Schopenhauer being clumsy or sort of dumb?

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findingblanks
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Schopenhauer being clumsy or sort of dumb?

Post by findingblanks »

"The world is my mental picture — this is a truth which holds good for everything that lives and cognizes, though man alone can bring it into reflective and abstract consciousness. If he really does this, he has attained to philosophical discretion. It then becomes clear and certain to him that he knows no sun and no earth, but only an eye that sees a sun, a hand that feels an earth; that the world which surrounds him is there only as mental picture, that is, only in relation to something else, to the one who pictures it, which is he himself. If any truth can be asserted a priori, it is this one, for it is the expression of that form of all possible and thinkable experience which is more universal than all others, than time, space, or causality, for all these presuppose it."

Does anybody think that the only way to understand this passage is to claim that Schopenhauer did not realize that our hands and eyes (as perceptions) are also representations.

Believe me, I fully see how he could have spoken more clearly. I'm not claiming it is silly to think he seems to making a silly logical mistake.

I mean, does anybody think that the only valid understanding of this passage is that Schopenhauer made this mistake.

For instance, could it be that it was a clumsy expression (Philosophers like Rudolf Steiner and FIchte often acknowledged they put things in clumsy ways) but that his point was that there is a fundamental distinction to be made regarding representations of reality and the being who experiences those representations.

We know Bernardo doesn't think Schopenhauer simply was being illogical. He'd probably claim there is another way to understand what is being said than that it is proof that Schopenhauer was wrong. I wonder what others think? I think he was not being very great with his example, but his main point about representations and reality hold.
Starbuck
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Re: Schopenhauer being clumsy or sort of dumb?

Post by Starbuck »

I think you can find that level of clumsy phrasing in most philosophy prior to the analytic movement particularly those with groundbreaking theories. It's a shame that some people might write him off using a modern standard. As Bernardo says, we need to be charitable, and take into account multiple references on a particular theme (for instance equating the will with phenomenal consciousness). When we do 'it is difficult to imagine how he could have meant anything different'.
findingblanks
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Re: Schopenhauer being clumsy or sort of dumb?

Post by findingblanks »

Perfectly put, Starbuck. I agree.

Whenever I see somebody claim to 'destroy' a serious philosopher by pointing out that they failed to notice a logical error in a set of sentences they wrote, I know there is a deeper issue.

But it is a very common move.

This is how Rudolf Steiner destroyed Schopenhauer's comments:

"This whole theory is wrecked by the fact, already mentioned, that the eye and the hand are percepts no less than the sun and the earth. Using Schopenhauer's expressions in his own sense, we could reply: My eye that sees the sun, my hand that feels the earth, are my mental pictures just as much as the sun and the earth themselves. That with this the whole theory cancels itself, is clear without further argument. For only my real eye and my real hand could have the mental pictures “sun” and “earth” as modifications of themselves; the mental pictures “eye” and “hand” cannot have them. Yet it is only of these mental pictures that critical idealism is allowed to speak."

You can see that Steiner took the clumsy wording and went from there. But of course anybody who really read (without 'ill-will') Schopenhauer's work would realize that he wasn't claiming the representation of the eye is intrinsically different than any other representation. He was pointing out that only the inherent reality 'behind' all representations is primary.

And I bet I didn't even put it very well :) Where's Bernardo when you need him.
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AshvinP
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Re: Schopenhauer being clumsy or sort of dumb?

Post by AshvinP »

findingblanks wrote: Sat Jul 03, 2021 12:14 am Perfectly put, Starbuck. I agree.

Whenever I see somebody claim to 'destroy' a serious philosopher by pointing out that they failed to notice a logical error in a set of sentences they wrote, I know there is a deeper issue.

But it is a very common move.

This is how Rudolf Steiner destroyed Schopenhauer's comments:

"This whole theory is wrecked by the fact, already mentioned, that the eye and the hand are percepts no less than the sun and the earth. Using Schopenhauer's expressions in his own sense, we could reply: My eye that sees the sun, my hand that feels the earth, are my mental pictures just as much as the sun and the earth themselves. That with this the whole theory cancels itself, is clear without further argument. For only my real eye and my real hand could have the mental pictures “sun” and “earth” as modifications of themselves; the mental pictures “eye” and “hand” cannot have them. Yet it is only of these mental pictures that critical idealism is allowed to speak."

