1
   

Schopenhauer on freedom of the will.

 
 
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Thu 23 Sep, 2010 02:03 pm
@Razzleg,
Razzleg wrote:

kennethamy wrote:

Prize Essay On The Freedom Of The Will (1839)

Does the fact that the quote is from an essay on the freedom of the will make you have second thoughts about whether Schopenhauer is presenting an argument about freedom of the will?


Haha, oops. Let this be a lesson to me re: speed-reading threads. You are correct, the essay title does give me pause.

But one only long enough to "rationalize" a reposte. Neither the thread title, nor (as Arjuna properly points out) the selected quote lend themselves to making an explicit argument regarding the issue at hand. Given my understanding of the content of The World as Will and Representation, which appeared years before the essay in question, and my slight knowledge of the author of both, it seems unlikely to me that the essay offered an unqualified endorsement of either the concept free will or determinism. i again concede that i might be entirely wrong in my interpretation of the brief quote, but i don't think that its meaning is entirely opaque to me.

That being said, it also seems to me that some of the ambiguity regarding interpreting the selected statement's value or veracity, via rephrasing it into an explicit argument, lies in the ambiguity of the terms involved. Obviously, you owe me no favors, but could you provide either a summary or synopsis of the essay at large, and by thus providing a context for the quote also clarify the unusual usage of the terms involved? Given that, i think both myself and others would be able to to contribute to the thread more profitably.


I have not read the entire essay. The passage quoted does contain an argument. The argument is,

1. All persons can (sometimes) do what they want.
2. No persons can (ever) want what he wants

Therefore, 3. No persons (ever) have free will.

It is clear that the argument has a missing premise (so the argument is an "enthymeme") . When the missing premise is supplied, the argument will turn out, valid.

It seems clear that the missing premise is, (M) If a person can (somtimes) do what he wants, but he cannot (ever)
want what he wants, then that person does not have free will.

With the addition of (M) to the premises, the argument becomes valid. But now, the question is whether (M) is true. For if (M) is false, then although the argument is valid, it is still unsound because it will contain a false premise.



Razzleg
 
  2  
Reply Wed 29 Sep, 2010 02:22 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy wrote:
I have not read the entire essay. The passage quoted does contain an argument. The argument is,

1. All persons can (sometimes) do what they want.
2. No persons can (ever) want what he wants

Therefore, 3. No persons (ever) have free will.

It is clear that the argument has a missing premise (so the argument is an "enthymeme") . When the missing premise is supplied, the argument will turn out, valid.

It seems clear that the missing premise is, (M) If a person can (somtimes) do what he wants, but he cannot (ever) want what he wants, then that person does not have free will.

With the addition of (M) to the premises, the argument becomes valid. But now, the question is whether (M) is true. For if (M) is false, then although the argument is valid, it is still unsound because it will contain a false premise.


Sorry for the delayed response, i've barely been on the forums for the last week. i also haven't made time to locate the essay in question, either online or in hard copy; and besides, while Schopenhauer makes for a nice read, i've got a couple of other books consuming my interest at the moment. i did find a couple of summaries online, the wikipedia article perhaps being the most accessible: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_the_Freedom_of_the_Will

A couple of questions about your argument re: "Man can do what he wants but he cannot want what he wants."

kennethamy wrote:
1. All persons can (sometimes) do what they want.
2. No persons can (ever) want what he wants
Therefore, 3. No persons (ever) have free will.


i'm hoping that you could clear up a few things from the portions of the essay that you have directly read, which might be accomplished by merely expanding on the paragraph in which the phrase is located.
Q1: As a formal logical argument, how do you prevent (2) from being a contradiction in terms? Would (M) resolve the contradiction somehow?
Q2: How did you derive (3) from the original quote, given Q1?

i'll not challenge your expertise in formal logic, but it seems as if context is of vital importance in determining the form of the argument, as the quote alone is presently insufficient. This question of context also seems important given we are developing our argument based on a translation, of which there are obviously several variants. Without the proper context we are not certain that "want" is the appropriate word to place in the final clause of the quote, much less which connotation of "want" to use or how one would be unable to want what one wants.

