On Heredity  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

On Heredity is the 43d chapter in Schopenhauer's The World as Will and Representation


THE most ordinary experience teaches that in generation the combined seed of the parents not only propagates the peculiarities of the species, but also those of the individual, as far as bodily (objective, external) qualities are concerned, and this has also always been recognised

"Naturae tequitur semina quisque suce."

CATULI*

Now whether this also holds good of mental (subjective, internal) qualities, so that these also are transmitted by the parents to the children, is a question which has already often been raised, and almost always answered in the affirmative. More difficult, however, is the problem whether it is possible to distinguish what belongs to the father and what to the mother, thus what is the mental inheritance which we receive from each of our parents. If now we cast upon this problem the light of our fundamen tal knowledge that the will is the true being, the kernel, the radical element in man, and the intellect, on the other hand, is what is secondary, adventitious, the accident of that substance ; before questioning experience we will assume it as at least probable that the father, as sexus potior and the procreative principle, imparts the basis, the radical element, of the new life, thus the will, and the mother, as sexus sequior and merely conceiving principle, imparts the secondary element, the intellect ; that thus the man inherits his moral nature, his character, his inclina tions, his heart, from the father, and, on the other hand, the


ON HEREDITY. 3 ! 9

grade, quality, and tendency of his intelligence from the mother. Now this assumption actually finds its continua tion in experience ; only this cannot be decided by a physi cal experiment upon the table, but results partly from the careful and acute observation of many years, and partly from history.

One s own experience has the advantage of complete certainty and the greatest speciality, and this outweighs the disadvantage that arises from it, that its sphere is limited and its examples not generally known. There fore, primarily, I refer every one to his own experience. first of all let him consider himself, confess to himself his inclinations and passions, his characteristic errors and weaknesses, his vices, and also his excellences and virtues, if he has any. Then let him think of his father, and he cannot fail to recognise all these characteristic traits in him also. On the other hand, he will often find his mother of an entirely different character, and a moral agreement with her will very seldom occur, indeed only through the exceptional accident of a similarity of the character of the two parents. Let him make this exami nation, for example, with reference to quick temper or patience, avarice or prodigality, inclination to sensuality, or to intemperance, or to gambling, hard-heartedness or kindliness, honesty or hypocrisy, pride or condescension, courage or cowardice, peaceableness or quarrelsomeness, placability or resentfulness, &c. Then let him make the same investigation with regard to all those whose characters and whose parents he has accurately known. If he pro ceeds attentively, with correct judgment, and candidly, the confirmation of our principle will not be lacking. Thus for example, he will find the special tendency to lie, which belongs to many men, equally present in two brothers, because they have inherited it from the father ; on this account also the comedy, " The Liar and his Son," is psychologically correct. However, two inevitable limi tations must here be borne in mind, which only open


320 FOURTH BOOK. CHAPTER XLIII.

injustice could interpret as evasions. First, pater semper incertus. Only a decided physical resemblance to the father removes this limitation ; a superficial resemblance, on the other hand, is not sufficient to do so ; for there is an after-effect of earlier impregnation by virtue of which the children of the second marriage have sometimes still a slight resemblance to the first husband, and children begotten in adultery to the legitimate father. Such an after-effect has been still more distinctly observed in the case of brutes. The second limitation is, that in the son the moral character of the father certainly appears, yet under the modification which it has received through another and often very different intellect (the inheritance from the mother), and thus a correction of the observation becomes necessary. This modification may be important or trifling in proportion to that difference, but it can never be so great that the fundamental traits of the paternal character do not always appear under it recognisably enough, like a man who has disguised himself by an entirely different kind of dress, wig, and beard. For ex ample, if by inheritance from the mother a man is pre eminently endowed with reason, thus with the power of reflection and deliberation, the passions inherited from his father are partly bridled by this, partly concealed, and accordingly only attain to a methodical, systematic, or secret manifestation, and thus a very different pheno menon from that of the father, who perhaps had only a very limited mind, will then result ; and in the same way the converse case may occur. The inclinations and pas sions of the mother, on the other hand, do not reappear at all in the children, often indeed their opposite.

