19th century philosophy

Primal Will: Unveiling the Depths of Maternal Instinct in Schopenhauer’s Philosophy”

In Book 2 of “The World as Will and Representation,” Schopenhauer elaborates on how individuals can access the world directly, beyond mere representations. This direct access is achieved through experiencing the “will to live,” which Schopenhauer sees as the fundamental driving force behind all actions and desires. He illustrates this concept by explaining how the physical constitution of our bodies is a direct manifestation of this will. For example, he states that “teeth, throat, and bowels are objectified hunger” (WWR, vol. 1, bk. 2, §20), meaning that these bodily organs exist to fulfill the fundamental desire to nourish and sustain life. His idea emphasizes that our bodily functions and structures are not just random or purely biological but are deeply tied to the underlying will that drives us. This will is evident in our instinctual actions and desires, reflecting a non-representational reality that shapes our existence. The will to live manifests in various forms, from the basic need for food and survival to more complex desires and behaviors. By recognizing this, we understand that our physical bodies and actions are not merely mechanical but are expressions of a deeper, intrinsic will that permeates all aspects of life.

A tragic historical example, the infamous experiment conducted by Unit 731 during World War II, amply demonstrates this primitive will. One stark and sharp illustration of the non-representational dimension of reality can be observed in the maternal instinct to protect offspring- the direct and visceral expression of the will to live. This instinct transcends rational thought and manifests itself as an unmediated drive to ensure the child’s survival. Unit 731 was a secret biological and chemical warfare research and development unit of the Imperial Japanese Army that engaged in deadly human experiments. The experimenters locked the mother and child in a sweltering room and observed whether the mother protected the child by holding or stepping on the child to prevent the heat.  Multiple experiences have shown that this is all mothers will choose to keep their children until they die.

In this extremely tragic situation, the mothers’ response speaks volumes about their willingness to protect their offspring. Despite the unbearable conditions, the mother chose to protect her children to death, holding them close to her body and desperately trying to keep them safe from the searing heat. This act of selflessness and sacrifice highlights the original, non-representational dimension of the will described by Schopenhauer. This response bypasses any form of rational deliberation or representative thinking. It is a direct manifestation of will, a force that compels individuals to act in a way that prioritizes the continuation of life and the protection of the next generation.

In conclusion, Schopenhauer’s notion of the will to live as a fundamental driving force finds a powerful and tragic illustration in the maternal instinct to protect one’s offspring, even in the direst of circumstances. This instinctual behavior underscores the non-representational dimension of reality, revealing the deep, intrinsic will that drives human actions and decisions. The harrowing example from Unit 731 starkly illuminates how the will to live transcends rational thought, manifesting as an unmediated drive that prioritizes the survival and protection of loved ones above all else.

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