Overcoming Kant's Legacy: Schopenhauer's Theories of Action, Will and Reason

Dissertation, The University of Wisconsin - Madison (1996)

Although Schopenhauer accepts the fundamental tenants of Kant's metaphysics and epistemology, he rejects Kant's ethical theory and its implication of libertarian free will. Schopenhauer then constructs an antireductionist materialistic theory of reason and the will and a naturalistic theory of action. In turn, Schopenhauer uses these naturalistic theories to develop a neo-Kantian, compatibilist account of free will to replace the Kantian theory of autonomy so dominant in early 19th century German philosophy. He develops a strikingly novel theory of moral responsibility to complement his theory of free will, but he fails to draw out its implications for the reader. In my dissertation I do the following: I interpret and defend Schopenhauer's critique of Kant's theory of free will, I interpret and refine Schopenhauer's theories of free will and moral responsibility by constructing and defending a theory of action suggested by his scattered reflections on both animal and human action, I defend Schopenhauer's naturalistic account of reason and its powers, I trace out and defend several interesting implications of his theories of free will and moral responsibility, and in the conclusion I argue that Schopenhauer's ascetic ideal is inconsistent with the theory of human agency which emerges in 2-4 above
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