Historical examples have the advantage over those of pri vate life of being universally known ; but, on the other hand, they are of course impaired by the uncertainty and frequent falsification of all tradition, and especially also by the fact that as a rule they only contain the public, not the private life, and consequently only the political actions, not the


ON HEREDITY. 321

finer manifestations of character. However, I wish to support the truth we are speaking of by a few historical examples, to which those who have made a special study of history can no doubt add a far larger number of equally pertinent cases.

It is well known that P. Decius Mus sacrificed his life for his country with heroic nobleness ; for, solemnly com mitting himself and the enemy to the infernal deities, with covered face he plunged into the army of the Latins. About forty years later his son, of the same name, did exactly the same thing in the war against the Gauls (Liv. viii. 6 ; x. 28). Thus a thorough proof of the Horatian fortes creantur fortibus et lonis : the converse of which is thus given by Shakspeare

w Cowards father cowards, and base things sire base."

CYMBELINB, iv. 2.

Early Eoman history presents to us whole families whose members in long succession distinguished themselves by devoted patriotism and courage ; such were the gens Fabia and the gens Fabricia. Again, Alexander the Great was fond of power and conquest, like his father Philip. The pedigree of Nero which, with a moral intention, Suetonius (c. 4 et 5) gives at the beginning of his sketch of this monster is very well worth considering. It is the gens Claudia he describes, which flourished in Eome through

O

six centuries, and produced not only capable, but arrogant and cruel men. From it sprang Tiberius, Caligula, and finally Nero. In his grandfather, and still more strongly in his father, all those atrocious qualities show themselves, which could only attain their perfect development in Nero, partly because his higher position afforded them freer scope, partly because he had for his mother the irrational Bac chante, Agrippina, who could impart to him no intellect to bridle his passions. Quite in our sense, therefore, Suetonius relates that at his birth prcesagio fuit etiam Domitii, patris, vox, inter gratulationes amicorum, negantis, quidquam ex se VOL. III. X


322 FOURTH BOOK. CHAPTER XLIIT.

et Agrippina, nisi detestabile et malo publico nasci potuisse. On the other hand, Cimon was the son of Miltiades, and Hannibal of Hamilcar, and the Scipios make up a whole family of heroes and noble defenders of their country. But the son of Pope Alexander VI. was his hideous image, Caesar Borgia. The son of the notorious Duke of Alba was just as cruel and wicked a man as his father. The malicious and unjust Philip IV. of France, who is specially known by his cruel torture and execution of the knights templars, had for his daughter Isabella, wife of Edward II. of England, who rebelled against her husband, took him prisoner, and after he had signed his abdication, since the attempt to kill him by ill-usage was unsuccessful, caused him to be put to death in prison in a manner which is too horrible for me to care to relate. The blood thirsty tyrant and defensor fidei, Henry VIII. of England had a daughter by his first marriage, Queen Mary, equally distinguished for bigotry and cruelty, who from her numerous burnings of heretics has won the name of Bloody Mary. His daughter by his second marriage, Elizabeth, received an excellent understanding from her mother, Anne Boleyn, which prevented bigotry and curbed the parental character in her, yet did not do away with it ; so that it still always shone through on occasions, and dis tinctly appeared in her cruel treatment of Mary of Scot land. Van Geuns 1 tells a story, after Marcus Donatus, of a Scotch girl whose father had been burnt as a high way robber and a cannibal when she was only one year old. Although she was brought up among quite different people, there developed in her the same craving for human flesh, and being caught in the act of satisfying it, she was buried alive. In the Freimuthigen of the 1 3th July 1821 we read that in the department of Aube the police pursued a girl because she had murdered two children, whom she ought to have taken to the

1 " Disputatio de corporttm habitudine, animce, hvgusque virium indict." Harderov., 1789, 9.



