read what you like, of course, but you mentioned that you felt a bit disappointed with Schopenhauer. In all fairness, you might want to read his book before judging his ideas. Here's the link if you are interested (but I repeat: what you read is your own business): http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/author/3648
    Last edited by Pompey Bum; 12-19-2017 at 06:05 PM.
    And this from a man in a bunny suit.

  10. #10
    A fair point. I will try to make the time to read The World as Will and Representation.
    De omnibus dubitandum.

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    Thank you for the thread it's happy to see people interested in these kind of things!

  12. #12
    The Gnu Normal Pompey Bum's Avatar
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    Oh, I forgot all about this one. Since answering FM, I have actually taken my own advice and read at least most of The World as Will and Representation. I had previously known and rather liked Schopenhauer for his magnificently pessimistic essays. WWR (if we can call it that) was challenging because it tries to use (and fix) Kant's notoriously complicated epistemology. It was an exciting work from that point of view, although I am not convinced that penetrated the so-called Kantian prohibition between the phenomenal world and things in themselves--something he believed he had done. Schopenhauer saw the human body the key this since it exists in time and space, subject to causality (and thus part of the phenomenal world), but (according to him) presents elements of an underlying will to life (Wille zum Leben) wholly separate from the intellect, which is too puny to act independently in a meaningful or lasting way. Schopenhauer considered the Wille zum Leban as emblematic of the world as it and the phenomenal world is its representation.

    If so, the hope I expressed to FM that the rational or moral mind might stand a fighting chance were hopelessly optimistic (most everything is hopelessly optimistic where Schopenhauer is concerned). Though I was right that Wille zum Leben is not intelligent--it can be tricked in pleasureful but transitory ways. It is malign and inescapable--a kind of demon taskmaster that makes our lives a combination of anxiety and dissapointment, and then hands us over to death. All it wants is our DNA--our physical reproduction.

    While I was overwhelmed as always with Schopenhauer's genius (believe it or not he is fun to read and a font of wisdom), I questioned whether the human body was in fact what he described as the tunnel under the fortress of Kantian metaphysics. If the Wille zum Leben can be described then it is being perceived. If it is being perceived then it is part of the phenomenal world and not the world as is. It seems to me that Schopenhauer's will to life can be better understood as animalistic human instinct as evolved through the process of natural selection (something he would not have understood when he wrote WWR in 1815). This is a stumbling block to Schopenhauer's metaphysics but not necessarily his ethics. Nor is he wrong that the instinctive mind operates independently of the intellect. As the old country song would have it: my mind's got a mind of its own.
    And this from a man in a bunny suit.

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