In Search of Schopenhauer's Cat

In Search of Schopenhauer's Cat: Arthur Schopenhauer's Quantum-Mystical Theory of Justice

Raymond B. Marcin
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 215
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt2850nw
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  • Book Info
    In Search of Schopenhauer's Cat
    Book Description:

    In this book Raymond B. Marcin offers several reasons why a review and a reevaluation of Schopenhauer's theory of justice are worthwhile now, almost two hundred years after it was first formulated.

    eISBN: 978-0-8132-1624-9
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xx)

    The philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer has surprising affinities with many of the current teachings of quantum physics and also with many of the historic tenets of Eastern philosophy and Western religious mysticism. In the course of its romp through that quantum-mystical worldview, it presents a startlingly unique conception of justice. Schopenhauer’s philosophy really does not have very much at all to do with cats, but, in 1844, writing in the second volume of his magnum opus, The World as Will and Representation, Arthur Schopenhauer made one curious statement about a cat (or cats). He wrote:

    I know quite well that...

  5. Chapter 1 Schopenhauer’s Life
    (pp. 1-10)

    The year was 1840. The place, Copenhagen. The event, a meeting of the Danish Royal Society of the Sciences. The members of the Society found themselves in a quandary. They had sponsored a prize essay contest three years earlier and had invited submissions on the topic of “The Source and Foundation of Morals.” It probably seemed to the Society to be an excellent moment in history for such a contest. Immanuel Kant had by that time been enshrined in the minds of European philosophers as the man who had at long last and perhaps even definitively established the rational and...

  6. Chapter 2 Kant’s Influence
    (pp. 11-17)

    At its core, Schopenhauer’s theory of knowledge (and ultimately his ontological theory of justice) is deeply metaphysical and deeply Kantian. It has its starting point, indeed its essential grounding, in the basic premise of Immanuel Kant’s own theory of knowledge—a premise which Kant himself referred to as his own “Copernican Revolution.”

    Kant’s great “Copernican” discovery was that the world of our experience must, if it is to be perceived by us, conform to the patterns of our perceiving instrument. According to Kant, we do not see the world as it is, but rather as our mind structures it for...

  7. Chapter 3 Schopenhauer’s Departure from Kant
    (pp. 18-26)

    Schopenhauer agreed with Kant that our perceiving mind is the thing that imposes time, space, and causality on external things. He disagreed, however, with Kant’s lament that we cannot know anything about external things as they are in themselves. In Schopenhauer’s view we can know something about external things as they are in themselves.¹ We can know something about the ultimate nature of reality. This is true, reasoned Schopenhauer, because we have the ability to view ourselves from, as it were, two vantage points. Kant never took this fully into account, according to Schopenhauer. The relationship that we have with...

  8. Chapter 4 Schopenhauer’s Own Claim to Fame
    (pp. 27-32)

    Schopenhauer was not being picky in arguing the existence of this flaw in Kant’s theory. The flaw, if indeed it is one, exists at a very important point in the web of Kant’s reasoning, the point at which subject touches object and object touches subject. If indeed it is a flaw, and more importantly, if Schopenhauer’s own theory rectifies the flaw and fills the gap, then Schopenhauer’s claim to greatness has undoubted merit.

    There is a difficulty in explaining how it is that Schopenhauer tries to fill the gap between subject and object, between perceiver and outside world. He doesn’t...

  9. Chapter 5 Platonic Ideas
    (pp. 33-37)

    The final link that Schopenhauer uses in filling the gap between subject and object is his understanding of the Platonic doctrine of Ideas. Schopenhauer’s understanding is, however, somewhat different from what is popularly taken to be Plato’s own meaning. Plato is popularly understood as holding that there is a separate world of Ideas, that that separate world is the “real” world, and that the world of our experience is only a flickering and indistinct reflection of it.¹ Schopenhauer scholar David W. Hamlyn explained “Schopenhauer is less concerned with the ontological status of the ideas than with their logical character as...

  10. Chapter 6 Schopenhauer and Contemporary Scientific Theory
    (pp. 38-43)

    The first decade of the twentieth century encased a strange, shadow time. We seem to have named and placed clear associations on the decades that followed, for example, the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression, and so on, but not on that first decade. On the surface, perhaps, it seemed to be a generally quiescent time, but underneath, political and social energies and forces were seething and stewing, largely unnoticed, and were soon to erupt in the Great War. In at least one context, however, that first decade of the twentieth century was far from quiescent, and in that context a...

  11. Chapter 7 Ontological “Oneness”
    (pp. 44-61)

    In 1975, theoretical physicist Fritjof Capra published a popularization of quantum theory under the title The Tao of Physics. The book also carried a subtitle: An Exploration of the Parallels Between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism. Capra’s book became a best seller, went into second and third editions, and has had a profound effect—it has opened to the general public the quandary we have been discussing, the fact that contemporary quantum theory has radically altered our Western scientific understandings of space, time, matter, causality, and objectivity. In Capra’s words,

    [a]t the subatomic level, matter does not exist with certainty...

  12. Chapter 8 Justice and the Principium Individuationis
    (pp. 62-67)

    Schopenhauer’s theory of justice can thus be seen as being quite consistent with both David Bohm’s “multi-dimensional implicate-order” interpretation of quantum theory and William Blake’s poetic sensibility, and as leading inexorably to the ethic that Erwin Schrödinger discussed. Indeed Bohm’s interpretation, Blake’s sensibility, and the ethic seen by Schrödinger all seem to flow naturally from Schopenhauer’s understanding of “will” as “thing in itself.” “Will,” in Schopenhauer’s thought, is “the sole kernel of every phenomenon.” It “reveals itself just as completely and just as much in one oak as in millions.”¹ It lies outside time, space, causality, and individuation. It is...