ON HEREDITY. 3 2 3

foundling hospital, in order to keep the little money given to the children. At last the police found the girl on the road to Paris, near Eomilly, drowned, and her own father gave himself up as her murderer. Finally, let me mention a couple of cases which have occurred recently, and have therefore only the newspapers as their vouchers. In October 1836 a Count Belecznai was condemned to death in Hungary because he had murdered an official and severely wounded his own relations. His elder brother was executed earlier as a patricide, and his father also had been a murderer (Frankfurter Postzeitung of the 26th October 1836). A year later the youngest brother of this Count, in the same street where the latter had murdered the official, fired a pistol at the steward of his estates, but missed him (Frankfurter Journal, i6th Sep tember 1837). In the Frankfurter Postzeitung of the igth November 1857 a correspondent in Paris announces the condemnation to death of a very dangerous highway robber, Lemaire, and his companions, and adds: "The criminal tendency seems hereditary in his family and in those of his confederates, as several of their race have died on the scaffold." It follows from a passage in the Laws of Plato that similar cases were already known in Greece (Stol. Flor., vol. ii. p. 213). The annals of crime will certainly have many similar pedigrees to show. The tendency to suicide is specially hereditary.

On the other hand, when we see the excellent Marcus Aurelius have the wicked Commodus for a son, this does not not lead us astray ; for we know that the Diva Faus tina was a uxor in/amis. On the contrary, we mark this case in order in analogous cases to presume an analogous reason ; for example, that Domitian was the full brother of Titus I can never believe, but that Vespasian also was a deceived husband.

Now, as regards the second part of the principle set up thus the inheritance of the intellect from the mother, this enjoys a far more general acceptance than the first part,


324 FOURTH BOOK. CHAPTER XL11I.

which in itself appeals to the liberum arbitrium indif- ferentice, while its separate apprehension is opposed by the doctrine of the simplicity and indivisibility of the soul. Even the old and popular expression " mother- wit" shows the early recognition of this second truth, which depends upon the experience both with regard to small and great intellectual endowments, that they are the possession of those whose mothers proportionately distinguished themselves by their intelligence. That, on the other hand, the intellectual qualities of the father are not transmitted to the son is proved both by the fathers and the sons of men distinguished by the most eminent faculties, for, as a rule, they are quite ordinary men, with out a trace of the paternal mental gifts. But if now an isolated exception to this experience, so often confirmed, should appear ; such, for example, as is presented by Pitt and his father, Lord Chatham, we are warranted in as cribing it to accident, nay, obliged to do so, although, on account of the exceptional rarity of great talents, it ia certainly an accident of a most extraordinary kind. Here, however, the rule holds good : it is improbable that the improbable never happens. Besides, great statesmen (as was already mentioned in chapter 22) are so just as much through the qualities of their character, thus through what is inherited from the father, as through the superiority of their mind. On the other hand, among artists, poets, and philosophers, to whose works alone genius is properly ascribed, I know of no case analogous to that. Raphael s father was certainly a painter, but not a great one ; Mo zart s father, and also his son, were musicians, but not great ones. However, it is indeed wonderful that the fate which had destined a very short life to both of these men, each the greatest in his own sphere, as it were by way of com pensation, took care, by letting them be born already in their workshop, that, without suffering the loss of time in youth which for the most part occurs in the case of other men of genius, they received even from childhood, through


ON HEREDITY. 325

paternal example and instruction, the necessary introduc tion into the art to which they were exclusively destined. This secret and mysterious power which seems to guide the individual life I have made the subject of special investigations, which I have communicated in the essay, " Ueber die scheiribare Absichtlichkeit im Schicksale des Einzelnen " (Parerga, vol. i.). It is further to be observed here that there are certain scientific occupations which certainly presuppose good native faculties, yet not those which are really rare and extraordinary ; while the prin cipal requirements are zealous efforts, diligence, patience, early instruction, sustained study, and much practice. From this, and not from the inheritance of the intellect of the father, the fact is to be explained that, since the son always willingly follows the path that has been opened up by the father, and almost all businesses are hereditary in certain families, in some sciences also, which before everything demand diligence and persistence, individual families can show a succession of men of merit ; such are the Scaligers, the Bernouillis, the Cassinis, the Herschels.