Given the summaries i have read, it is not at all clear that Shopenhauer gives an unqualified answer on the topic of free will. His answer to the question that prompted the essay, "Is it possible to demonstrate human free will from self-consciousness?", was in the negative. But it might be pertinent to take into account the use of the word "demonstrate" and its relationship to the other terms in the prompt.

In his essay, Arthur describes three categories of freedom (physical, intellectual, and moral), the first two of which are accessible to human beings. He also describes three categories of causes (mechanical, stimulus, and motive), by all of which human beings are bound.

While a person is free to act as she wills, her will itself is fixed in a mechanical universe. Her movement is restricted by the shape of her character. However, both her individual will and her cog-like character are graduated manifestations of transcendental will, Shopenhauer's ontological principle, which is free by definition.

It seems to me that, as to the question of the existence of free will, Schopenhauer's final response cannot be reduced to a simple yes/no answer. There are kinds and degrees of freedom that correspond with "levels" or "forms" of will. (One could draw the ontological diagram a couple of different ways.) In your first post you asked how the strawman argument you derived from the quote supports the claim that we are "compelled" to want what we want. But Schopenhauer never said that we are compelled to will what we will. His argument is that we are what we will, and that our being is contingent upon our circumstances.

Having typed all of this up, i'm beginning to be confused as to the goal of this thread. It certainly seems to have little to do with Schopenhauer (which is too bad, since my enjoyment of the thinker is why i started reading it.) An aphorism is not an argument, and the confusion of one for the other seems like a misuse of logic and an abuse of lyricism. This aphorism acts like a miniature diagram of Schopenhauer's entire metaphysic. That system is certainly vulnerable to criticism, but that criticism is hardly likely to be effective if you only attack its proxy.
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Wed 29 Sep, 2010 08:00 am
@Razzleg,
Razzleg wrote:

kennethamy wrote:
I have not read the entire essay. The passage quoted does contain an argument. The argument is,

1. All persons can (sometimes) do what they want.
2. No persons can (ever) want what he wants

Therefore, 3. No persons (ever) have free will.

It is clear that the argument has a missing premise (so the argument is an "enthymeme") . When the missing premise is supplied, the argument will turn out, valid.

It seems clear that the missing premise is, (M) If a person can (somtimes) do what he wants, but he cannot (ever) want what he wants, then that person does not have free will.

With the addition of (M) to the premises, the argument becomes valid. But now, the question is whether (M) is true. For if (M) is false, then although the argument is valid, it is still unsound because it will contain a false premise.


Sorry for the delayed response, i've barely been on the forums for the last week. i also haven't made time to locate the essay in question, either online or in hard copy; and besides, while Schopenhauer makes for a nice read, i've got a couple of other books consuming my interest at the moment. i did find a couple of summaries online, the wikipedia article perhaps being the most accessible: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_the_Freedom_of_the_Will

A couple of questions about your argument re: "Man can do what he wants but he cannot want what he wants."

kennethamy wrote:
1. All persons can (sometimes) do what they want.
2. No persons can (ever) want what he wants
Therefore, 3. No persons (ever) have free will.


i'm hoping that you could clear up a few things from the portions of the essay that you have directly read, which might be accomplished by merely expanding on the paragraph in which the phrase is located.
Q1: As a formal logical argument, how do you prevent (2) from being a contradiction in terms? Would (M) resolve the contradiction somehow?
Q2: How did you derive (3) from the original quote, given Q1?

i'll not challenge your expertise in formal logic, but it seems as if context is of vital importance in determining the form of the argument, as the quote alone is presently insufficient. This question of context also seems important given we are developing our argument based on a translation, of which there are obviously several variants. Without the proper context we are not certain that "want" is the appropriate word to place in the final clause of the quote, much less which connotation of "want" to use or how one would be unable to want what one wants.

