Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Reginster, Bernard. Review of Barbara Hannan's THE RIDDLE OF THE WORD. NDPR (August 2009).

Hannan, Barbara. The Riddle of the World: a Reconsideration of Schopenhauer's Philosophy. Oxford: OUP, 2009. Hannan describes her book as "an introduction to the philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer, written in a personal style" (p. ix). The "personal" character of this introduction might suggest a fresh new perspective on Schopenhauer's philosophy or a more or less idiosyncratic take on it; Hannan offers a little of both. A first, introductory chapter is intended to offer an overview of Schopenhauer's philosophy but focuses mostly on his metaphysics, which is taken up in greater detail in the second chapter. Hannan emphasizes three main themes: the character of Schopenhauer's idealism, his claim that reality is in itself will (a view she describes as "panpsychism"), and his views on causality and freedom. Here, and throughout the book, Hannan candidly acknowledges many of the well-known difficulties that afflict Schopenhauer's metaphysics: for instance, his claim that we can know the world as it is in itself, which is difficult to square with his brand of transcendental idealism; his claim that the world is in itself "will", which appears to rest on a dubious extrapolation from a certain form of self-knowledge; the puzzling ontological status of the Ideas, which are neither phenomena, nor noumena; and his claim that it is possible to achieve "will-less" states of being, which appears to contradict flatly his view that all being is, in itself and essentially, will. Hannan suggests that at least some of these difficulties could be explained by the fact that Schopenhauer is a "transitional thinker". For instance, although he officially continues to endorse transcendental idealism, his deep philosophical instincts would pull him away from it in the direction of some sort of realism. This is apparent, for example, in his methodological claim that the phenomenal world manifests, rather than conceals or distorts, the world as it is in itself (pp. 16, 44-51). Hannan also points out that Schopenhauer's panpsychism begins to look less objectionably anthropomorphic if it is taken to anticipate more recent ideas, such as the understanding of mindedness simply in terms of "intrinsic causal powers" and "reactivity" to stimuli, or the view that the mental/physical dichotomy is not ontologically deep, but represents merely alternative descriptions of the same reality. . . . Read the rest here: http://ndpr.nd.edu/review.cfm?id=16925.

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