The number of proofs of the actual inheritance of the intellect of the mother would be much greater than it appears if it were not that the character and disposition of the female sex is such that women rarely give public proof of their mental faculties ; and therefore these do not become historical, and thus known to posterity. Besides, on account of the weaker nature in general of the female sex, these faculties themselves can never reach the grade in them to which they may afterwards rise in the son ; thus, with reference to themselves, we have to estimate their achievements higher in this proportion. Accordingly in the first instance, only the following examples present themselves as proofs of our truth. Joseph II. was the son of Maria Theresia. Cardanus says in the third chapter, " De vita propria : " " Mater mea fuit memoria et ingenio pollens." J. J. Eousseau says in the first book of the " Confessions : " " La leaute" de ma mire, son


326 FOURTH BOOK. CHAPTER XLIII.

esprit, ses talents, die en avait de trop brillans pour son

Mat," &c., and then quotes some delightful lines of hers.

D Alembert was the illegitimate son of Claudine de

Tencin, a woman of superior mind, and the author of

several romances and similar works, which met with

great approbation in her day, and should even still be

enjoyable (see her biography in the " Matter fur littera-

rische Unterhaltung" March 1845, Nos. 71-73). That

Buffon s mother was a remarkable woman is shown by

the following passage from the " Voyage a Montbar, par

He rault de Sechelles," which Flourens quotes in his " His-

toire des travaux de Buffon" p. 288 : " Buffon avait ce

principe qu en ge ne ral les enfants tenaient de leur mere

leurs qualite s intellectuelles et morales : et lorsqu il I avait

de veloppe dans la conversation, il en faisait sur-le-champ

I application d lui-m^me, enfaisant un doge pompeux de sa

mere, qui avait en effet, beaucoup d esprit, des connaissances

e tandues, et une tSte tres Hen organised" That he includes

the moral qualities is an error which is either committed

by the reporter, or depends upon the fact that his mother

had accidentally the same character as himself and his

father. The contrary of this is shown in innumerable cases

in which the mother and the son have opposite characters.

Hence the greatest dramatists could present, in Orestes and

Hamlet, mother and son in hostile conflict, in which the

son appears as the moral representative and avenger of

his father. On the other hand, the converse case, that the

son should appear as the moral representative and avenger

of the mother against the father, would be revolting and,

at the same time, almost absurd. This depends upon the

fact that between father and son there is actual identity

of nature, which is the will, but between mother and son

there is merely identity of intellect, and even this only in

a conditioned manner. Between mother and son the

greatest moral opposition can exist, between father and

son only an intellectual opposition. From this point of

view, also, one should recognise the necessity of the Salic


ON HEREDITY. 327

law : the woman cannot carry on the race. Hume says iii his short autobiography : " Our mother was a woman of singular merit." It is said of Kant s mother in the most recent biography by F. W. Schubert : " According to the judgment of her son himself, she was a woman of great natural understanding. For that time, when there was so little opportunity for the education of girls, she was exceptionally well instructed, and she also continued later to care for her further education by herself. In the course of walks she drew the attention of her son to all kinds of natural phenomena, and tried to explain to him through them the power of God." What a remarkably able, clever, and superior woman Goethe s mother was is now universally known. How much she has been spoken of in literature ! while his father has not been spoken of at all ; Goethe himself describes him as a man of subordi nate faculties. Schiller s mother was susceptible to poetry, and made verses herself, a fragment of which will be found in his biography by Schwab. Burger, that genuine poetic genius, to whom perhaps the first place after Goethe among German poets belongs for compared with his ballads those of Schiller seem cold and laboured has given an account of his parents which for us is significant, and which his friend and physician, Althof repeats in his biography which appeared in 1798, in these words: "Burger s father was certainly provided with a variety of knowledge after the manner of study prevalent at the time, and was also a good, honourable man ; but he loved his quiet comfort and his pipe of tobacco so much, that, as my friend used to say, he had always first to pull himself together if he was going to apply himself for a quarter of an hour or so to the instruction of his son. His wife was a woman of extra ordinary mental endowments, which, however, were so little cultivated that she had scarcely learnt to write legibly. Burger thought that with proper culture his mother would have been the most famous of her sex, although he several times expressed a strong disapproval of different traits of


