No, not that kind of will. Not the lawyer’s kind. Nor is it what we normally think of as will, as in pumping up my will and determination to do 100 pushups today and everyday. Willpower. But not that either. Schopenhauer uses the term to name the in-itself. Being. His Will is the One Reality. All that ever was, is or will be. Scratch that, in fact, it is beyond space and time.
Since Will is beyond space and time, it is the totality of Being in an eternal Present. Schopenhauer, in his masterwork, The World as Will and Representation, writes that reality can only be the present. The future and the past are only concepts, and can exist only in the connection and continuity of knowledge. These exist only in the languages we speak to each other.
Knowledge, he says, is the representation part. It is a mirror of the Will. You see, the Will itself is devoid of knowledge and is only a blind, irresistible urge. We humans, perhaps alone in nature, can build a tower of conceptual knowledge, a hierarchy of abstractions. We think with every discovery, every advance, we are circling in on reality itself.
Schopenhauer says no, that never be. Knowledge and being are two different things. (Don’t worry about the apparent duality yet)Here we can begin to understand the meditation crowd, always telling us to let our thoughts go and BE HERE NOW. Knowledge is always locked inside space, time and causality, the world of objects and their relations. Objective knowledge. It is the world derived from our senses, phenomena. It is the phenomenal world. It is Plato’s world of becoming, whereas the world of Being is the world of the eternal Ideas, Forms. It is the Maya of the Upanishads, and behind it is the eternal Brahman.
Schopenhauer says that it would be odd if we humans somehow cut off from nature. It would be improbable that our human nature is discontinuous with the whole thrust of natural phenomena. What he is aiming at is the fact that we see and talk about natural forces, plants and animals. We study them, and use them, and consume them. We see them as objects. We can also see ourselves as objects. We study our bodies, regarding them just as we would any object.
However, there is one pesky detail. We also experience our lives. We have immediate consciousness of our hungers, and loves, and hates, pains and pleasures. We are subjects. Our life on Earth has an inner aspect. Subjective. In fact, it is this inner consciousness, this experience, that is most real to us. It is closer and more constant to us than the changing circumstances of our lives.
Therefore, says Schopenhauer, we can assume that the universe itself has this same inner life, this same consciousness, its own subjectivity. It is the reality behind our time bound and space bound conceptual framework of it.
This is Schopenhauer’s Will. It is all that IS.