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Chapter 5 - Experiencing Character as a Key for a Present-Day Interpretation of Schopenhauer

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 December 2022

Judith Norman
Affiliation:
Trinity University, Texas
Alistair Welchman
Affiliation:
University of Texas, San Antonio
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Summary

Matthias Koßler argues that Schopenhauer's theory of character is relevant to the recent revival of the concept in the social sciences. He argues that the theory of character Schopenhauer presented in his later essays is inconsistent with the theory developed in The World as Will and Representation. In the prize essays, Schopenhauer develops the Kantian distinction between intelligible and empirical character, treating the former as an innate, unchangeable metaphysical entity, while in WWR Schopenhauer clearly emphasizes the importance of empirical evidence, even for his metaphysics, so that intelligible character must be thought of in relation to experience. Furthermore, reason itself is an essential component of being human, and rationality involves the possibility of partly resisting the effect of a motive on the will, hindering it from achieving expression in action. Thus, human species character cannot just be a set of fixed properties, but rather a general field of possibilities by means of which we use our rationality to individualize ourselves. In conclusion, Koßler recommends avoiding the Kantian terminology of intelligible versus empirical character that achieves prominence in the prize essays. Instead, we should speak of a general concept of personhood that is necessarily specialized into an individual character.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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