328 FOURTH BOOK. CHAPTER XLIII.

her moral character. However, he believed that he inherited from his mother some mental gifts, and from his father an agreement with his moral character." "Walter Scott s mother was a poetess, and was in communication with the wits of her time, as we learn from the obituary notice of Walter Scott in the Globe of 24th September 1832. That poems of hers appeared in print in 1789 I find from an article entitled " Mother- wit," in the Blatter fur littera- rische Unterhaltung of 4th October 1841, published by Brockhaus, which gives a long list of clever mothers of distinguished men, from which I shall only take two: " Bacon s mother was a distinguished linguist, wrote and translated several works, and in all of them showed learn ing, acuteness, and taste. Boerhave s mother distinguished herself through medical knowledge." On the other hand, Haller has preserved for us a strong proof of the inherit ance of the mental weakness of the mother, for he says : " E ditabus patriciis sororibus, 6b divitias maritos nactis, quum tamen fatuis essent proximce, novimus in nobilissimas gentes nunc a seculo retro ejus morbi manasse semina, ut etiam in quarta generatione, quintave, omnium posterorum aliqui fatui supersint " (Elementa physiol., Lib. xxix. 8). Also, according to Esquirol, madness is more frequently in herited from the mother than the father. If, however, it is inherited from the father, I attribute this to the dis position of the character whose influence occasions it.

It seems to follow from our principle that sons of the same mother have equal mental capacity, and if one should be highly gifted the other must be so also. Sometimes it is so. Examples of this are the Carracci, Joseph and Michael Haydn, Bernard and Andreas Romberg, George and Frederic Cuvier. I would also add the brothers Schlegel, if it were not that the younger, Friedrich, made himself unworthy of the honour of being named along with his excellent, blameless, and highly distinguished brother, August Wilhelm, by the disgraceful obscurantism which in the last quarter of his life he pursued along with Adam


ON HEREDITY. 329

Miiller. For obscurantism is a sin, possibly not against the Holy Spirit, but yet against the human spirit, which one ought therefore never to forgive, but always and everywhere implacably to remember against whoever has been guilty of it, and take every opportunity of showing contempt for him so long as he lives, nay, after he is dead. But just as often the above result does not take place ; for example, Kant s brother was quite an ordinary man. To explain this I must remind the reader of what is said in the thirty-first chapter on the physiological conditions of genius. Not only an extraordinarily developed and abso lutely correctly formed brain (the share of the mother) is required, but also a very energetic action of the heart to animate it, i.e., subjectively a passionate will, a lively temperament: this is the inheritance from the father. But this quality is at its height only during the father s strongest years ; and the mother ages still more quickly. Accordingly the highly gifted sons will, as a rule, be the eldest, begotten in the full strength of both parents ; thus Kant s brother was eleven years younger than him. Even in the case of two distinguished brothers, as a rule, the elder will be the superior. But not only the age, but every temporary ebb of the vital force or other disturbance of health in the parents at the time when the child is begotten may interfere with the part of one or other, and prevent the appearance of a man of eminent talent, which is therefore so exceedingly rare a phenomenon. It may be said, in passing, that in the case of twins the absence of all the differences just mentioned is the cause of the quasi-identity of their nature.

If single cases should be found in which a highly gifted son had a mother who was not mentally distinguished at all, this may be explained from the fact that this mother herself had a phlegmatic father, and on this ac count her more than ordinarily developed brain was not adequately excited by a corresponding energy of the circulation a necessary condition, as I have explained


330 FOURTH BOOK. CHAPTER XLIIL

above in chapter 31. Nevertheless, her highly perfected nervous and cerebral system was transmitted to the son, in whose case a father with a lively and passionate disposition and an energetic action of the heart was added, and thus the other physical condition of great mental power first appeared here. Perhaps this was Byron s case, since we nowhere find the mental advantages of his mother mentioned. The same explanation is also to be applied to the case in which the mother of a son of genius who was herself distinguished for mental gifts had a mother who was by no means clever, for the father of the latter has been a man of a phlegmatic disposition.

