Arthur Schopenhauer on free will


Arthur Schopenhauer[who had a lot of influence in Nietzsche’s early years as can be seen in his writings] writes this on free will.

[…]Accordingly while our several actions are in no wise free, every man’s individual character is to be regarded as a free act. He is such and such a man, because once for all it is his will to be that man. For the will itself, and in itself, and also in so far as it is manifest in an individual, accordingly constitutes the original and fundamental desires of that individual, is independent of all knowledge, because it is antecedent to such knowledge. All that it receives from knowledge is the series of motives by which it successively develops its nature and makes itself cognisable or visible; but the will itself, as something that lies beyond time, so long as it exists at all, never changes. Therefore every man, being what he is and placed in the circumstances which for the moment obtain, but which on their part also arise by strict necessity, can absolutely never do anything else than just what at that moment he does do. Accordingly, the whole course of a man’s life, in all its incidents great and small, is as necessarily predetermined as the course of a clock.  

He continues to say, and this is of interest to most people

that every man achieves only that which is irrevocably established in his nature, or is born with him. 

About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

27 thoughts on “Arthur Schopenhauer on free will

  1. john zande says:

    Wouldn’t that last line, “or is born with him” (which i’m assuming he means experiences) imply something other than determinism?

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  2. Very interesting subject, free will. Do you believe in it, or do you side with Schopenhauer? 🙂

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  3. aguywithoutboxers says:

    Excellent source and thought. He does it justice. Thanks! Please check out my site tomorrow, April 22. I nominate you for a Blog Award. How’s that for some free will? Much love!

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    • makagutu says:

      I agree he does the idea of free will a lot of justice.

      Hahaha! Much love and thanks in advance! You know, if you are not sufficiently motivated to do the award post, you may write on a nude spring basketball game 😀

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      • aguywithoutboxers says:

        The award post was written and scheduled several days ago. Now as to the nude basketball game, you’re on! My team is always ready for a good game! 🙂 Much love. Don’t curb your pen, wit or tongue! That’s one of your many assets!

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  4. violetwisp says:

    “Accordingly, the whole course of a woman’s life, in all its incidents great and small, is as necessarily predetermined as the course of a clock. ”

    I don’t think it’s predetermined – it’s determinable if we could get hold of information that’s impossible to get hold of. But I think the point that we are what we are is well made – we are not a soul trapped in a body that’s limiting and controlling our choices. We are our complete physical entity.

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    • makagutu says:

      He says that we’d tell how a person would act in a given situation, that in many cases, his future action will be as the previous one as long as the conditions remain the same. I think it’s pretty determined!

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      • violetwisp says:

        Are the determinable and determined that same? I’ve never discussed this before so I’m bound to be asking silly questions …

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        • makagutu says:

          No question is silly. No, the two words do not have the same meaning. For determinable refers to being able to be ascertained while determined refers to a state already arrived. For example, if I say am determined to go someplace, there is no changing my mind about it whereas determinable could be used to refer to a statistical certainty.

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          • violetwisp says:

            In that case, I don’t see how things are already determined. I can only see them as determinable under virtually impossible conditions i.e. access to understanding someone’s entire physical make-up and understanding how this affects every experience they’ve ever had to help them arrive at a decision.

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            • makagutu says:

              Tell me if I misunderstand you, my friend, are you arguing that if we knew all the understanding of a person’s make up, such a person would act differently? The situations that face a person could be random, but he will not act other than he acts. Our knowing his experiences or physical make up doesn’t affect how he will act in a given circumstance.

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              • violetwisp says:

                No, I think I agree with you. I expect I’m confusing ‘predetermined’ with ‘determined’. I find them similar, as they both give a sense of no choice, which isn’t useful or accurate. My head prefers ‘determinable under impossible circumstances’ because it has less concerning ramifications. Does that make sense?

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                • makagutu says:

                  I think it makes sense to talk about determinable reason being we can’t be absolutely certain that a person will act as he acted in the previous situation because maybe 1 particular circumstance in the whole picture has changed. But this doesn’t, in my opinion, prove free will but rather it shows that an observer can’t tell exactly how a subject is going to behave in a given situation. Tell me if we are still on the same page?

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                  • violetwisp says:

                    I think so. I just don’t see how being able to determine behaviour means there’s no free will. We are follow our nature, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have choice. We are our nature, it’s not a separate entity taking our choice away. I think maybe our style of expressing ourselves confuses this.

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  5. […] view that we don’t have free will. I have written quite a number of posts that can be found here, here, here, here and here that try to espouse my thinking on the idea or opinions by other […]

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