You can see that Steiner took the clumsy wording and went from there. But of course anybody who really read (without 'ill-will') Schopenhauer's work would realize that he wasn't claiming the representation of the eye is intrinsically different than any other representation. He was pointing out that only the inherent reality 'behind' all representations is primary.

And I bet I didn't even put it very well :) Where's Bernardo when you need him.
Consider one thing first - why is it that your "interpretations" of major philosophers always go in the opposite direction of the holistic meaning of their philosophy as everyone else understands it? Instead of just asking a bunch of questions hinting around my conclusion and keeping people in suspense, I will give you the conclusion - your "interpretations" are incorrect in a major way. That is the most parsimonious explanation and the one that also makes sense in light of your recent posts on Steiner and now Schopenhauer. However, I am not pretending to know why your interpretations are so majorly off. Clearly you are familiar with the philosophers and their writings, so I don't attribute it to pure ignorance. Aside from ruling that out, I just don't know. Perhaps it's those modern era Cartesian and Kantian divides operating in your blind spot - when in doubt, that's usually the reason.

Moving on, Steiner is not misrepresenting Schopenhauer's philosophy and you are missing the point he makes in the quote above (law school taught me it's good writing practice to start with your conclusion for the benefit of the reader's comprehension and proceed with arguments deriving them from there, and you may want to invoke this practice once in awhile as well - seriously I am just trying to make a helpful suggestion to cut down on unnecessary confusion; the Socratic method can be very useful but generally not in 'formal' philosophical debates). Let's take a look at how many times Schopenhauer indirectly refers to Thinking activity in that quote (indicated by bold emphasis):

Schopenhauer: "The world is my mental picture — this is a truth which holds good for everything that lives and cognizes, though man alone can bring it into reflective and abstract consciousness. If he really does this, he has attained to philosophical discretion. It then becomes clear and certain to him that he knows no sun and no earth, but only an eye that sees a sun, a hand that feels an earth; that the world which surrounds him is there only as mental picture, that is, only in relation to something else, to the one who pictures it, which is he himself. If any truth can be asserted a priori, it is this one, for it is the expression of that form of all possible and thinkable experience which is more universal than all others, than time, space, or causality, for all these presuppose it."


I may have even missed a few. What is missing from all of these assertions which implicate Thinking activity? The reality of the Thinking activity's role in making the assertions possible! Steiner's quote is pointing that out by showing how ridiculous the argument becomes when the Thinking component of the perceiving activity is left out of consideration altogether. Then we are only left with illusory "mental pictures" of everything in the chain of representation that Schopenhauer is trying to establish for his philosophy of Will. Without explicit involvement of Thinking which relates the meaning of these things, none of the stuff about eyes and hands seeing the sun and earth have any persuasive power. It becomes incoherent because we cannot, in principle, ever speak of what is making the "mental images" that are supposedly representations of a Reality behind them. We are only left with pure dogma which we must accept on faith without any basis in our experience.

That is what happens when Thinking remains in the blind spot, as it did for Kant, as it did for Schopenhauer, and as it does for materialists. The latter also rest their arguments about Reality on a similar incoherent chain of representational mechanisms which exclude the reality of thinking. It is late, and I suspect this thread is going to require a lot more comments going back and forth on the above simple points, so I will just leave it there for now. Readers should just keep in mind one simple fact - none these arguments are possible unless we initially grant Reality to that agency which is Thinking and attributing meaning to their ideal content. It would be a terrible thing if we were not capable of finding anything in our experience which warrants that Reality, because then we would truly be left in an incoherent 'entropic soup' of experiences without meaning, but fortunately we can find that which warrants the Reality of that which Thinks in our experience and very easily - by observing our thinking process and dwelling for a bit in its intuitive meaning.
“It is your presumption that freedom is something which you already possess that ensures that you will remain in chains."
findingblanks
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Re: Schopenhauer being clumsy or sort of dumb?