The inharmonious, disproportionate, ambiguous element in the character of most men might perhaps be referred to the fact that the individual has not a simple origin, but derives the will from the father and the intellect from the mother. The more heterogeneous and ill-adapted to each other the two parents were, the greater will that want of harmony, that inner variance, be. While some excel through their heart and others through their head, there are still others whose excellence lies in a certain harmony and unity of the whole nature, which arises from the fact that in them heart and head are so thoroughly adapted that they mutually support and advance each other ; which leads us to assume that the parents were peculiarly suited to each other, and agreed in an exceptional measure.

With reference to the physiological side of the theory set forth, I wish now to mention that Burdach, who erro neously assumes that the same psychical qualities may be inherited now from the father, now from the mother, yet adds (Physiologie ah Erfahrungswissenschaft, vol. i. 306) : " As a whole, the male element has more influence in determining the irritable life, and the female element, on the other hand, has more influence on the sensibility." What Linne* says in the " Systema natures," Tom. i. p. 8, is also in point here : " Mater prolifera promit, ante genera-


ON HEREDITY. 331

tionem, vivum compendium medullare novi animalis sui- que simillimi, carinam Malpighianam dictum, tanquam plumulam vegetabilium : hoc ex genitura Cor adsociat rami- ficandum in corpus. Punctum emin saliens ovi incubantis avis ostendit primum cor micans, cerebrumque cum medulla : corculum hoc, cessans a frigore, excitatur calido halitu, pre- mitque bulla aerea, sensim dilatata, liquores, secundum canales Jluxiles. Punctum vitalitatis itaque in mventibus est tanquam a prima creatione continuata medullaris vitw ramificatio, cum ovum sit gemma medullaris matris a primordio viva, licet non sua ante proprium cor paternum.

If we now connect the conviction we have gained here of the inheritance of the character from the father and the intellect from the mother with our earlier investiga-

O

tion of the wide gulf which nature has placed between man and man in a moral as in an intellectual regard, and also with our knowledge of the absolute unalterableness both of the character and of the mental faculties, we shall be led to the view that a real and thorough improve ment of the human race might be attained to not so much from without as from within, thus not so much by instruction and culture as rather upon the path of genera tion. Plato had already something of the kind in his mind when in the fifth book of his Republic he set forth his wonderful plan for increasing and improving his class of warriors. If we could castrate all scoundrels, and shut up all stupid geese in monasteries, and give persons of noble character a whole harem, and provide men, and indeed complete men, for all maidens of mind and under standing, a generation would soon arise which would produce a better age than that of Pericles. But, without entering into such Utopian plans, it might be taken into consideration that if, as, if I am not mistaken, was actually the case among certain ancient nations, castration was the severest punishment after death, the world would be delivered from whole races of scoundrels, all the more cer tainly as it is well known that most crimes are committed


332 FOURTH BOOK. CHAPTER XLI1I.

between the age of twenty and thirty. 1 In the same way, it might be considered whether, as regards results, it would not be more advantageous to give the public dowries which upon certain occasions have to be distributed, not, as is now customary, to the girls who are supposed to be the most virtuous, but to those who have most understanding and are the cleverest ; especially as it is very difficult to judge as to virtue, for, as it is said, only God sees the heart. The opportunities for displaying a noble character are rare, and a matter of chance ; besides, many a girl has a powerful support to her virtue in her plainness ; on the other hand, as regards understanding, those who them selves are gifted with it can judge with great certainty after some examination. The following is another prac tical application. In many countries, among others in South Germany, the bad custom prevails of women carry ing burdens, often very considerable, upon the head. This must act disadvantageous^ upon the brain, which must thereby gradually deteriorate in the female sex of the nation ; and since from that sex the male sex receives its brain, the whole nation becomes ever more stupid ; which in many cases is by no means necessary. Accordingly by the abolition of this custom the quantum of intelli gence in the whole nation would be increased, which would positively be the greatest increase of the national wealth.