Given the summaries i have read, it is not at all clear that Shopenhauer gives an unqualified answer on the topic of free will. His answer to the question that prompted the essay, "Is it possible to demonstrate human free will from self-consciousness?", was in the negative. But it might be pertinent to take into account the use of the word "demonstrate" and its relationship to the other terms in the prompt.

In his essay, Arthur describes three categories of freedom (physical, intellectual, and moral), the first two of which are accessible to human beings. He also describes three categories of causes (mechanical, stimulus, and motive), by all of which human beings are bound.

While a person is free to act as she wills, her will itself is fixed in a mechanical universe. Her movement is restricted by the shape of her character. However, both her individual will and her cog-like character are graduated manifestations of transcendental will, Shopenhauer's ontological principle, which is free by definition.

It seems to me that, as to the question of the existence of free will, Schopenhauer's final response cannot be reduced to a simple yes/no answer. There are kinds and degrees of freedom that correspond with "levels" or "forms" of will. (One could draw the ontological diagram a couple of different ways.) In your first post you asked how the strawman argument you derived from the quote supports the claim that we are "compelled" to want what we want. But Schopenhauer never said that we are compelled to will what we will. His argument is that we are what we will, and that our being is contingent upon our circumstances.

Having typed all of this up, i'm beginning to be confused as to the goal of this thread. It certainly seems to have little to do with Schopenhauer (which is too bad, since my enjoyment of the thinker is why i started reading it.) An aphorism is not an argument, and the confusion of one for the other seems like a misuse of logic and an abuse of lyricism. This aphorism acts like a miniature diagram of Schopenhauer's entire metaphysic. That system is certainly vulnerable to criticism, but that criticism is hardly likely to be effective if you only attack its proxy.




An aphorism is not an argument

It certainly seemed to be an argument to me. And, in any case, suppose that Schopenhauer did not mean it to be an argument (and he did not, then what was it doing in an essay he submitted to a competition the subject of which was whether or not there was free will, and why did he win the prize in the competition). But, even in the very improbable event that Schopenhauer did not mean it as an argument, so what? Let me simply pose the issue in the following way: if Sam Smith had proposed this argument against the existence of free will, would it be a sound argument? By the way, if it was only meant as an aphorism, what is significance of the aphorism? Do you think it has anything at all to so with the question of whether there is free will, and if so, what is its significance? And if not, then why is it in that essay?
Razzleg
 
  2  
Reply Fri 1 Oct, 2010 01:37 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy wrote:
An aphorism is not an argument

It certainly seemed to be an argument to me. And, in any case, suppose that Schopenhauer did not mean it to be an argument (and he did not, then what was it doing in an essay he submitted to a competition the subject of which was whether or not there was free will, and why did he win the prize in the competition). But, even in the very improbable event that Schopenhauer did not mean it as an argument, so what? Let me simply pose the issue in the following way: if Sam Smith had proposed this argument against the existence of free will, would it be a sound argument?


Well, kennethamy, what can i say, but that you seem to see arguments where there are none. What is it that Sam Smith is supposed to have said: the original phrase or the argument you made up? If you are referring to the argument you have presented, i would tell him that his argument contains an apparent contradiction and requires further support before he can be said to have proven his claim, much less make much sense.

kennethamy wrote:
By the way, if it was only meant as an aphorism, what is significance of the aphorism? Do you think it has anything at all to so with the question of whether there is free will, and if so, what is its significance? And if not, then why is it in that essay?


i'm not entirely certain what it means for a statement to be "only meant as an aphorism"; but i have, to the best of my knowledge, answered all of your questions in my previous post. Without having read the essay in full, or should i say without being able to make more explicit reference to the essay that neither of us have read, any further answer would require more speculation than i am comfortable daring to do.

