Dr Tom Kerns
North Seattle Community College


Arthur Schopenhauer's
The World as Will and Representation

Lecture VII

No will = No world


The goal of it all

What, we might ask, is the final goal of Schopenhauer's philosophy, the conclusion toward which it would all point if it were to be fulfilled?

Schopenhauer answers that question for us very plainly on pp 411-12.

On the contrary, we freely acknowledge that what remains after the complete abolition of the will is, for all who are still full of the will, assuredly nothing. But also conversely, to those in whom the will has turned and denied itself, this very real world of ours with all its suns and galaxies, is - nothing.

This "nothing," however, "is also the Prajna-Paramita of the Buddhists, the 'beyond all knowledge,' in other words, the point where subject and object no longer exist."

On page 410 he calls this state

that state which is experienced by all who have attained to complete denial of the will, and which is denoted by the names ecstasy, rapture, illumination, union with God, and so on. But such a state cannot really be called knowledge, since it no longer has the form of subject and object; moreover, it is accessible only to one's own experience that cannot be further communicated.

You should also take particular note of the paragraph that begins on the bottom of p. 410 and ends at the top of p. 411, which ends by Schopenhauer acknowledging that the outcome to be anticipated is "No will: no representation, no world." And yet it will be important to see exactly what he means by this.

(Some readers of Schopenhauer have mistakenly believed that suicide was the logical outcome of his philosophy, but he very clearly opposes this as a solution. See chapter #69 on pp 398ff.)


These are discussion questions for you to consider and respond to, but only after you feel you have come to some basic understanding of Schopenhauer's philosophy.

These DQs about Schopenhauer should be discussed only in the last day or two of the week, after most of the week has been spent trying to understand what his ideas are and how they tie together.

  1. What elements and aspects of his philosophy do you think are wise, good and healthy, and from which you could learn something valuable?
  2. What elements do you think are unwise and unhealthy?
  3. Which elements of his philosophy might you eventually choose to include in your own personal worldview (at least for a while)?
  4. Which elements will you almost certainly reject as unworthy of your own philosophy (at least for now)?