But if now, leaving such practical applications to others, we return to our special point of view, the ethico-meta- physical standpoint since we connect the content of chapter 41 with that of the present chapter the following

1 Lichtenberg says in his rmscel- it is not propagated. Moreover, the

laneous writings (Gb ttingen, iSoi, courage ceases, and since the sexual

vol. ii. p. 447) : " In England it was passion so frequently leads to thefts,

proposed to castrate thieves. The this cause would also disappear. The

proposal is not bad : the punish- remark that women would so much

ment is very severe ; it makes per- the more eagerly restrain their hus-

sons contemptible, and yet leaves bands from stealing is roguish, for

them still fit for trail; s ; and if as things are at present they risk

stealing is hereditary, in this way losing them altogether. "


ON HEREDITY. 333

result will present itself to us, which, with all its tran scendence, has yet a direct empirical support. It is the same character, thus the same individually determined will, that lives in all the descendants of one stock, from the remote ancestor to the present representative of the family. But in each of these a different intellect is given with it, thus a different degree and a different kind of knowledge. Thus in each of these life presents itself to it from another side and in a different light : it receives a new fundamental view of it, a new instruction. It is true that, since the intellect is extinguished with the individual, that will cannot sup plement the insight of one course of life with that of another. But in consequence of each fundamentally new view of life, such as only a renewed personality can impart to it, its willing itself receives a different tendency, thus experiences a modification from it, and what is the chief concern, the will, has, in this new direction, either to assert life anew or deny it. In this way does the arrangement of nature of an ever- changing connection of a will with an intellect, which arises from the necessity of two sexes for reproduction, be come the basis of a method of salvation. For by virtue of this arrangement life unceasingly presents new sides to the will (whose image and mirror it is), turns itself about, as it were, without intermission before its sight, allows different and ever different modes of perception to try their effect upon it, so that upon each of these it must decide for asser tion or denial, both of which constantly stand open to it only that, if once denial is chosen, the whole phenomenon ceases for it with death. Now because, according to this, it is just the constant renewal and complete alteration of the intellect for the same will which, as imparting a new view of the world, holds open the path of salvation, and because the intellect comes from the mother, the profound reason may lie here on account of which all nations (with very few and doubtful exceptions) abominate and forbid the marriage of brothers and sisters, nay, even on account of which sexual love does not arise at all between brothers


334 FOURTH BOOK. CHAPTER XLIII.

and sisters, unless in very rare exceptions, which depend upon an unnatural perversity of the instinct, if not upon the fact that one of the two is illegitimate. For from a marriage of brothers and sisters nothing could proceed but constantly ever the same will with the same intellect, as both already exist united in both the parents, thus the hopeless repetition of the phenomenon which has already been.

But if now, in the particular case and close at hand, we contemplate the incredibly great and yet manifest differ ence of characters find one so good and philanthropic, another so wicked, nay, ferocious ; again, behold one just, honest, and upright, and another completely false, as a sneak, a swindler, a traitor, an incorrigible scoundrel there dis closes itself to us a chasm in our investigation, for in vain we ponder, reflecting on the origin of such a difference. Hindus and Buddhists solve the problem by saying, " It is the consequence of the deeds of the preceding courses of life." This solution is certainly the oldest, also the most comprehensible, and has come from the wisest of mankind; but it only pushes the question further back. Yet a more satisfactory answer will hardly be found. From the point of view of my whole teaching, it remains for me to say that here, where we are speaking of the will as thing in itself, the principle of sufficient reason, as merely the form of the phenomenon, is no longer applicable ; with it, how ever, all why and whence disappear. Absolute freedom just consists in this, that something is not subject at all to the principle of sufficient reason, as the principle of all necessity. Such freedom, therefore, only belongs to the thing in itself. And this is just the will. Accordingly, in its phenomenal manifestation, consequently in the Operari, it is subject to necessity ; but in the Esse, where it has determined itself as thing in itself, it is free. Whenever, therefore, we come to this, as happens here, all explana tion by means of reasons and consequents ceases, and nothing remains for us but to say that here manifests itself


ON HEREDITY. 335

the true freedom of the will, which belongs to it because it is the thing in itself, which, however, just as such, is groundless, i.e., knows no why. But on this account all understanding ceases for us here, because all our under standing depends upon the principle of sufficient reason, for it consists in the mere application of that principle.





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