Post by findingblanks »

To those genuinely curious about this topic. To be clear, I have no interest in the framing

Is Steiner right is is Schopenhauer?

I've spent so many years of my life simply assuming Steiner was right based on his presentation of the logic.

To be even clearer:

Even if Steiner is not accurately characterizing Schopenhauer's point and argument, that by itself would not make Steiner's conclusion wrong.

And we might do well to keep in mind that obviously it is not a given that Schopenhauer would have thought Steiner's core idea was wrong. We unfortunately didn't get to ever hear if Schopenhauer would have agreed with how Steiner summed up his point in that paragraph. Maybe he would have said, "Wow, I didn't realize that i had forgotten that eyes and hands were also representations." But I can imagine other responses that would have been very friendly and very smart and very helpful. There's a chance even Steiner would have said, "Ah, now THAT is a much more clear representation of your argument."
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AshvinP
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Re: Schopenhauer being clumsy or sort of dumb?

Post by AshvinP »

findingblanks wrote: Sat Jul 03, 2021 3:54 pm To those genuinely curious about this topic. To be clear, I have no interest in the framing

Is Steiner right is is Schopenhauer?

I've spent so many years of my life simply assuming Steiner was right based on his presentation of the logic.

To be even clearer:

Even if Steiner is not accurately characterizing Schopenhauer's point and argument, that by itself would not make Steiner's conclusion wrong.

And we might do well to keep in mind that obviously it is not a given that Schopenhauer would have thought Steiner's core idea was wrong. We unfortunately didn't get to ever hear if Schopenhauer would have agreed with how Steiner summed up his point in that paragraph. Maybe he would have said, "Wow, I didn't realize that i had forgotten that eyes and hands were also representations." But I can imagine other responses that would have been very friendly and very smart and very helpful. There's a chance even Steiner would have said, "Ah, now THAT is a much more clear representation of your argument."
It's a fascinating game you play, FB. But leaving all gamesmanship aside...

Basically your argument boils down to, "it's possible that all of these philosophers would have agreed with each other if (a) we take very unorthodox interpretations of their texts and (b) we imagine a conversation between them with everyone being as generous as possible and incorporating each other's main points". OK, it's kind of a silly approach on a philosophical forum where people spend a lot of time comparing and contrasting these views, and when nearly everyone familiar with them agrees they are pursuing different avenues of thought at a very deep level, but assuming you are right, then what next? What is the purpose for imagining that intra-idealist harmony, despite one party to it stating over and over again he does not agree with the other?

That is what people genuinely curious about this topic are wondering... what is the bottom line for FB? Or even the top line? Any line. I think your recent posts on the other Steiner thread cleared a a lot of that up for me personally (and I notice you have not chosen to respond to my last post yet... maybe that will still happen), but I won't presume anything here and just give you the opportunity to enlighten us on that question. I am sure most people are still curious about what this all means to you and to philosophy-spirituality in general.
“It is your presumption that freedom is something which you already possess that ensures that you will remain in chains."
findingblanks
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Re: Schopenhauer being clumsy or sort of dumb?

Post by findingblanks »

Ashvin, I responded to your post about Bergon. Like you, I think he is wonderful. I don't agree that Steiner perfectly characterized Bergson's work and therefore I don't think his criticism of Bergson is fully accurate. It is somewhat misleading to the degree that, perhaps, Steiner does have blind-spots to some degree. But I love Bergson and think some of Steiner criticism of Bergson is helpful. I've counted that you have not responded to 154 of my direct questions to you and I have not responded to 166 of yours to me. We are doing just fine.
findingblanks
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Re: Schopenhauer being clumsy or sort of dumb?

Post by findingblanks »

Steiner said:

"This whole theory is wrecked by the fact, already mentioned, that the eye and the hand are percepts no less than the sun and the earth."

If any future readers are upon their Schopenhauer (or if Bernardo ever stumbles upon this thread), I'd love to know if we have reason to believe that Schopenhauer ever indicated that eyes and hands were of a special nature as percepts?

