Time, transcendence and reality in the first volume of Schopenhauer's The world as wille and representation.

Date of Award


Document Type



Caspersen School of Graduate Studies

Degree Name

Doctor of Letters


The first volume of Arthur Schopenhauer's (1788-1860) The World as Will and Representation (1818, WWR) contains the heart of his philosophical theory. It alone provides an exposition of his theoretical system. The genesis of all his later works can be traced back to here, his magnum opus. Intended to be a complete system, Schopenhauer's exposition spans the range of the discipline: epistemology, metaphysics, aesthetics and ethics. This dissertation examines the significant role Schopenhauer assigns time in the WWR. To explain inner and outer experience, he maintains two distinct senses of temporality. On the objective side, understanding is limited to causality where it is tied to perception. Subjectively the recurring present can be accessed, where observation is optional. This general divide is examined over the four books and appendix of the WWR. His earlier works written before the WWR are also taken into account, On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason (1813), On Visions and Colors (1816). Over the course of discussion, I argue Schopenhauer carries existential value through his system using the Eternal Now (EN). The Now traces itself back to the first book of the WWR, where he claims there can be no object without a subject. This provides Schopenhauer's Now with an Eastern quality, in addition to the Platonic and Kantian ones. Behind the Now is the life-force and singular reality of the universe, the Wille-zum-Leben. Schopenhauer claims what gives us life can also destroys us if we are not careful. Transcendence from temporal violence is possible through the temporal faculty. Recognizing the Wille in other objects as the felt Now within themselves, the subject can leave causal understanding behind in what I frame as the Aesthetic Now (AN). I close by arguing modern science has demonstrated Schopenhauer's placement of the subject before the object to be fundamentally correct.