April 2013

On the Four Fold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason—Originally Published in 1813

Written by Rob Mason

The purpose of this short essay is to explain some of the points contained in Schopenhauer's book; The Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason. One of the book's assumptions is that the universe is an understandable place, conforming to deterministic laws and exhibiting predictable patterns and regularities. A more recent proposition of this theory is referred to as;

The Fine-Tuned Universe

which explains that Fine-tuning refers to the surprising precision of nature's physical constants. To explain the present state of the universe, even the best scientific theories require that the physical constants of nature and the beginning state of the Universe have extremely precise values.

Schopenhauer said that nothing is without a reason for its being and/or that there is always something else to which its existence can be understood and thereby 'nothing ever comes into being or ceases to be.' Causes and effects are always changes in what already exists. Hence the coming into being of a new thing is really nothing but change in what already existed,

Schopenhauer describes the Law of Causality as stipulating that for every 'change' that occurs in the phenomenal world there must have been some preceding event , that caused it to take place.

Time, Space and Causality

We are so constituted that every thing we are aware of in our sense-experience must appear to us in temporal terms, i.e. the linear progression of past, present, and future. Thus the spatio-temporal features of the world are of a subjective origin: to use an analogy it is as if we were born with an irremovable pair of spectacles upon our noses, through which every thing is seen as being ordered and arranged in a particular way.

Schopenhauer explains that each temporal instant is dependent upon its predecessor, and is in a sense implied by it—only in so far as one instant has elapsed can another come into being; in this manner succession is held to constitute the essence of time. Likewise position is central to the idea of space; to speak of the position of any thing is to indicate the relations in which it stands to other things similarly locatable in space.

Schopenhauer divides the subjects of causality into four categories (fourfold Root)

* Causal reasons for empirical objects
* Logical (propositional) inferences
* Geometrical (space and time)
* Explanations of Actions—Motives

Schopenhauer insists that causes and effects are changes or events not entities or things. The notion of a first cause is absurd, every cause necessarily presupposes a preceding cause and so on infinitely.

Schopenhauer maintains that perception permits an organism to stay alive or is fundamental to its existence by providing the capacity to 'orientate itself and interact with the surrounding environment and to assimilate things which might be useful in providing nourishment.

Schopenhauer believes that every human action is the product of two factors: motive (external object of desire or aversion) and character (the individual will of the actor). An event of being confronted with the motive, properly speaking, is the cause; the character of the actor is the force that reacts to the motive.

Life is inextricably bound up with what it lacks, this means that deficiency and want are a constitutive part of life itself.

According to Schopenhauer, we come to know ourselves just as we come to know everything else. We observe our own behaviour, and after a while we come to know our own tendencies and needs in terms of our self-organisation.

Philosopher, Richard Taylor who wrote an introduction to this early work of Schopenhauer's commented that: "Schopenhauer never abandoned the ideas in this book but simply built upon them, in the very rich and profound philosophy that he devoted the rest of his life to creating. Thus when, late in his life, a new edition of The Fourfold Root was brought out, its author added to it here and there, freely referring to other of his writingsthat were seperated from this one by decades. A reader might therefore easily get the impression that this earliest of Schopenhauer's works was one of his latest. Such consistency and singleness of purpose is not altogether common among philosophers."