19th century philosophy


This sounds crazy

The idea of the will to live, which may be sensed and represented through our innate desires, was largely introduced in Schopenhauer’s second book, “The World as Will and Representation.” The Will exists and permeates through every second that the idea implements our sole existence (which is all the time). In the book Schopenhaur introduces that the Will is the drive that enforces us to have the drive to live. The resistance to suffocation, our bodies desiring a way out of not existing is the proof that the will is beyond us yet it is imbedded in us. As subjects, we can’t truly see the world as a whole despite the amount of self-awareness because representation of object goes through a filter of our minds. That same filter is also intertwined with the drive of the will. 

He explains how our bodies’ physical makeup is a direct expression of this will in order to clarify this idea. He claims, for instance, that one’s “teeth, throat, and bowels are objectified hunger” (WWR, vol. 1, bk. 2, §20), implying that the purpose of these body parts is to satisfy the basic need to eat and survive. His theory highlights how closely our underlying will drives us and how our physical frameworks and operations are not merely coincidental or completely physiological. This will, which depicts a non-representational dimension that defines our existence, is manifested in our innate acts and wants. The want to survive can take many different forms, ranging from the basic need for sustenance and the continuation to more intricate wants and actions. Realizing this helps us to see that our physical selves and behaviors are not just mechanical; rather, they are manifestations of a deeper, underlying desire that exists inside all facets of existence.

As a Political Science minor, I have always been quite curious to learn more about the state of politics to truly understand the humanity of human nature as we see it and how consciousness and our lack of understanding of consciousness play out in the realm of morality, obedience, authority, law-making and being lawful citizens. A case that I thought of was Loving v. Virginia (1967) which legalized interracial marriage. In the landmark case, the Court held that the fourteenth Amendment prohibits government interference in the context of race. The ruling determined that laws made against interracial marriage violates the fourteenth Amendment. 

The reason this peaked my interest is because Schopenhaur claims that the Will is evident in our sexual desires and desires of interest in romance. He states that the will is not necessarily in our best interest but rather just a driving force of and often will attract us to incompatibility. He explained this incompatibility by using physical characteristics such as; the tall man seeks the short woman, the blonde seeks the dark hair etc as opposed to arranged marriages which, at the time, was based on more logical and level headed context and therefore mostly contractual. This contract of marriage is seemingly out of the order of nature. Logical? Yes. But the Will does not care for much logic, does it? The case in which interracial marriage is legalized, we trace back to the years prior where this same attraction had been forbidden. The same way the arranged marriage may interfere with the threads of nature, often times, the law does the same. But then the question becomes: if such things reduce or suffocate the will in a way, is the law fair? 

127 Hours

Schopenhauer argues in The World as Will and Representation that Non-representational reality consists of the raw forces that motivate us unmediated by our consciousness. He discusses the type of stimuli that are met with immediacy and intensity that drive humanity outside of rationality. An example of this phenomenon is seen in the story 127 Hours which has been reiterated in writing as well as film. 

127 Hours tells the story of Aron Ralston, a lone hiker who gets his arm stuck under a boulder for, you guessed it, 127 hours. He relied on many instincts to keep himself alive, most significantly upon the amputation of his own arm. The brain stem has long been understood as the part of the brain responsible for stereotypical human instincts like survival, reproduction, fight or flight, etc. Schopenhauer indirectly refers to this human function (as well as others) as “Will”. 127 Hours is an acute example of a man’s reliance on this will. Ralston operates completely outside of desire and comfort when he finally faces the reality that his flesh and bones are standing in the way of life. 

This example is notably more complex than more “immediate” examples like recoiling from a hot stove or scratching an itch. With that said, the Ralston used the same part of the brain to grapple with the reality that he too, will have to scratch that itch. Moreover, he used a dull two-inch pocket knife to hack away at his arm for about an hour– this further illustrates his will to survive essentially overcoming torture. He was also forced to rely on drinking his urine. In this case, non-representational reality is working to keep the hiker alive at all costs. If it weren’t for this will, he would’ve resorted to the instinct to feel comfortable (not in pain or repulsed). But as Schopenhauer discussed, Ralston’s desire for life overcame his senses. His is one of the endless instances where a human being resorts to unthinkable or repulsive tactics when forced by circumstance.

My will to Walk

Schopenhauer’s book two “The World as Will and Representation” essentially introduced the thought of the will to live, which could be perceived and represented through our natural desires. Schopenhauer’s “we obtained a knowledge of it in respect of its content also, because it has content and meaning only in relation to the representation of perception, without which it would be worthless and empty.” He elaborates on how we can see the world more directly and representations can be presented on a more complex level.