Oh, and by the way:
kennethamy wrote:
And, in any case, suppose that Schopenhauer did not mean it to be an argument (and he did not, then what was it doing in an essay he submitted to a competition the subject of which was whether or not there was free will, and why did he win the prize in the competition).


Your sentence here is fragmented and it lacks a question mark, but i've inferred the question i think you are asking. To be slightly pedantic, the competition's prompt was not whether or not there was such a thing as free will. It was: "Is it possible to demonstrate human free will from self-consciousness?" Schopenhauer's ultimate answer to the question was "no". But the question does not ask for the competitors to argue either for or against the existence of free will, but whether it was possible to prove it on the basis of self-consciousness. That's, although perhaps subtly so, a different animal.
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Fri 1 Oct, 2010 08:17 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy wrote:
I have not read the entire essay.

Then maybe you should.
0 Replies
 
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Sat 2 Oct, 2010 12:12 pm
@Razzleg,
Razzleg wrote:

kennethamy wrote:
An aphorism is not an argument

It certainly seemed to be an argument to me. And, in any case, suppose that Schopenhauer did not mean it to be an argument (and he did not, then what was it doing in an essay he submitted to a competition the subject of which was whether or not there was free will, and why did he win the prize in the competition). But, even in the very improbable event that Schopenhauer did not mean it as an argument, so what? Let me simply pose the issue in the following way: if Sam Smith had proposed this argument against the existence of free will, would it be a sound argument?


Well, kennethamy, what can i say, but that you seem to see arguments where there are none. What is it that Sam Smith is supposed to have said: the original phrase or the argument you made up? If you are referring to the argument you have presented, i would tell him that his argument contains an apparent contradiction and requires further support before he can be said to have proven his claim, much less make much sense.

kennethamy wrote:
By the way, if it was only meant as an aphorism, what is significance of the aphorism? Do you think it has anything at all to so with the question of whether there is free will, and if so, what is its significance? And if not, then why is it in that essay?


i'm not entirely certain what it means for a statement to be "only meant as an aphorism"; but i have, to the best of my knowledge, answered all of your questions in my previous post. Without having read the essay in full, or should i say without being able to make more explicit reference to the essay that neither of us have read, any further answer would require more speculation than i am comfortable daring to do.

Oh, and by the way:
kennethamy wrote:
And, in any case, suppose that Schopenhauer did not mean it to be an argument (and he did not, then what was it doing in an essay he submitted to a competition the subject of which was whether or not there was free will, and why did he win the prize in the competition).


Your sentence here is fragmented and it lacks a question mark, but i've inferred the question i think you are asking. To be slightly pedantic, the competition's prompt was not whether or not there was such a thing as free will. It was: "Is it possible to demonstrate human free will from self-consciousness?" Schopenhauer's ultimate answer to the question was "no". But the question does not ask for the competitors to argue either for or against the existence of free will, but whether it was possible to prove it on the basis of self-consciousness. That's, although perhaps subtly so, a different animal.


I agree, but that is no reason to think that the passage I quoted is not an argument whose implicit conclusion is that there is no free will. In any case, as I have already said, my interest is in the argument, not in who authored the argument. So my question is whether the argument (whoever advanced it) is sound. It is, however an argument often ascribed to Schopenhauer, and I think that it is an an argument that it is most plausible to understand that passage from Schopenhauer. But, whether it is meant by Schopenhauer to be an argument seems to me to be of historical or, at best, interpretative interest, and of no philosophical interest. But whether the argument is sound is, clearly, of philosophical interest.

Incidentally, let me add that whether or not the passage is meant as an argument by its author is quite irrelevant to whether it is an argument. And, furthermore, why cannot a the passage be both an aphorism, or an expression of a view, or something else, and still an argument as well? Why need it be only one thing? The famous, all men are mortal, and Socrates is a man, so Socrates is mortal, is usually thought of as an argument, and so it is. But it can also be thought of as a number of other things too: an example of Aristotle's homage to Socrates; an illustration of a famous Aristotelian passage; and so on.
0 Replies
 
 

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