The Unity of Will: Studies of an Irrationalist

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9781514790076: The Unity of Will: Studies of an Irrationalist
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From the Preface.

The views expressed in the following pages are based upon those of Schopenhauer, contained in his chapter Vom Primat des Willens im Selbstbewusstsein. As his doctrine of the relation between Intellect and Will differs from that of all other metaphysicians, and has been little studied in England, my first intention was to prefix his essay as an introduction to this work; but finding that a translation in extenso would unduly swell the bulk of the volume, I have been fain to content myself with this reference to it, and with expressing a hope that my readers will draw at the fountain head, and read, if they have not done so before, what has always appeared to me the most lucid and convincing piece of philosophical exposition that modern literature has to show.

The fundamental error of all philosophies, Schopenhauer tells us, has been that of assuming the essential and primary element of the so-called Soul, i.e. the inner spiritual (geistiger) life of man, to be Thought; of always placing Thought first, while assigning a subordinate place to Will, which has been regarded as a mere secondary product, consequent upon thought. With him, on the other hand, the primary reality of every existence is Will, by which he understands not only wish and resolve in the narrow sense, but all striving, desiring, shunning, hoping, fearing, loving, hating, in short everything which makes up our personal weal and woe, joy and sorrow — all being merely modifications or affections of a will, either for or against. Of these Intellect is the instrument, and therefore secondary and dependent, a mere accidens of our existence. The will is master, intellect its busy and accomplished servant; "while the intellect is laboriously searching and balancing, endeavoring from innumerable data by difficult combinations, to extract a result which seems to accord with the interest of the will, the latter is idly resting, to enter when all is ready, like a Sultan into his divan, and pronounce its monotonous 1 approved' or 'disapproved,' always the same in character, though varying in degree." And so we see the Will remaining in undiminished force through life; as strong in infancy as in manhood; still vigorous and determined in the decrepitude of age, when the faculties are broken, on the brink of the grave. For the intellect changes with the vicissitudes of life; it grows old and decays, but the will is imperishable.

I have said that Schopenhauer has been little studied in England. When studied he has generally been misunderstood, and it is my belief that, until his metaphysical doctrine is not only understood but accepted, no progress in philosophy is possible. No one who has followed the thought of my own essays will, however, mistake me for a disciple of Schopenhauer's school, except indeed in the sense in which it might be permitted to speak of a modern astronomer as a "disciple of Copernicus." I could not be. Schopenhauer is a Buddhist; I am (if anything) a Vedantist. Our respective personal standpoints are as opposed to each other as those of Calvinist and Roman, or of Plato and Darwin, i.e. absolutely. But we must distinguish between that part of a man's thought which consists of observed and undeniable facts, only needing to be once formulated and understood to become the general property of science, and that part which is, and must always remain, personal opinion, true only with reference to his individuality. Of the first kind is the astronomy of Copernicus and Kepler; once formulated and understood no one would think of contradicting it, though it may be corrected in details and developed....

Schopenhauer's doctrine of the metaphysical nature of Will belongs to the first category, that of truths which, once correctly stated, take their place among the established data of science, and cannot be safely neglected in future enquiry....

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