Philosophy: Contrast and ComparisonIn this essay, we shall compare and the Hegelian concept of Geist, against Schopenhauer’s “Will” and Nietzsche’s “Will to power”. Hence, by assessing these concepts, we shall gain a broader perspective of German romanticism and the philosophical ideas that sustain it.
Therefore, to correctly understand Hegel’s thought, it is fundamental understanding the concept of Geist
“Spirit is the ethical life of a nation in so far as it is the actual truth – the individual that is the world. It must advance to the consciousness of what it is immediate, must leave behind it the beauty of ethical life, and by passing through a series of shapes attain to a knowledge of itself. These shapes, however, are distinguished from the previous ones by the fact that they are real Spirits, actualities in the strict meaning of the word, and instead of being shapes merely of consciousness, are shapes of a world” (Hegel, PS, 265)
Consequently, Hegel’s spirit is not a quality of the body, but one of the mind. However, unlike Kant, who tries to link conscience to morals, Hegel seeks to find the self in the consciousness. Thus, Hegel’s approach is much more logical and tries to connect the mind with the consciousness to explore not how we know, but how our mental states link to the world. To do that, Hegel establishes that the passing through the different states of the consciousness is not a real process. Instead, it is a dialectical process on which the mind knows itself by an encounter with its opposite. However, these opposites do not refer to absolute opposites but dialectic ones. For instance, to achieve this state of mind, the being has to contact its negation and through the dialectic process of self-consciousness be able to encounter itself. Likewise, although Hegel does not recognize the duality between mind and body, considering that there is no community between these two concepts, his metaphysical approach aims to show how the Geist can, through a dialectic process, achieve self-consciousness. (Hegel, PN, 389)
Conversely, Schopenhauer has a much more empirical approach to the world, rejecting Kantian approach about the impossibility of knowing where sensations come from, as well as the noumenical nature of those perceptions. Likewise, the same happens with Hegel, as Schopenhauer believed that the world as a representation worked within a relation between subject and object that maintained it is functioning. In Schopenhauer’s words:
“Therefore the world as representation, in which aspect alone we are here considering it, has two essential, necessary, and inseparable halves. The one-half is the object, whose forms are space and time, and through this plurality. However, the other half, the subject, does not lie in space and time, for it is whole and undivided in every representing being.” (Schopenhauer 5)
For this reason, Schopenhauer’s position, although not empirical, cannot be considered idealistic either. On the contrary, although he rescues sensation as the way to understand objects, he remembers us that our body is an object among the rest of the objects in the world and thus lies within the norms of space and time, concepts that serve as a conceptual anchor in his thought. Consequently, every single one of the objects in the world are representations surging from the relations between subjects and objects and it id through a process of awareness that humans understand themselves as representations that require a physical correlate to existing. Without this awareness, there would not exist such thing as personal perceptions, since although we can feel the objects as something different than us, it requires awareness to perceive them as our own.
“Hence, Schopenhauer regards the world as a whole as having two sides: the world is Will, and the world is representation. The world as Will (“for us”, as he sometimes qualifies it) is the world as it is in itself, and the world as representation is the world of appearances, of our ideas, or of objects.” (Wicks 1)
Moreover, although will in the culture is represented as a blind force in the world, Schopenhauer’s will is not related to a notion of blind fate that cannot be controlled. Conversely, will represent consciousness of our activity. Therefore, consciousness is the way on which we can explore will and use it to become aware of ourselves.
On the other hand, Nietzsche’s approach, led by the early influence of Schopenhauer’s thought made him create the concept of Will to power. Nevertheless, unlike his influencer, his concepts is closer to life and its implications rather than a way to explain the metaphysical world.
“Suppose nothing else were “given” as real except our world of desires and passions, and we could not get down, or up, to any other “reality” besides the reality of our drives–for thinking is merely a relation of these drives to each other: is it not permitted to make the experiment and to ask the question whether this “given” would not be sufficient for also understanding on the basis of this kind of thing the so-called mechanistic (or “material”) world?…” (Nietzsche, BGE, 36)
Therefore, Nietzsche tries to rescue the experience of what it is to be human, linking desires and passions to life and not attempting to shun them apart as if they were less or impossible to use in a philosophical sense. Consequently, to the German philosopher, thinking is not an abstract activity. Instead, it is linked to life and our reality. For this reason, Nietzsche’s philosophy does not try to arise as the new and absolute truth, but it serves as an explanation of how our drives and impulses are also a valid way to understand our mind and its processes. In the same way, the Will to Power, despite its posterior interpretations is nothing but an assertion of thee human over the circumstances. Hence, what Nietzsche seeks is a way on which humans understand their power of overcoming the nature. Therefore, if we see his thought with that optic, he is trying to say that the Romantic way to see life is flawed, and it is time to lay new principles regarding life.
“Benefiting and hurting others are ways of exercising one’s power over them—that is all one wants in such cases! We hurt those to whom we need to make our power perceptible, for pain is a much more sensitive means to that end than pleasure: pain always asks for the cause, while pleasure is inclined to stop with itself and not look back” (Nietzsche, GS, 38)
Hence, he tries to undermine the values by which people lived, considering that instead of believing the virtues of Christianity, men had to find their way to function, using only their power, their capabilities, instead of hiding behind the morals of a religion to live in a society.
To sum up, Hegel, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche share a series of common traits. They all worried about how men improves itself through the knowledge of itself. While Hegel shows a much more metaphysical perspective, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche try to set up a philosophy that does not see man as an accident, but as the center of the philosophical discussion. Hegelian Geist is known through self-awareness while Schopenhauer’s thought elicits awareness as the only way to be part of the world. On the other hand, while Nietzsche’s approach tries to rescue the real humanity of the humans, asking them to accept their passions and will as the only way to escape from the positivity of religion and dogma. Hence, these three philosophers seem to have created a path that contemporary philosophy is still treading, showing us that man will never cease worrying about the world and its implications in the self.
Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich. Hegel’s Philosophy of Nature. Trans. Michael John Petry. London: Allen & Unwin ;, 1970. Print.
Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich. Phenomenology of Spirit. Trans. Arnold V. Miller. Oxford [England: Clarendon, 1977. Print.
Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm, and Walter Arnold Kaufmann. The Gay Science: With a Prelude in Rhymes and an Appendix of Songs. New York: Vintage, 1974. Print.
Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm. Beyond Good and Evil Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future. Trans. Marion Faber. New York: Oxford UP, 1998. Print.
Schopenhauer, Arthur, and E. F. J. Payne. The World as Will and Representation. New York: Dover, 1969. Print
Wicks, Robert. “Arthur Schopenhauer.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Stanford University, 12 May 2003. Web. 22 Nov. 2015. <http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/schopenhauer/#4>.
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