Jacques Maritain Center : History of Philosophy / by William Turner


In the movement which arose in opposition to Hegel's philosophy we may distinguish three currents: (1) the Psychological movement, represented by Fries and Beneke; (2) the Realistic movement, represented by Herbart; (3) the Voluntarist movement, represented by Schopenhauer.

1. Psychological Reaction against Hegelianism. Fries (1773-1843), professor at Jena and at Heidelberg, and author of the New Critique of Reason (1807), adopted Kant's results, but rejected the method of transcendental criticism, substituting for it empirico-psychological inquiry, which he made the basis of all philosophy.{1} He also admitted into his system of thought elements derived from the fideism of Jacobi. His work was continued and developed by Beneke (1798-1854), who succeeded to Hegel's chair in the University of Berlin (1832), and by Ueberweg (1826-1871), and Fortlage (1806-1881) who taught at Königsberg and at Jena respectively.

2. Realistic Metaphysics. Herbart (1776-1841), after studying at the University of Jena, spent several years as private tutor in Switzerland, where he made the acquaintance of Pestalozzi (1746-1827), the founder of modern pedagogy. From 1802 to 1809 Herbart taught at Göttingen; in 1809 he was transferred to Königsberg, whence he was recalled to Göttingen in 1833. His collected works were published in twelve volumes (Leipzig, 1850-1852) by his pupil Hartenstein.{2}

Herbart took up the realistic elements of Kant's philosophy and combined them with Leibnizian monadism; the metaphysical system which he evolved from these premises he himself described as realism. He defines philosophy as the elaboration of the concepts which underlie the different sciences, thus outlining the task which he undertook; namely, (a) to restore realism, (b) to rehabilitate the principle of contradiction, and (c) to establish philosophy on a scientific basis.

In his metaphysics he teaches that Being is not one, as the Eleatics and the pantheists held, but many. The multiple realities (Realen), which constitute real being, correspond in a measure to the monads of Leibniz's philosophy; they differ, however, in this, that they are devoid not only of all perception and incipient consciousness, but of all activity whatsoever, except the power of self-preservation. Extension in space, action in time, inherence, causality involve contradictions, which philosophy removes by the elaboration of these concepts.

In his psychology Herbart conceives the soul as a simple real essence, one of the Realen, and the ideas of the soul he conceives to be acts of self-preservation. There are not, therefore, several faculties of the soul, but one faculty, the function of which is to preserve the soul in its indestructible originality. Perception arises from the conflict of this self-preserving tendency with the self-preserving tendency of other real beings. Mental states are thus an equilibrium of opposing forces, and Herbart, by attempting to reduce psychic life to a mechanism, the laws of which are the same as those of physics, forestalled the attempts of Fechner and Wundt to make psychology an exact science. The best known example of this mechanics of the mind is the attempt to determine the sum of arrest of ideas.

Consistently with his rejection of the plurality of mental faculties, Herbart identifies will with thought, and teaches that the freedom of the will is merely the assured supremacy of the strongest idea or mass of ideas.

Historical Position. Herbart is distinguished by his "systematic opposition to the method, starting point, and conclusions of Hegel." His philosophy is a union of Eleatic, Leibnizian, and Kantian elements. We must not overlook the fact that Herbart devoted special attention to the pedagogical aspects of philosophy, his rejection of the plural concept of mind being of special importance on account of its influence on the development of the theory of education.

3. Voluntarism. The most important of the anti-Hegelian movements was that inaugurated by Schopenhauer, a movement which may be described as an emphatic assertion of the importance of the non-rational in a philosophical synthesis.


Life. Arthur Schopenhauer was born at Danzig in 1788. After traveling in France and England, he entered the University of Göttingen and devoted himself to the study of the natural sciences and of Plato. From Göttingen he went to Berlin, where Fichte was lecturing at the time; thence he went to Jena, and there obtained his doctor's degree, for which he wrote the dissertation entitled The Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason (Über die vierfache Wurzel des Satzes vom zureichenden Grunde, 1813). During the four following years, which he spent at Dresden, he devoted much attention to the study of Hindu philosophy. His principal work, Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung, appeared in 1819. After two unsuccessful attempts to expound his philosophy from the professor's chair and to stem the tide of Hegel's popularity at Berlin, he retired in 1831 to Frankfort-am-Main, where he spent the remainder of his life in learned retirement, indulging his moody and passionate temperament and elaborating a system of pessimism in which one may see, in addition to the influence of his Buddhistic studies, the reflection of the personal character of the man. He died in 1860.