With this, the personal experience I chose is walking. It may sound a little crazy, however I feel it connects Perfectly. I walk often with no goal other than to get lost and find my way back. I’ve occasionally walked for hours to explore and find or learn something new. We live in New York which is fast-paced. Especially when walking, so usually when I go for a walk, I see New York in a different light than I’ve ever noticed before. I’m able to perceive New York very differently in positive and negative aspects. Schopenhauer stated, “We direct our attention to mathematics, natural science, and philosophy, for each of these holds out the hope that it will afford us a part of the explanation we desire.” This quote from Schopenhauer explains one of the main reasons why I walk. Walking is an experience that I choose to do, and it helps me see New York the way it’s represented, unlike walking at a fast pace trying to get somewhere and being alert and looking just to make sure that I’m safe, I’m usually directly seeing everything for what it is with no external meaning. I’d argue walking doesn’t have much objectification. Unless using the bathroom or getting hungry would be one, but I feel like this could be one of the human experiences that don’t really have much objectification while also still being something that we willingly do.

Love Being a “Must” to Live

The will to live is something that every living thing must have inside of them in order to survive. Rather than being a want, it’s a need, more importantly, a must. The will to live is what pushes us, to strive and give it our all. It ignites a flame which pushes us to keep pushing forward in life, no matter the obstacle or what difficult feat must be done. The will to live is what pushes the pinnacle of life to break barriers and peers ever through adversity.

One such example of how life expresses the will to live is the ability to nurture and care for the ones they love. Whether it’s a mother nurturing her baby, a father shielding his daughter, a son supporting his mother, or a husband defending his wife. The intense urge that we have to do this is instinctual. It was practically second nature to show this desire. There isn’t a need to learn it, the feeling comes naturally. That can even be seen in the animal world. A king lion would kill anything in his way to protect his newborn cubs. By his side, the mother lioness would do the same no matter the risk involved. The same would be said of the king lion in protecting his mate, the mother of his cubs. The entire pride is a picture-perfect example of the will to live. There was even an example that I had seen on YouTube a while ago of a mother blue whale with its baby blue whale, surrounded by a swarm of orcas. Although the mother knew that both her and her baby were going to meet their fates that day, she still tried to protect her young as much as she could, sacrificing herself to soften the blows that the baby whale was enduring. No matter the risk or fatality associated with life, nothing can overpower the brute desire of love that comes with the will to live.

Dire circumstances of survival aren’t the only way the will to live can be expressed towards the well-being of loved ones. But there is also the need to put food on the table and put a shelter over the heads of these loved ones. Many parents would have to work long hours and odd jobs in order to support their children and make sure they are well-fed and have clothes on their backs. And as these children get older, and so do their parents, then it will be up to the children to help their parents when they themselves are sickly and can’t walk. It’s a beautiful forever chain of being “supported” to being the “supporter”, generation to generation. What I am trying to explain is that the will to live has many reasons behind it, but love is one of, if not the most, compelling force towards the “must” to live.

2001: A Space Odyssey


An example of a state of absorption that illustrates coming to know “the idea” can be found in the introduction sequence 2001: Space Odyssey.

Unlike most movies that grab our attention with action or dialogue sequences, 2001 starts with a completely black screen and building music (Gyorgy Lireti-Atmospheres) which sets an immersive mood. This prepares us for the visual show that follows. An alignment of the moon, earth, and the sun emerging from behind of the earth. This scene is accompanied by the iconic tune “Also sprach Zarathustra” by Richard Strauss, we are completely immersed in the scene. We are not thinking about the plot or the technical elements of the movie, but we are fully captivated by this visual and auditory experience.

In this moment of absorption, we are experiencing what Schopenhauer calls the “Knowing the idea” through art. The alignment of planets is not just a scene but represents something bigger that provokes feelings of awe and wonder, allowing us to contemplate our world.

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.

Desire to Move

In The World as Will and Representation, Schopenhauer has introduced the phenomenon in which the “will to live” could be represented through the body and its natural desires. While Schopenhauer explains that the “Teeth, throat, and bowels are objectified hunger” (WWR, vol. 1, bk. 2, §20), there are other ways in which desires could manifest from the body. Each part plays a vital role for a specific activity or function. In Schopenhauer’s perspective, this is a human nature way of gaining access to the world, “will”, by being the “representation”. Through these desires, we have the ability, “will to live”. A personal experience embodying Schopenhauer’s philosophy is the body’s desire for dancing. The brain, ears, and muscles are “objectified” dancing. 

There would be numerous times in which the body would be stimulated to dance, which could be started as easily as hearing some sort of beat or song. It has been stated in a study that when people listen to music, the “brain’s auditory cortex” plays a vital role in “processing auditory stimuli” so that we can intake the “melody’s rhythm”. This also causes the “dorsal auditory pathway” to connect to the cortex previously mentioned to “movement areas”. This is how the body initially desires to dance (Hopffgarten, 2024). 

From personal experience, when hearing my music preference, I automatically start dancing, whether it be in a subtle way, where I use my feet and fingers to tap to the rhythm, and my head bops or when I’m at a place where I dance to my best knowledge. Even without the influence of music, sometimes I could just think of a song in my head and be able to dance to it based on memorization. In this context, through the ears, I get to hear the music, which then goes to my brain which releases dopamine and endorphins which makes me have the desire to dance. Additionally, the brain provides that instinct for me to dance by having my muscles move voluntarily (the muscles, obviously, are needed for dancing).  This demonstrates a perfect example of Schopenhauer’s idea because through our “inmost nature of the body” represents the “will”, which shows how desires and intentions could be manifested. This also correlates with “For these voluntary movements are nothing else than the visible aspect of the individual acts of will” WWR, vol. 1, bk. 2, §20). Based on our desires, we can act upon it with our actions.

