It seems to me Schopenhauer considered space as tool by which our mind comprehends the world. And he claims the Will is outside of space and time, my question is what does this mean?

How can something be outside of space and time and still have causal influence? And if space is just tool of our minds, how did the world look like before humans?

I don't know if I am dumb but this just doesn't make sense to me.

  • I think the will being out of space and time, means that causal influence is only one-way: ie will -> space/time and not the other way around.
    – Nikos M.
    Commented Nov 6, 2021 at 18:24
  • Will is an "abstract force" not unique to humans is Schopenhauer's idea IMO, a kind of panpsychism or rather cosmopsychism
    – Nikos M.
    Commented Nov 6, 2021 at 18:34
  • 2
    Schopenhauer was a Kantian, but not all the way. So yes, he considered space and time to be forms of our intuition, but he did not share Kant's view that we have no access to the thing-in-itself. In fact, the Will is the thing-in-itself and it is accessible to us through primal urges and the like, see SEP, The World as Will. And since it is part of experience, albeit not empirical experience, abstract categories of experience, like causality, apply to it, but empirical categories, like space and time, do not.
    – Conifold
    Commented Nov 6, 2021 at 23:06
  • How does Schopenhauer view space? After some time, from what I could gather, it doesn't matter what a cat is.
    – Hudjefa
    Commented Mar 7, 2023 at 2:41

3 Answers 3


Understanding the Kantian distinction between appearance and thing in itself is important for a grasp of Schopenhauer. There are appearances conditioned by space, time and the categories. Then there is an unconditioned thing in itself which is unknowable to us because we only know the world under the conditions of space, time and the categories. For Schopenhauer the Will is the thing in itself and also unknowable; however this Will objectifies itself in infinite ways in Nature all the time. We only know the Will in its manifestations in nature. The Will is unknowable in itself; the Will cannot be understood or known. We might even consider the Will constantly objectifying itself in nature without a purpose or goal.

  • These appearances conditioned by space and time are only in our mind or are they independently existing in the outside world?
    – ArAj
    Commented Nov 7, 2021 at 6:48
  • The Kantian answer: “…things as objects of our senses existing outside us are given, but we know nothing of what they may be in themselves, knowing only their appearances…,” Prolegomena Remark Two Part One These independently existing things are only known to us under the conditions of time, space and the categories and we can never know them without these conditions. Kant’s things in themselves are objects as they exist without the conditions of space, time and the categories But: they have a real existence in the outside world, but that existence is inaccessible to us. Commented Nov 8, 2021 at 12:57

My answer would be that Schopenhauer said that “will” is “fundamental”, rather than “natural forces” being fundamental.

He flipped the dependency around.

In other words “natural forces” are forms of “will”, rather than other philosophical systems that say that “natural forces” produce “will”.

So to answer the OP question, some forms of “will” (namely the “will” of mind/consciousness) are outside of the natural forces involved in space and time. Some forms of “will” actually are the forces that govern space and time.


How does Schopenhauer identify the Will as thing in itself? Roughly stated, Will is the fundamental tendency manifesting itself in all things in the universe. The Will is the intimate foundation, the essential driving force in the universe.

But saying all that isn’t saying exactly what this Will is. And we don’t know. But we might read it in this way: the inscrutability of this thing in itself Schopenhauer calls Will enables us to better appreciate our own ultimate ignorance of who we are, what we are, what we are on earth for. Schopenhauer’s Will eliminates and replaces any fixed definite meaning to life or any goal or purpose in life. It’s only Will that determines the direction of life and the will is impulsive, destructive and self-destructive.

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