We have requoted a short passage on Schopenhauer and death here (it was originally posted three years ago here on this blog, in one of the most popular posts in the whole shebang with thousands of hits), which shows how the issue of ‘soul’ (which Schopenhauer didn’t believe in) can distract us from the real answers, which arise from the question of representation.
Schopenhauer and Death In the wake of Kant the philosopher Schopenhauer produced a brilliant, streamlined version of transcendental idealism. We might cite a passage from Dale Jacquette’s The Philosophy of Schopenhauer, remarkable for revealing the latent potential of ‘transcendental idealism’.
Schopenhauer’s philosophy often gives the impression of having been composed expressly for the purpose of reconciling the phenomenal will to the inevitability of death. All the apparatus of his main treatise, the fundamental distinction between the world as Will and representation, the concept of thing-in-itself as beyond the principium individuationis, and fourfold root of the principle of sufficient reason, can be understood as contributing to a moral, metaphysical and mystical religious recognition that death is nothing real and hence nothing to fear. If Schopenhauer is correct, he proves that death is not an event, and hence altogether unreal. Death is not an event in the world as representation, but is rather an endpoint or limit of the world as representation, and in particular in the first-person formulation as my representation. The world as representation begins and ends with the consciousness of the individual representing subject. At the moment of death, all representation comes to an immediate abrupt end, after which there remains only thing-in-itself. An individual’s death is not something that occurs in or as any part of the world as representation. Nor can death possibly be in or a part of the world as thing-in-itself or Will. There are no events or individuated occurrences, nothing happening in space or time, for thing-in-itself, and in particular there is no progressive transition from life to death or from consciousness to unconsciousness. If with Schopenhauer we assume that there exists only the world as representation and as thing-in-itself interpreted as Will, then there is no place on either side of the great divide for death, no possibility for the existence or reality of death.[iii]
The connection between science, transcendental idealism, and the issues of the nature of the organism stand out in an especial clarity in this passage, which shows the key to an evolutionary psychology that reconciles the hopeless confusions of degenerated mysticism in the context of a philosophy tailored to the context of science.