The World as Will and Representation
Schopenhauer and Buddhism
The Buddha's four noble truths and Schopenhauer
In which a favorable comparison will be
drawn between the four noble truths of Buddhism and some of the key
themes in Schopenhauer's philosophy.
The Four Noble Truths, on which all Buddhism
is based, can be summarized thus:
Life is Dukkha. Life is full with suffering.
cause of that suffering is that we desire. If we did not desire we would
Despite this rather grim diagnosis, there is hope.
Hope lies in the Noble Eightfold Path.
In his own philosophy, Arthur Schopenhauer
believes much of what Buddhism teaches in its Four Noble Truths, and then
he adds something to each of these four truths. What Schopenhauer adds
can be summarized in the following table, after which each element will
be briefly explained.
Four Noble Truths
is full with suffering
World is mere Vorstellung
is rooted in desire
cause of suffering is willing
b) The world as Der Wille
There is hope
is miniscule hope
Hope is in the Noble Eightfold Path
a) aesthetic contemplation
b) the practice of asceticism
Buddhism's first noble truth, that all life is full with suffering, Schopenhauer
adds that the entire experienced world is not fully and entirely real.
It is mere representation (Vorstellung) and has only the kind of phenomenal
reality that the shadows have in Plato's cave.
the second noble truth, that all suffering is rooted in desire, Schopenhauer
adds two things:
a) Suffering is actually rooted in both
desire and fear (the inclinations to approach or avoid), the two primary
motivators of all actions. Both of these inclinations are, for Schopenhauer,
included in the concept of will. Thus, all suffering is rooted in willing.
b) The true underlying nature of the entire
phenomenal universe is Will (urge, force, energy, drive). Der Wille
is what everything actually is beneath its surface appearances.
is hope, despite the fact that life is full of suffering and that the
world is all an illusion. There may not actually be very much hope because
a) most people do not realize the real situation we are in (Noble Truths
#1 & #2), and b) even if they did realize it, most people would not
have the wisdom or strength to undertake what is necessary to get beyond
the illusion and suffering.
- The two ways to salvation from the suffering and illusion are
- aesthetic encounter with The Beautiful
- the practice of asceticism
Each one of these elements of Schopenhauer's
thought will be described in more detail in individual mini-lectures,
and of course you'll be reading about each of these themes in much more
detail in Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung. Here are the places
in his book where Schopenhauer discusses each of these themes:
Book I The
World as Vorstellung
The World as Der Wille
Aesthetic contemplation (of representation)