“the world as representation . . . only begins with the opening of the first eye”


The existence of this whole world remains for ever dependent on that first eye that opened, were it even that of an insect. For such an eye necessarily brings about knowledge, for which and in which alone the whole world is, and without which it is not even conceivable. The world is entirely representation, and as such requires that knowing subject as the supporter of its existence. That long course of time itself, full of innumberable changes, through which matter rose from form to form, till finally there came into existence the first known animal, the whole of time itself is alone thinkable in the identity of consciousness. Thus the world is the succession of the representations of consciousness, the form of its knowing, and apart from this loses all meaning, and is nothing at all.

Thus we see, on the one hand, the existence of the whole world necessarily dependent on the first knowing being, however imperfect it be; on the other hand, this first knowing animal just as necessarily wholly dependent on the long chain of causes and effects which has preceded it, and in which it itself appear as a small link. These two contradictory views, to each of which we are lead with equal necessity, might certainly be called an antinomy in our faculty of knowledge. . . . To use Kant’s language, time, space, and causality do not belong to the thing-in-itself, but only to its appearance or phenomenon, of which they are the form. In my language, this means that the objective world, the world as representation, is not the only side of the world, but merely its external side, so to speak, and that the world has an entirely different side which is its innermost being, its kernal, the thing-in-itself. This force we shall consider, calling it the Will, after its most immediate of objectifications.

William Holman Hunt
The Hireling Shepherd (1851-52)
Manchester City Art Galleries

But the world as representation, with which alone we are dealing here, certainly only begins with the opening of the first eye, and without this medium of knowledge it cannot be, and hence before this is did not exist. . . . The answer to the riddle of [the origin and development of Nature is given in the word Will. This and this alone shows Man the key to his own phenomenon, reveals to him the significance and shows him the inner mechanism of his being, his actions, his movements. . . . Every true act of his will is also at once and inevitably a movement of his body. The act of the will and the action of the body are not two states objectively known, connected by the bond of causality, but are one and the same thing, though given in two entirely different ways; indeed the whole body is nothing but the objectified will, will that has become representation. . . . Therefore the parts of the body must correspond to the chief demands and desires by which the Will manifests itself; they must be the visible expression of these desires. Teeth, gullet, and intestinal canal are objectified hunger; the genitals are objectified sexual impulse; and grasping hands correspond to the more indirect strivings of the will which they represent.

Edouard Manet
Olympia (1863)
Musee d’Orsay


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