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Schopenhauer and Wittgenstein on Ethics RUSSELL B. GOODMAN IT IS NOW KNOWN that Wittgenstein found Schopenhauer's philosophy important and engaging, particularly during the time when he was thinking through the material he published in the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus.' I wish to pursue the connections between them here, explicating passages from the Tractatus running from 6.421 to 6.4311. I shall focus on three of Wittgenstein's claims: (1) "Ethics has nothing to do with punishment and reward in the usual sense of the terms," but there is rather a "kind of ethical reward and ethical punishment" that "reside in the action itself" (6.422); (2) the good or bad exercise of the will alters the world's limits, not the world, so that it can be said to "wax and wane" (6.43); (3) "If we take eternity to mean not infinite temporal duration but timelessness, then eternal life belongs to those who live in the present" (6.4311). I, As Wittgenstein envisions a worldly punishment and reward, having to do with consequences attendant upon an action, so Schopenhauer isolates what he calls "temporal justice." The aim of temporal justice is to prevent crimes. It is imposed by the state and is based on human beings' egoism, promising a punishment to follow a deed the state wishes to discourage. "Temporal" because it takes time to operate, it looks forward in time, becoming "justice with regard only to the future." Schopenhauer quotes with approval the following from Seneca: "No sensible person punishes because a wrong has been done, but in order that a wrong may not be done. ''2 As Wittgenstein sees a form of reward and punishment not stretched out in time but rather immediate, residing in the noble or base action, so Schopenhauer discusses "eternal justice," which "is not dependent on human institutions, not subject to chance and deception, not uncertain, wavering and erring, but infallible, firm and certain. ''3 It does not require time for its operation; rather "the punishment must be so linked with the offense that the two are one.'" ' Trans. D. F. Pears and B. F. McGuinness (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1961). See G. E. M. Anscombe, An Introduction to Wittenstein's Tractatus (London: Oxford University Press, 1972), esp. Chap. 3; and A. Phillips Griffiths, "Wittgenstein, Schopenhauer and Ethics," in G. Vesey, ed., Understanding Wittgenstein (London: Macmillan, 1974), pp. 96-116.For Schopenhauer's influence on the later Wittgenstein see S. M. Engel, "Schopenhauer's Impact on Wittgenstein," Journal of the History of Philosophy 7 (July, 1969):285-302; and Griffiths, "Wittgenstein and the Four-fold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason," Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volume (1976), pp. 1-207 2 The World as Willand Representation, trans. E. F. J. Payne, 2 vols. (New York: Dover Publications, 1966), 1:350; hereafter cited as WWR. Ibid. ' Ibid., p. 351. [437] 438 HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY What does Schopenhauer mean by this? His first explanation is none too clear; he argues immediately from the fact that the Will lies behind every appearance to the conclusion that justice is always done. ~ The missing premises are soon supplied, however. The principium individuationis, which governs the world of appearances, is not ultimate. One person appears to suffer at the hands of another; the latter may appear to go unpunished. But these individuals are ultimately (noumenally) illusions , are in reality only the one Will, so that "tormentor and tormented are one. The former is mistaken in thinking he does not share the torment, the latter in thinking he does not share the guilt." Evil action is not performed ultimately by distinct egos but is rather the Will burying its teeth in its own flesh. ~The evil man therefore suffers no less than him upon whom he practises his evil deeds. Schopenhauer's argument, then, looks like this: 1. Wrong or evil action is, phenomenally, the imposition of one will upon another. ~This appears to involve injury to one and not to the other. 2. But in reality these phenomenally separate wills are not distinct. 3. The damage done is therefore suffered as much by the perpetrator as by the victim. 4. The damage is immediate...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 437-447
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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