  13. Chapter 9 The Inner Conflict
    (pp. 68-73)

    The world reflects the inner nature of the “will.” In the human being, “will” comes to know its reflected nature. With this knowledge, “will” is, for the first time, called upon to do something—to react. In the human, “will” has to either affirm itself or deny itself. It of course affirms itself. But think—it affirms itself at the level of the individual human being. It is not affirming itself in itself, undifferentiated, unindividuated. At the level of the human being, the “will” or the will to live (Schopenhauer calls the “will to live” a mere “pleonasm,” that is,...

  14. Chapter 10 A Brief Glimpse into Theistic Natural Law Theory
    (pp. 74-92)

    Schopenhauer’s very important doctrine of “conscience” contains elements that build upon the much older natural law tradition and even upon the biblical accounts on which that tradition is based.

    The existence of conscience has always been difficult to explain in terms of philosophy. Saint Thomas Aquinas, the great natural law theorist and Doctor of the Church, located conscience in the human being’s intellect. He also posited and identified a “habit” or inclination that activates and guides conscience, and he used an obscure philosophical term to express that habit or inclination. “Habit” (habitus) in Aquinas means something somewhat different from and...

  15. Chapter 11 Eternal Justice
    (pp. 93-103)

    [I]n all that happens or indeed can happen to the individual, justice is always done to it.¹

    We return now to Schopenhauer’s decidedly nontheistic philosophy, and to his doctrine of the affirmation of the will-to-live. Transferred to the human level, the affirmation of the will to live, the so-called “law of the jungle,” is usually regarded as socially inappropriate, even morally wrong. In that context, then, Schopenhauer’s theory of justice deals directly and intensely with what philosophy and theology refer to as the problem of evil. In most systems of ethics and in most systems of moral theology, the problem...

  16. Chapter 12 The Denial of the Will to Live
    (pp. 104-115)

    Because of the way in which it manifests itself in the world of appearances, that is, the world as represented to us through the structures of our perceiving mind (time, space, causality, plurality, etc.) the “will,” which at the human level Schopenhauer refers to as the “will to live,” is involved in a delusion. The “will” as thing-in-itself, is (as has been indicated) something like tendency or probability. There is no clear word for it because it is a transcendent concept. Schopenhauer calls it endless, aimless, limitless striving. In that sense, it is a tendency without an aim, other than...

  17. Chapter 13 Schopenhauer and Quietism
    (pp. 116-133)

    Schopenhauer himself gave us a brief but keenly focused definition of “Quietism,” and in doing so, connected it with the concepts of asceticism and mysticism:

    Quietism, i.e., the giving up of all willing, asceticism, i.e., intentional mortification of one’s own will, and mysticism, i.e., consciousness of the identity of one’s own inner being with that of all things, or with the kernel of the world, stand in the closest connexion, so that whoever professes one of them is gradually led to the acceptance of the others, even against his intention…. [T]he writers who express those teachings … generally do not...

  18. Chapter 14 Schopenhauer and Luther
    (pp. 134-139)

    Schopenhauer’s great moral insights, for example, his ethic of virtue rather than duty and his identification of compassion as “the sole non-egoistic motive” and “also the only genuinely moral one,”¹ were, in that context of morality, very much an echo of the great insight Martin Luther displayed in his Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans. Schopenhauer saw no good in doing something for duty’s sake when the doing of the act goes against the true character of the person involved.² Luther had the same view:

    [W]ith human laws—the law is fulfilled by works, even though there is no...

  19. Chapter 15 On the Freedom of the Will
    (pp. 140-146)

    A very basic part of Schopenhauer’s theory of justice is his treatment of the age-old issue of free will versus determinism. We saw in the introduction to this study that Schopenhauer had submitted an essay On the Basis of Morality to a contest sponsored by the Danish Royal Society of the Sciences, and that, although his was the only entry, he lost. There was, however, a similar essay contest in which Schopenhauer emerged as the winner. In 1839, the Scientific Society of Trondheim, Norway, awarded him the prize for his essay On the Freedom of the Will. It should be...

  20. Chapter 16 Modern Conceptions of Justice
    (pp. 147-173)

    Schopenhauer’s conception of what might be called “temporal” justice (to distinguish it from his doctrine of eternal justice) is consistent with all the basic themes of his philosophy. “Temporal” justice is the type of justice that inhabits the world of phenomena, the world conditioned by time and space, the principium individuationis, and the affirmation of the will to live, where the “will” is constantly “sinking its teeth into its own flesh” as it were. Schopenhauer put it this way:

    The State is set up on the correct assumption that pure morality, i.e., right conduct from moral grounds, is not to...

  21. Chapter 17 Schopenhauer and Contemporary Political Thought
    (pp. 174-180)

    The implications of Schopenhauer’s theory of eternal justice for contemporary political and jurisprudential thought are as sweeping as they are profound. Contemporary political and jurisprudential thought, plagued as it is by polar inconsistencies in its views of humanness itself, and without a metaphysical grounding for its tenets and propositions, has been drifting back toward early-twentieth-century forms of philosophical pragmatism.¹

    On the one hand, legal economists and public-choice theorists sometimes see the human being as nothing more or less than “an egoistic, rational, utility maximizer.”² On the other hand, contemporary civic republicans and other communitarians see the human being as an...

  22. Bibliography
    (pp. 181-188)
  23. Index
    (pp. 189-194)
  24. Back Matter
    (pp. 195-195)