Monday, July 11, 2011

Will and Intellect

Empirical knowledge is the result of sensory experience. Comprehension is gained only through the impression of an external object. It is this extrinsic objectivity that defines the will.

“…Consciousness consists in knowing…” (Schopenhauer, 1818, p.101) Perception requires a knowing subject as well as a known object. According to empiricism, the method of subject enlightenment is the process of acquaintance with the advenient world. “In all knowledge, however, the known is first and essential…” (Schopenhauer, 1818, p.101) Without the influence of circumstance, the subject is unable to know anything. It is the subject who is dependent upon the object. The will is “…the thing in itself....” (Schopenhauer, 1818, p.100) The subject interprets sensory information that is the consequence of the object.

The will “…constitutes the true core…” of man (Schopenhauer, 1818, p.104) It is the uniform source of motivation. The will includes the deterministic processes essential to existence. The will is the natural entity that is represented by various phenomena. It is the essence of reality. “…The will is what is primary and substantial…” (Schopenhauer, 1818, p.102) It is the will in circumstance that necessitates the character of the actual.

The will “…retains everywhere its identical nature…” (Schopenhauer, 1818, p.103) Manifestations of the will include all fundamental compulsions. “The difference lies merely in what it wills…” (Schopenhauer, 1818, p.103) Gravity is the will that an object, containing potential energy in the form of positioning, descend when not physically inhibited. Hunger is the will in an organism that drives it to consume nutrients. Perpetuation is the will in information that is replicated within an ecosystem. These imperatives are not the activity of the objects. Rather, the objects are forms of the will. Without the will of gravity, the object cannot maintain a position. Without hunger, the organism cannot endure. Without perpetuation, information ceases to remain. The objective event is the actuation of the will. The physical appearance, perceived by the subject, is the consequence of the natural process.

“…The will as the thing it itself, the metaphysical in the phenomena… admits of no degrees, but is always completely itself. Only its excitement has degrees.” (Schopenhauer, 1818, p.103) There is no quantity attributed to a process. Quantification is a function of representation. Gravity, hunger and perpetuation are constant forces. Incidental differentiation is a subjective interpretation of the intellect. The degree of excitement of the will is a property of the manifestation. Gravity does not cease or wane because the object is not currently falling. While the organism may be temporally satiated, the metabolic processes are continuous. Although information may reside in a dormant state, it is perpetuated in this condition.

The will is the natural source of activity. It is without reason or morals. “Willing always goes on with perfect success…” (Schopenhauer, 1818, p.108) “…Morality is in direct opposition to the natural will…” (Schopenhauer, 1818, p.108) The only function of the will is existence. It is pure egoism. Morality is a system of control established in order to create limitations. The purpose of the will is to transcend limitation.

Functional morality is an obligation to maintain the current status. The will is a process of change. While an embodiment of the will may be a system of maintenance, this perpetuation is achieved at the expense of free energy. A living cell avoids entropic death through the destruction of order in the environment. A social law is established through the investment of resources provided by those who enforce it. Ultimately, perpetuation can only continue as long as it is the greatest of competing forms of the will. Eventually, the organism will die and the law will be broken. The final manifestation of the will is always the process in which the gross entropy of the universe increases.

A criticism of empirical philosophy is that it leads to an infinite regress of causality. If the will is the process by which an object may exist, then how did the will originate? This is a misapplication of the question. Beginning is without cause. If a cause exists for something, then that thing cannot be the beginning. To have a cause, is the definition of an effect. The will is the beginning. It is the inception of reality. If the will is understood as the source of physical law, then it is absurd to speak of a time when the physical law does not apply. Natural principles have no origin. Indeed, such laws are natural because they exist independently of invention. The existence of natural law is a means by which the will may express its form.

The will is “original and therefore metaphysical.” (Schopenhauer, 1818, p.107) The intellect is “…subordinate and physical.” (Schopenhauer, 1818, p.107) The intellect gains knowledge of this essence by the manifestations that induce sensation. These observable phenomena are the activity of the will. The expression of the will includes deterministic physical laws that are not naturally displayed in formula but are rather observed through their interactions and representations within physical bodies. The formulation of these laws is an activity of the intellect.

The intellect is “…a mere tool for the service of…” the will. (Schopenhauer, 1818, p.102) It consists in the subjective function of knowing. The will is the substance of matter. The intellect is the form of this matter. The will cannot be directly observed. It is detected through the effect of a variety of actions. The operation of the will is the source of reality. The detection and interpretation of the will is the necessary exercise of the subject. It is through this system that the subject originates and continues. Without this process, the subjective intellect collapses into objectivity.

Consciousness is the highest purpose of the subject. The function of the intellect is the capacity to know of the will. “The intellect… has not merely degrees of excitement… but also degrees of its nature…” (Schopenhauer, 1818, p.103) “For in man not only does the faculty of ideas of perception… reach the highest degree of perfection, but the abstract idea, thought, i.e., reason, and with it reflection is added.” (Schopenhauer, 1818, p.102) Perception of an object only allows the subject to comprehend sensory impressions. Through reason, the intellect is able to know the action from which that perception originates. One who merely perceives an object only has the subjective knowledge of experience. The highest purpose of the intellect is to understand the mechanisms that necessitate that object. Abstract thought and reason allow the intellect to transcend pure perception and apprehend the true nature of the will.

From the outside looking in, the will defines the nature of reality. By means of the physical laws, the will has manifest itself in life. The ultimate purpose of this physical embodiment is sentience. In this way, the will has become conscious of itself through the intellect. It is now able to understand and interpret the existence of both the means and the end of its purpose.

From the inside looking out, the intellect experiences the universe through perception. The cause of sensation cannot be within the subject, because the subject is defined through these impressions. The external object must be the origin of these forms. The presence of physical bodies is the interpretation of the object by the intellect. This comprehension is the means by which the will is expressed though objectivity. The intellect is the mechanism through which the will has become conscious.


Schopenhauer, A. (1818) On the Primacy of the Will in Self-consciousness. In Baird, F. Walter, K. (Eds.), Nineteenth-Century Philosophy. (p. 100-124) Upper Saddle River: Prentice-Hall Inc.