Sources. Schopenhauer's Complete Works have been edited several times (for example, Leipzig, 1873-1874; second edition, 1877; Leipzig, 1890; and finally, Leipzig, 1894). The following works exist in English translations: Fourfold Root, etc. (London, 1891), The World as Will, etc. (3 vols., London and Boston, 1884-1886), Essays (5 vols., London and New York, 1896). The best English presentations of Schopenhauer's philosophy are to be found in Wallace's Schopenhauer (London, 1890), and Caldwell's Schopenhauer's System in its Philosophical Significance (New York, 1896).{3}


General Character of Schopenhauer's Philosophy. Kant, Plato, and the Buddhist philosophers contributed to the building of Schopenhauer's system of thought. From Kant and the Kantians was derived the transcendental element, -- the criticism with which Schopenhauer started, and the synthetic arrangement by which he grouped all the elements of thought under the absolute will. From Plato was derived the theory of Ideas as stages of the voluntary phenomenon; and from the Buddhists, the pessimism and the negation of will, which form the practical aspects of Schopenhauer's system. Mention must also be made of Hegel's influence, which, however, was wholly indirect. Indeed, it is hardly an exaggeration to say that Schopenhauer was a voluntarist because Hegel was an intellectualist, the former insisting on the importance of the non-rational because the latter identified the rational with the real.

Starting Point. Schopenhauer, like Fichte and Schelling, starts with the Kantian resolution of noumenal reality into subject and object (thing-in-itself), and addresses himself, as they addressed themselves, to the task of analyzing the object with a view to perfecting the Kantian synthesis. Influenced to a greater extent than he was aware of by Fichte's subjectivism, he maintained that there is no object without subject. Instead, however, of resolving the subjective aspect of the object into a rational activity of the Ego, he resolved it into the volitional activity ot the will, which is not only the essence of man but also the essence of the universe.

The Fourfold Root. In the treatise entitled The Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, Schopenhauer teaches that the celebrated principle which had played so important a part in Leibniz' philosophy has four forms, corresponding to the four classes of representations to which it is applied; namely: (1) principium rationis essendi, as applied to formal intuitions; (2) principium rationis fiendi, as applied to empirical intuitions; (3) principium rationis agendi, as applied to acts of the will; and (4) principium rationis cognoscendi, as applied to abstract concepts.

The World as Representation. In his most important work, The World as Will and Representation, Schopenhauer first takes up and evolves the epistemological principles which he had expounded in his earlier treatise. Here he lays special emphasis on the notion of causality. When we analyze our experience, he says, we find that all that is given is sensation or representation. The understanding, however, which may not be separated from sensation, immediately refers the representation to an external cause. Now if we were merely rational beings, endowed with sense and intellect, but devoid of volition, we should never be able to answer the question, What is the external cause of representation? It is by combining internal experience with external that we perceive will to be the ultimate real, the noumenal cause of the phenomenon. Will, therefore, determines our knowledge of reality and constitutes reality itself. Will governs knowledge.

It is important to note that by will Schopenhauer understands not merely the faculty of choice but also impulse, the blind unreasoning impulse to self-preservation, which manifests itself in pleasure and pain, hope and fear, love and hatred, -- in a word, the will-to-live. To this blind impulse he subordinates knowledge, and although he claims that voluntarism is opposed to materialism on the one hand, and to subjective idealism on the other, the whole trend of his investigation of knowledge is towards the materialistic conclusion that understanding is a function of the brain. In this connection he quotes with apparent approval the celebrated saying attributed to Cabanis: "As the liver secretes bile, the brain secretes ideas."{4}

The will is absolute. All representation is conditioned by causality, space, time, etc., which constitute the principle of individuation. The will is subject to none of these conditions; it is neither individual nor personal, although individual acts of the will (volitions), being merely representations, are subject to causality, space, time, and other individuating conditions.

The World as Will. In the second book of the treatise above mentioned (The World as Will, etc.), Schopenhauer proceeds to the study of the external world, which is the will in the form of objectivity, that is, in the body which it creates for itself. Starting with self, he takes for granted as axiomatic that the human body is merely the external manifestation of the inner force which is human will. The will may be said to create the body: in truth, however, the inner volition and the outer bodily action are not cause and effect, but are merely the inner and the outer aspect of the same reality.

Turning next to the world of natural phenomena he finds there the all-permeating, all-producing will as natural force. This force manifests itself in purely mechanical action and reaction, in chemical affinity, in the striving and unconscious appetition of vegetable life, and in the conscious self-preserving impulse of animals. Everywhere and at every moment will is indefatigably active, organizing, preserving, sustaining. It is will that endows the animal with weapons of defense and with the means of obtaining its food; it is will too that endows the animal with consciousness and man with intellect, for these are weapons like any other contrivance for escaping from the enemy or securing prey. Indeed, intellect is the most perfect of all the weapons with which will has endowed creatures, for as the ink sac of the cuttlefish serves to conceal the animal's flight or approach, so intellect serves to hide the intent of the will and thus to insure its success.

The will-to-live, as manifested in vegetable, animal, and human life, is essentially a combative impulse; as one form of existence necessarily comes in the way of other forms there arises an inevitable struggle. Here Schopenhauer undoubtedly forestalls the Darwinian concept of nature as a struggle for existence. Yet, although he insists on the influence of want and environment on organic development, he is opposed to the Lamarckian hypothesis of the evolution of the higher from the lower species.

