Poetry and Truth

“In most cases, such historical philosophizing produces a cosmogony, which admits of many variations, or else a system of emanation, or a doctrine of the fall; or ultimately, if fruitless efforts along these paths drive the desperate philosopher to the final path, such a historical philosophy will turn tail and produce a doctrine of steady becoming, springing up, originating, emerging into the light from the darkness, from the dark and gloomy ground, primal ground,a groundlessness,b or some such drivel. This, by the way, can be dismissed most readily by noting that an entire eternity, i.e. an infinite time has elapsed before the present moment, and thus everything that could or should have become already necessarily has become.2

All such historical philosophy, whatever airs it gives itself, acts as if Kant never existed, and treats time as a determination of things in themselves, thus remaining in what Kant called appearance (as opposed to the thing in itself ), or what Plato called that which becomes and never is (as opposed to what is and never becomes), or finally what the Indians call the web of m¯ay¯a. Cognition made possible by the principle of sufficient reason can never allow anyone to gain access to the inner essence of things; all we do is chase appearances to infinity, moving without end or goal like a squirrel on a wheel, until tired at last, whether on the top or the bottom, we stop at some arbitrary point and want people to respect us for it.

The truly philosophical way of looking at the world, i.e. the way that leads beyond appearance and provides cognition of the inner essence of the world, does not ask where or whence or why, but instead, always and everywhere, asks only for the what of the world. In other words, it does not look at things according to some relation, or as becoming and passing away – in short, according to one of the four forms of the principle of sufficient reason; on the contrary, it divorces itself from the whole tendency to view things according to the principle of sufficient reason, and focuses on what remains, namely the essence of the world that always stays the same, appearing in all relations itself but never subject to them, the Ideas themselves. Both philosophy and art take this cognition as their point of departure, as does that state of mind which alone leads to true holiness and redemption from the world, as we will discover in this Book.”

Arthur Schopenhauer – The World as Will and Representation Volume I


“However, if we look back at the immediate effect of Kant’s doctrine, at the efforts and events in the sphere of philosophy since then, we will certainly find confirmation of a very disheartening remark of Goethe’s: ‘just as water that has been displaced by a ship immediately falls back into place behind it; so too when great minds have pushed errors to the side and made room for themselves these errors naturally close very quickly behind them again’. (Poetry and Truth,e part 3, p. 521.) Nonetheless, this period of time is only an episode that must be attributed to the fate of every new and great piece of knowledge, as mentioned above; and this episode is now unmistakably nearing its end, since the soap bubble that people kept blowing up is finally bursting.

People are becoming generally aware that true and serious philosophy is still where Kant left it. For my part, I cannot see that anything has happened in philosophy between Kant’s time and my own, so I will take up directly from him.2

Arthur Schopenhauer – The World as Will and Representation Volume I

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