This is my first posting, and I have no background in philosophy so I beg your indulgence if this is an unusually basic query. I was hoping for clarification of a very short passage in Schopenhauer's "On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason".
The passage is simply the two italicised sentences in the extract below. I am finding Schopenhauer to be a wonderfully clear and persuasive writer as many have said, but I am having trouble fixing exactly what he means here (the non-italicised parts on the chain of causality are fine). This is from chaper 4 (this part also classed under section 20), subtitled "First class of objects for the subject.". I have changed to bold those words that were already italicised in the text:
"...a first cause is just as inconceivable as the point at which Space ends or the moment when Time first began. For every cause is a change, which necessarily obliges us to ask for the preceding change that brought it about, and so on in infinitum, in infinitum! Even a first state of Matter, from which, as it has ceased to be, all following states could have proceeded, is inconceivable. For if this state had in itself been the cause of the following ones, they must likewise have existed from all eternity, and the actual state existing at the present moment could not have only just now come into being. If, on the other hand, that first state only began to be causal at some given period, something or other must have changed it, for its inactivity to have ceased; but then something must have occurred, some change must have taken place; and this again obliges us to ask for its cause - i.e. a change which preceded it and here we are once more on the causal ladder, up which we are whipped step by step, higher and higher, in infinitum, infinitum!"
I don't follow why the idea of a first state of matter implies all subsequent states having existed from all eternity. And supposing there had been this first state of matter, why couldn't the present moment simply be the latest in the series of changes - why could it not have only just come into being?
The section that follows "on the other hand" is totally clear, but I am not getting what the first "hand" is, as it were. Can anyone help me see how I am misreading or misconceiving this?