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An Analysis of Schopenhauer: Four Roots of the Law of Sufficient Reason

Schopenhauer’s Four Roots of the Law of Sufficient Reason is based on the idea that the ordinary world is composed of four kinds of objects, which are all appearances. The first is composed of “real objects”, such as tables, chairs, wood and stones; The second category is the concepts and the judgments formed by the combination of these concepts; The third category is time and space; The fourth category is human behavior. The existence of these four types of objects must have a basis or reason, so it can be said that each type is subject to a special form of the law of sufficient reason. The law of sufficient reason claims in its most general form that everything has no reason or explanation for why it is what it is rather than what it is. The four forms of the law of sufficient reason then become: (1) every change in a real object has a reason; (2) The truth of every true judgment is based on something external to it; (3) All mathematical properties are based on other mathematical properties; (4) Every action has a motive. To put it more succinctly, there are four inevitable connections in the ordinary world, each of which constitutes a root of the law of sufficient reason. Therefore, the law of sufficient reason of universal form has four roots.

Next, we will explain these four inevitabilities one by one:

1. Causality: the law of sufficient reasons for change

Schopenhauer first described the first kind of objects as some intuitive, complete and experiential realistic objects. Compared with concepts, they are special. The principle of interpretation of causation applies only to such objects.

Most of the “Four Roots” is devoted to discussing the interpretation principles of causality. The principle of causation states that in a world made up of material things, every change must have a reason. “Every situation must follow a change before it, or it is caused by this change.” (Section 53 of the Four Roots). There is no exception to this principle: the thing we usually call the cause of an event is only a special change in front of the event, but this change itself must be followed by a previous change. The reason and result are linked in this way: if the first one happens, then the second one cannot happen. This relationship is regarded as a kind of inevitability.

2. Logical necessity: the law of sufficient reason for understanding

The objects that constitute the second category of numerous representations are concepts. Concepts are abstract and general, and they attribute countless special existence to themselves. Concepts are useless if they are isolated, only when they are combined to form true judgments and express knowledge. But judging from its own resources can provide nothing; In other words, no judgment is inherently true. Schopenhauer insisted that every true judgment must have some reason outside it, which constitutes its truth basis.

Schopenhauer divided the reasons for forming the basis of truth into four categories, and accordingly he advocated the existence of four types of truth: logical, empirical, transcendental and meta-logical truth. A judgment with logical truth is a judgment based on the truth of another or some logical judgments; For example, a syllogism has truth based on the truth of its two premises. A judgment with empirical truth is a judgment based on the world formed by the real objects of experience. For example, “cat on the mat” has the empirical truth because it is based on the fact that one practical object of experience (a cat) is on another empirical object (a mat). A judgment with transcendental truth is a judgment based on the existence or nature of time, space and causality (the form of perception and understanding). For example, “two straight lines cannot form a space” has a priori truth, which is based on the nature of space; “If there is no reason, no event can happen” also has a priori truth, which is based on the nature of causality. Finally, a judgment with meta-logical truth is a judgment based on formal conditions of all ideas. These are the laws of identity, contradiction and exclusion.

3. Necessity of time and space: the law of sufficient reason for existence

The objects of the third kind of representation are time and space. Time and space, as they depend on intelligence, are just as superficial as real objects and concepts. Time and space are the forms of internal perception and external perception. They exist in the brain and are added to the sensory materials before there is perception of real objects. However, from another point of view, as the projection of perception outward, time and space itself are also perceived. It is time and space that constitute pure, transcendental and directly perceived objects; In this case, time and space are special beings, not concepts.

Schopenhauer believed that the existence of numbers, and therefore the existence of arithmetic, depended on the possibility of counting numbers in time. From this, he concluded that arithmetic is a systematic and intuitive grasp of the relationship between time, which is the same as the grasp of the relationship between space and the achievement of geometry.

4. The inevitability between motivation and behavior: the law of sufficient reason for behavior

The object of the fourth kind of representation is our individual self. In the experience of self-consciousness, we have a direct understanding of these objects. However, although we can know ourselves directly, we do not regard ourselves as the subject of knowledge, but as the subject of desire or will. In other words, in self-consciousness, we face ourselves, but we do not see ourselves as things that recognize, but as things that emit will behavior. Schopenhauer argued that the reason for this theory is that the cognitive subject cannot recognize that they are cognitive subjects, because if something is recognized, it is recognized as an object. To express this point in another way, that is, the object, and only the object, is recognized; Therefore, when we know ourselves, the self we know is not the self we know, but something else; Schopenhauer said that those are wills.

As for the will of individuals, what Schopenhauer said is very important in connection with his ideological system of requiring an obvious reason. If the will is equal to the body, then it can be deduced that, like other realistic objects, the will is also the creation of intelligence, and therefore cannot provide direct knowledge about the thing itself. At the same time, if motivation and behavior are the cause and result, then motivation and behavior are some changes in real objects. The related inference is that changes in some objects lead to changes in other objects. That’s all. It will never exceed this range.

To sum up, the four aspects of the law of sufficient reason are the four kinds of inevitability in reality. Therefore, according to Schopenhauer, there is no freedom in real life.


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