Pessimism. Schopenhauer was by temperament and disposition inclined to dwell on the gloomy side of the picture of life which he presented in his doctrine of the struggle of nature. The only positive feelings, he taught, are those of pain: pleasure is the merely temporary satisfaction of a need, and is, therefore, negative. Positive pleasure is an illusion. "The simple truth is that we ought to be miserable, and we are so. The chief source of the serious evils which affect man is man himself; homo homini lupus. Whoever keeps this fact clearly in view beholds the world as a hell which surpasses that of Dante in this respect, that one man must be the devil of another. . . . Life is a path of red-hot coals with a few cool places here and there."{5}

The Escape from Bondage. In the third and fourth books of the treatise, The World as Will, etc., Schopenhauer undertakes to answer the question, How is man to escape from the bondage of will and the misery of life? In his answer he maintains throughout the individualistic standpoint: he has no belief in deliverance through the ultimate development of the race; each man must deliver himself. Now the means of deliverance are three: art, sympathy, and negation of the will-to-live.{6}

Art. When a man loses himself in artistic contemplation, pure perception takes full possession of his conscious life; the will disappears and with it all suffering. In this connection Schopenhauer attaches especial importance to music as a means of deliverance from the bondage of suffering. But, he confesses, it requires a very great effort to maintain the artistic attitude. We must look, therefore, beyond art to find a more effectual remedy.

Sympathy differs from art in this, that it is permanent and may be universal. Misery, as we have seen, arises from the egoistic impulse to preserve one's own existence at the expense of the well-being of others. Now sympathy leads us to look upon the sufferings of others as our sufferings; it implies the oneness of all nature, the disappearance of the concept of individuality, which is an illusion, and the substitution of the will-to-let-live for the will-to-live. It is, therefore, the ground phenomenon of ethics. Yet even sympathy can only alleviate suffering; in order wholly to destroy and remove the source of pain, man must negate the will-to-live, which is the origin of suffering.

Negation of the Will-to-live. Schopenhauer finds both in Christian asceticism and in Buddhism examples of men in whom the will-to-live is completely eradicated, men who are utterly indifferent to self-preservation and the preservation of the race. This is the ideal of quiescence which the philosopher should strive to attain, the nirvana in which passion and desire and conflict and suffering disappear, to give place to perfect peace.

Historical Position. Schopenhauer's philosophy is lacking in systematic cohesiveness. His theory of knowledge, his panthelism (identity of will with reality), his pessimism, and his doctrine of deliverance from suffering are not articulated into a rational system. Perhaps the failure to furnish a complete and consistent rational scheme was pardonable in one who insisted so emphatically on the irrational nature of reality. Indeed, it is almost impossible in this instance to separate the philosophy from the philosopher, so deeply do the doctrines of Schopenhauer bear the impress of the character of the man. His doctrines are, however, of extrinsic importance as reflecting the sentiments of an age grown weary of life and surfeited with rationalism and idealism. For pessimism is an index of inferior vitality rather than of superior spiritual insight, and the insistence on the nonrational nature of reality is a symptom of a malady which may be traced to an overdose of transcendental metaphysics.

Eduard von Hartmann, born at Berlin in 1842, is the most original of Schopenhauer's disciples, and is regarded as the greatest living exponent of modified voluntarism and mitigated pessimism. His system, which was first expounded in the Philosophie des Unbewussten (1869),{7} and since then has been developed and defended in several important treatises, may be described as a philosophy of the unconscious. Hartmann, inspired with the idea of reconciling Schopenhauer with Hegel, tries to unite the panthelism of the former with the evolutionary idealism of the latter. The ground of reality, the absolute, is, he teaches, the unconscious, which is not an irrational will, but a will acting as if it were intelligent. The will, guided by ideas, acts with a knowledge of its actions; but since it does not know that it knows, it is unconscious. Hartmann modifies Schopenhauer's pessimism by teaching not only that the individual is freed from the misery of life by attaining the negation of the will-to-live, but that the whole universe is moving by an evolutionary process towards a universal redemption from evil by means of a universal denial of will.

Wilhelm Richard Wagner (1813-1883) and Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) are cited among those who were influenced in their artistic and literary labors by Schopenhauer's doctrines.{8}

{1} Cf. Falckenberg, op. cit., p. 409 (English trans., p. 507).

{2} New ed. by Kehrbach, 1882 ff. cf. Ribot, Contemporary German Psychology (trans. by Baldwin, New York, 1886); also article on Herbart in Encyc. Brit.

{3} Consult Sully, Pessimism (second edition, London, 1891); Zimmern, Schopenhauer, His Life and Philosophy (London, 1876); K. Fischer, Arthur Schopenhauer (Heidelberg, 1893); Volkelt, A. Schopenhauer (Stuttgart, 1900).

{4} Cf. Höffding, op. cit., II, 223.

{5} Werke, VI, 663.

{6} Cf. Caldwell, Schopenhauer's System, etc., pp. 171 ff.

{7} Translated by E. C. Coupland (London, 1886).

{8} Cf. Windelband, op. cit., pp. 633 and 676.

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