Source: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-some-songs-makes-everyone-want-to-dance/#:~:text=Meanwhile%20the%20dorsal%20auditory%20pathway,areas%20as%20a%20movement%20impulse.

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.

Schopenhauer made a tik tok

Schopenhauer talks about two different ways of seeing the world in “The World As Will and Representation”. He explains that the first is the way things really are, this is what he calls the “will”. Schopenhauer suggests that past what we can see in the world and what we are able to touch in the world, there’s a force that exists. Schopenhauer goes on to explain that this “Will’” isn’t something that is like our typical decision-making. He says that is a lot more like an automatic and constant urge within us or a desire. This is something that every living thing has even though it is something not all living things are aware of. Then it is the way things seem to be, this is what he calls the “representation”. The representation he describes as being how living things see things through their senses and thoughts. Schopenhauer believed that this way of viewing things is limited and can be twisted. It is actually stopping these living things from understanding what is really going on in the world. These ideas reminded me of the world in which we live currently and the media we consume online. Social media platforms like TikTok are overflowing with influencers that are focused on gaining fame and a larger following that they neglect the reality of the world and live in their own version of what the world is like.

An individual bases what they know about the world from their knowledge. All of their perceptions of the world comes from what they know. It is comprised of what they have been exposed in their lives. “he is himself rooted in that world; he finds himself in it as an individual, that is to say, his knowledge, which is the necessary supporter of the whole world as representation, is yet always given through the medium of a body, whose affections are, as we have shown, the starting-point for the understanding in the perception of that world” (“The world as will and representation” §§18). Schopenhauer is talking about the nature of perception. He discusses our understanding of reality.

An influencer uses their platform to gain a following and based off of this following, many can make a career from what they produce and put out online. When a career is made from this, the creator becomes engulfed by this fame. Many creators with huge followings have been criticized for being tone deaf and posting certain content during times in which the rest of the world is faced with crisis.

During 2020, the world was put on a major pause. People were asked to stay in their homes in the attempt to lessen the spread of the growing virus. Many had to shut down their social lives in order to prevent further spread of this virus. Many celebrities and major TikTok content creators ignored these new regulations and were found to be throwing secret parties and even continuing to frequent public hang out spots as if nothing had changed in the world. These creators were faced with backlash by the audience consuming the content they were putting out on their platforms. These individuals chose to ignore the gravity of the danger they were causing by participating in these actions.

Schopenhauer explains that our knowledge of the world we live in is what forms the basis of our understanding of reality. It is something that, according to Schopenhauer, is mediated through a living being’s body. Our bodies can be seen as the instruments that are used to perceive the world and from this our perceptions come from our sensations and experience.

Forlorn hope of a sad clown :(


The clip I choose to talk about is from the 2002 anime “Cowboy Bebop”, in the show the protagonist Spike Spiegel, a bounty hunter, and his crew are in a futuristic space setting with sci-fi and Western elements. Specifically, I wanted to discuss the initial sequence from the twentieth episode “Pierrot le fou”. The reason I chose this clip is because it shows how we can come to know about an idea, being fearful; of evil in this instance, through the immersive medium of art as Schopenhauer suggested. This is achieved by reaching oneness between the object and through art which can help us get out of thinking by means solely of sufficient reason*.

 it achieves this oneness with the object in a way that is still beholden to sufficient reason but allows it to get beyond it through art. Schopenhauer says”. It therefore pauses at this particular thing; the course of time stops; the relations vanish for it; only the essential, the Idea, is its object.” (Schopenhauer WWR, bk.3, §36)

The visual of the red eye is a perfect example of what Schopenhauer is discussing, we only get quick frames of it and in that sense time stops and vanishes. But more importantly, the visual of the eye represents sight, vision, and one’s perspective and this combined with the earlier mentioned camera movement indicates that we are literally seeing Pierrot’s perspective literally and metaphorically. To read further into this, the exaggerated nature of the shot and the red color of the eye combined with the harsh eerie screeches of the music signal that this is not a normal perspective, it’s a foreboding one.

Another example of this is the last part of this sequence where our protagonist Spike, is staring down the barrel of Pierrot’s cane gun. The scene seems to slow time down as we switch from seeing Spike’s perspective of staring down the gun of a barrel/to the features he notes about Pierrot and also Pierrot’s perspective of Spike in this vulnerable position. Showing spikes perspective forces us to feel the way he does (as much as art can) and in this way we are becoming one with the object, ie Spike. Moreover This scene acts as a meditation on death/fear of death, as the viewer is forced to view the barrel of a gun for an uncomfortably long time, but it also shows how helpless Spike ultimately is in the situation. In addition the helpless feeling spike is feeling is paralleled by the viewer who feels helpless under this uncomfortable visual of a gun barrel. Reading deeper into this, the forced perspective combined with the gun personifying death itself in this instance( ‘as hunger does to teeth’) and Pierrot embodying fear, calls back to images of a grim reaper which we are helpless and are reminded of through the perspective of spike.