19th century philosophy

Prompt #1

An example from my own experience that illustrates the reality of a non-representational dimension of reality is the phenomenon of falling asleep. We can come to know the will through falling asleep by practicing mindfulness meditation while falling asleep. I find the example of falling asleep interesting because, unlike other things such as eating and having sex, falling asleep is a function of the body that humans aren’t confused about. Often, we eat and have sex and characterize these actions as a doing of our own. In reality, it would be more accurate to call this the doing of the will. This is more obvious when we analyze falling asleep.

The body needs sleep to survive, so the brain, which is part of the body, basically shuts itself down for a few hours every night to allow for sleep. Obviously, sleep is something that comes over us and not something we make ourselves do. We might provide the proper environment to allow for sleep to occur, but sleep occurs when it does on its own terms, or rather the terms of the will. I propose that all actions are in this way, actions of the will and not some other personal source of motivation. This is consistent with Schopenhauer’s claims as he states that the will “alone gives him the key to his own existence, reveals to him the significance, shows him the inner mechanism of his being, of his action, of his movements” (Schopenhauer, WWR, vol. 1, bk. 2, §18). This would mean that when we humans get hungry, the bodily state of hunger is not a free choice of our own, and similarly when our brain states form in a manner that moves the body to the kitchen to ingest food, these brain states are not the choices of our own. Evidently, all actions through humans are acts of the will, and thus, Schopenhauer’s conception of the will as the natural force within us is inherently opposed to the idea of individual free will.

If we grant the existence of the will Schopenhauer describes, we can only save the idea of free will if we choose to identify ourselves with the will so that anything the will “chooses” to do is actually what we ourselves “choose” to do. However, since the will is a force of nature and nature within an individual isn’t separate from the nature of the universe, this still wouldn’t be individual free will.

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