Also, my tiny study in his work gave me the impression that Schopenhauer had a different technical meaning for 'percept' than Steiner did, but, again, I"d need help by people who really have taken the time to dive into his work.
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AshvinP
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Re: Schopenhauer being clumsy or sort of dumb?

Post by AshvinP »

findingblanks wrote: Sat Jul 03, 2021 4:30 pm Steiner said:

"This whole theory is wrecked by the fact, already mentioned, that the eye and the hand are percepts no less than the sun and the earth."

If any future readers are upon their Schopenhauer (or if Bernardo ever stumbles upon this thread), I'd love to know if we have reason to believe that Schopenhauer ever indicated that eyes and hands were of a special nature as percepts?

Also, my tiny study in his work gave me the impression that Schopenhauer had a different technical meaning for 'percept' than Steiner did, but, again, I"d need help by people who really have taken the time to dive into his work.
You are still missing Steiner's point here. He knew that Schopenhauer would fully agree with him that the "eyes" and "hands" are percepts and should not be taken as naively real. And it is that agreement which also levels Schopenhauer's argument unless he initially grants reality to the Thinking mind which provides ideal content to those percepts. If we grant that noumenal reality (which Steiner gives us warrant to in his phenomenology), then we can coherently say the eyes represent some visual sensory input organ, the ears, nose, etc. as well, and we can figure out many more implications about the relationships between the senses and 'outer perceptions' from there. If we ignore that reality, as Schopenhauer did, then none of that argument remains coherent. It completely saws off the branch on which it is sitting. Do you see what I am saying?
“It is your presumption that freedom is something which you already possess that ensures that you will remain in chains."
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AshvinP
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Re: Schopenhauer being clumsy or sort of dumb?

Post by AshvinP »

findingblanks wrote: Sat Jul 03, 2021 4:19 pm Ashvin, I responded to your post about Bergon. Like you, I think he is wonderful. I don't agree that Steiner perfectly characterized Bergson's work and therefore I don't think his criticism of Bergson is fully accurate. It is somewhat misleading to the degree that, perhaps, Steiner does have blind-spots to some degree. But I love Bergson and think some of Steiner criticism of Bergson is helpful. I've counted that you have not responded to 154 of my direct questions to you and I have not responded to 166 of yours to me. We are doing just fine.
Steiner's criticism of Bergson is the same criticism he makes for nearly every similar philosopher or scientist, such as Hegel or Jung - they remain at the level of abstract intellect and hesitate to go any further because they are convinced it's simply not possible. They may have excellent conceptual frameworks which largely aligned with Steiner's own philosophy, but that's all they are - conceptual frameworks - and therefore they remain at very low resolution on these matters. The passage I quoted from Bergson was from a book written and published two decades after Steiner passed. So I think it's clear Bergson managed to get to higher resolution than any writings Steiner would have been familiar with, and who knows maybe he came across Steiner's own writings. I am not familiar with any of Bergson's earlier writings, but I imagine they were not as comprehensive and insightful as The Creative Mind. Here is an excerpt from Steiner which makes the fundamental criticism clear. Without that context, people may be left with the impression Steiner disagreed with everything Bergson said about human cognition, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Steiner wrote:Again the purely intellectual conceptual Philosophy can attain to the recognition of the immortality of the soul only by an indirect way. As it recognizes in thought something that can be compared with a dead body, so in the will it can establish something comparable with a seed. Something that has life in itself, which points beyond the dissolution of the body, because its nature shows itself, even during life on earth, independent of it. So, since we do not stand still at thought, but use all soul-life as experience of self, we can reach an indirect realization of the everlasting nucleus of the human being. Further we must not limit our contemplation to thought, but subject the interchange of thought with the other forces of the soul to philosophical methods of proof. But still with all this we come only to experience the everlasting human nucleus as it is in the earth-life, and not to a vision of the condition of the human spirit and the human soul before and after it. This is the case, for instance, with Bergson's Philosophy, which rests on a comprehensive self-experience of what is evident in the earth-life, but which refuses to step into the region of real super-sensible knowledge.
“It is your presumption that freedom is something which you already possess that ensures that you will remain in chains."
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