18 Theses on Schopenhauer’s Will

by hyphology

The following aspects of the will are articulated in Book Two of Arthur Schopenhauer’s The World as Will and Idea. They are roughly in chronological order. This list is not comprehensive, but merely reformulates some of the key qualities of the will and its manifestation.

Thesis 1: My body is the condition for knowledge of the will. Through it, I have immediate access to the objectivity of the will.

Thesis 2: As a pure knowing subject, my existence is not exhausted by my body. I am really a “winged cherub without a body.”

Thesis 3: All bodily functions, conscious and unconscious, are directed by the will. The will is carried out through assemblages of organs. For example, the teeth-throat-intestines assemblage satisfies the objectification of hunger. To this extent, assemblages are always in process (e.g. digestion) and vary by speed.

Thesis 4: Through the objectification of my desires (i.e. communicating networks of organs), it is possible to excavate the will (a process that will find philosophical truth). The goal of this excavation is to transcend phenomena in order to find the thing-in-itself (i.e. will).

Thesis 5: The will, although indiscernible in itself, can be quantified according to strength, visibility, and determinacy.

Thesis 6: There are various grades of will such as stone, animal, human, etc. These grades do not differ essentially or qualitatively, but only according to quantity. In higher grades the manifestation of the will is stronger, more visible, and less determinate.

Thesis 7: The will precedes the subject-object distinction. It is the groundless, genetic condition of phenomenal reality and, as such, is the individuating principle (pricipium individuationis) of objects.

Thesis 8: Paradoxically, the will is one and not one. As thing-in-itself, it is one and only one will. As individuating principle, it is the multiplicity of the phenomenal world.

Thesis 9: As the groundless source of phenomena, the will is pure becoming. It can be found in all movement.

Thesis 10: “Will” is merely the anthropomorphic name given to the movement of bodies. The anthropological will is exactly the same as the geological will. As thing-in-itself, the “will” is as inaccessible to humans as it is to gravity.

Thesis 11: Willing constitutes a productive encounter of assemblages (e.g. digestion of food in the teeth-throat-intestines assemblage). It does not involve or require knowledge of the willed effect.

Thesis 12: The will, as noumenal energy, must be distinguished from the phenomenon of force. They can be differentiated according to two orders of causation. On one hand, force obtains when a cause is equivalent with its effect (“for every action there is an equal reaction”). The will, on the other hand, is manifested in a general economy without limits. Contrary to the phenomenal cause, the will is a stimulus that produces non-equivalent effects. In this way, the will acts as if it were a “magic spell.”

Thesis 13: Every manifestation of the will involves a moment of indeterminacy where the will must be objectified in a particular organ-assemblage. This particularity is called character. In this way, an “insoluble residue” is left over from every objectification of the will.

Thesis 14: A process of dominating assimilation reinvests the movements of lower grades into those of higher grades. For example, the decomposing process of stomach acid is integrated into the hunger-assemblage, which is an expression of the body’s desire for nourishment.

Thesis 15: In higher grades, objectified will appears as “motive.” However, these motives are merely the phenomenal individuation of will within particular bodies. Motives themselves act as organs through which the stimulants of the will may manifest.

Thesis 16: In dominating assimilation, the lower grades are merely forced into submission by the higher grades. However, they continue to exist and fight against the organization of the body. When the body loses its grasp and dies, the lower grades of the movement of the will (what we may call the becomings-molecular) are freed.

Thesis 17: The never ending war of becoming seeks to destroy every organism until there are only nomadic organ-assemblages. Lower grades of becoming have a “prior right” to existence and will eventually always triumph in conflict.

Thesis 18: Internal and external necessities contribute to the life and death of an organism. Internally, the organism must be able to meet the demands of the will. Externally, the organism must be able to co-exist (or “resonate”) with other organisms. The higher grades correspond to lower resonances and fall into oblivion more quickly. The human is the slowest resonance of all.