Sunday, December 09, 2007



Nietzsche finds fault with Schopenhauer’s conception of the Will. He writes: “Die Philosophen pflegen vom Willen zu reden, wie als ob er die bekannteste Sache von der Welt sei; ja Schopenhauer gab zu verstehen, der Wille allein sei uns eigentlich bekannt, ganz und gar bekannt, ohne Abzug und Zuthat bekannt.” (Jenseits von Gut und Böse, I.19.) [“Philosophers are given to speaking of the will as if it were the best-known thing in the world; Schopenhauer, indeed, would have us understand that the will alone is truly known to us, known completely, known without deduction or addition.” (tr. R. J. Hollingdale, Penguin Classics.)] Nietzsche fails to understand Schopenhauer’s position and the reason for that failure was that – like almost all who dealt and deal with the problem of free will – he confounded free will with choice and conation in gneral, what we might term volition. All volition, including choice, is conditioned and Nietzsche’s analysis in the section from which I have quoted the above lines is perceptive and just, but it misses the point of Schopenhauer’s principle. For Schopenhauer the Will is the primordial force that is one with life, one with nature. As such it is, as Schopenhauer holds, known to us immediately. I say that the mind is the one reality known to us immediately. But the mind is creative and active and Schopenhauer chooses to see it in its aspect as will. The action of the will, in my interpretation, while subject to the principle of sufficient reason, is not pre-determined. It is spontaneous and creative. A poet, a mother tending or defending her baby, a lover expressing his love in word or gesture, do not exercise choice, they have no choice, but they act freely: their action is originative and could not be predicted by a god or anticipated by a computer that possessed full knowledge of the state of the world the instant before the act. This is the freedom that Spinoza equated with autonomy, except that Spinoza, crippled by his rigid Cartesian rationalism, had no place for creativity or originality. This is the position that I put forward in “Free Will as Creativity” and that I think is needed to put an end to the endless quandaries of the Free Will controversy.

D. R. Khashaba
Cairo, 9 December 2007.


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