According to Hume, we don't see a necessary connection between cause and effect. But I'm wondering if volition (moving our bodies) is something that is of a different character than causality we see in the outside world. (I don't recall if Hume talked about volition)

Is there a separation of cause and effect when we move our hand?

Taken from this article on Schopenhauer:


"One of his notable conclusions is that when we move our hand, this is not to be comprehended as a motivational act that first happens, and then causes the movement of our hand as an effect. He maintains that the movement of our hand is but a single act — again, like the two sides of a coin — that has a subjective feeling of willing as one of its aspects, and the movement of the hand as the other. "

What are contemporary views on the nature of volition? What do philosophers generally think of Schopenhauer's view of the inability to separate cause and effect?

  • 1
    Free-will is an area of substantial disagreements. I'd describe the compatibilist view as that causation beyond the laws of physics, are conceptual narrative overlays to make predictions tractable - eg of persons characters and motivations. These groupings are typically pictured as downwardly causative. Discussed here: 'Is the idea of a causal chain physical (or even scientific)?' philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/70930/…
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Jun 13, 2021 at 7:52

2 Answers 2


Your quoted one of Schopenhauer's notable conclusions about hand movement doesn't mean he believes we cannot separate cause and effect. In contrary, Schopenhauer believes our knowledge of causality is the exact source of the phenomenal external world according to reference here:

The difference between the approaches of Kant and Schopenhauer was this: Kant simply declared that the empirical content of perception is "given" to us from outside, an expression with which Schopenhauer often expressed his dissatisfaction. He, on the other hand, was occupied with the questions: how do we get this empirical content of perception; how is it possible to comprehend subjective sensations "limited to my skin" as the objective perception of things that lie "outside" of me?

Causality is therefore not an empirical concept drawn from objective perceptions, as Hume had maintained; instead, as Kant had said, objective perception presupposes knowledge of causality. By this intellectual operation, comprehending every effect in our sensory organs as having an external cause, the external world arises.

Schopenhauer considers what the world is beyond the aspect of it that appears to us—that is, the aspect of the world beyond representation, the world considered "in-itself" or "noumena", its inner essence. The very being in-itself of all things, Schopenhauer argues, is will (Wille). The empirical world that appears to us as representation has plurality and is ordered in a spatio-temporal framework. The world as thing in-itself must exist outside the subjective forms of space and time... Human rationality is merely a secondary phenomenon that does not distinguish humanity from the rest of nature at the fundamental, essential level. The advanced cognitive abilities of human beings, Schopenhauer argues, serve the ends of willing—an illogical, directionless, ceaseless striving that condemns the human individual to a life of suffering unredeemed by any final purpose. Schopenhauer's philosophy of the will as the essential reality behind the world as representation is often called metaphysical voluntarism.

So like medieval theological voluntarists such as Duns Scotus and William of Ockham, Schopenhauer considers Will (volition) to be the noumena outside our subjective and intellectual causal nature as the true driving force, also like the Bhakti devotion in Hinduism. And his view on volition influenced later Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, Schrödinger, Einstein, Freud and Carl Jung, etc as mentioned in the same reference.


Is there a separation of cause and effect when we move our hand?

Imagine your hand being held down by a stone and unable to move. At this point, you want to move your hand and pull it out from under the stone. Has your will been activated at this moment? But what was the result?

So will and result are definitely separated, and the activation of will does not necessarily mean that the result will occur. The occurrence of an event requires complete logical support. If the conditions are not complete, the result of

willpower will not occur. So Schopenhauer said that will is blind. If all conditions are met at any time, will can have corresponding results at any time, and it will not manifest as an illogical, directionless, and endless effort.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .