Different kinds of willing in Schopenhauer

Schopenhauer’s theory of the negation of the will has troubled interpreters ever since it was published. There are many seemingly unanswerable questions. How can the will deny itself? How can a will whose essence is to will life turn and will in the opposite direction, against life? If it is willing in any direction, how can willing have ceased? This paper is an attempt at a kind of reconstruction, which suggests how Schopenhauer could fulfil some of his aims while removing some of these difficulties. Schopenhauer asserts that the state of highest value, in which redemption from life is found, is one of “true will-lessness” or “the complete self-abolition and negation of the will”. But I shall argue that we should be sceptical of this assertion, and that a better theory results if we regard Schopenhauerian redemption as the abolition just of one kind of willing, namely willing directed towards the happiness of the individual “I”. I shall present three advantages of such a reconstruction. First, it takes account of passages in which Schopenhauer implicitly recognizes other kinds of willing that are not directed towards the happiness of the individual “I”. Second, it makes it easier to see how redemption and moral goodness can be closely related. Third, it arguably places Schopenhauer’s notion somewhat closer to the Indian models, in particular to Buddhism, that he claims to coincide with his own notion of redemption.