Today’s contribution comes from Matthew Ray, author of Subjectivity and Irreligion (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2003), taking on the rarely mentioned Schopenhauer and his relation to speculative realism.
Matthew Ray, ‘The Terrifyingly Ancient’: Is Schopenhauer a Correlationist?
Intellect and matter are correlatives, in other words one exists only for the other, both stand and fall together
After Finitude, by Quentin Meillassoux, is a notably perspicuous work of recent French philosophy (‘Ah! The old style…’). Perhaps its most useful innovation for the historian of philosophy is primarily terminological: the introduction of the expression ‘correlationism’. The term is used, largely retrospectively, to cover a substantial part of the history of recent philosophy that sees man and world as being necessary correlates. This, then, may be the basic characterisation of correlationism: a philosophy in which man and the world depend upon one another and are, in fact, co-originary.
Meillassoux himself writes in After Finitude:
Correlationism consists in disqualifying the claim that it is possible to consider the realms of subjectivity and objectivity independently of one another. 
Although Berkeley is the most prominent name that will spring most immediately to mind (esse est percipi aut percipere being his famous dictum), Husserl and Heidegger are two of the great reference points for Meillassoux himself here. It is Kant, however, who is really the proximate source of correlationism itself, as Meillassoux’s After Finitude attempts to demonstrate, especially at the end in its summary of Kant’s correlational ‘Ptolemaism’.
The question I find worth posing here is whether a significant post-Kantian philosopher, and one, moreover, whose whole philosophy itself is significantly informed by Kantian doctrines above all others, Arthur Schopenhauer, can be adequately summarised as being such a ‘correlationist’.
My response to what is essentially a question of historical categorisation – a question that used to be framed largely under the faintly constrictive headings of rationalism and empiricism – must expressed negatively primarily because 1) of correlationism’s being characterised (in Meillassoux at least) by a strict anthropocentric bias when it comes to considering the subject and 2) Schopenhauer’s relative (relative to Heideggerean phenomenology, say) lack of an anthropocentric worldview.
Schopenhauer certainly believes that ‘world’ and ‘subject’ are indeed correlated. In this he is admittedly pretty close to correlationsim and, in particular, of course, to Kant’s own version of it. But although in some moods Schopenhauer does seem to casually presuppose it, he does not ever actually insist that the subject necessarily be a human being. On the contrary, he sometimes explicitly admits that it need not be. Although it does need to be living being, the subject could be a red kite, stonefish, cane toad or even an insect. Anything, in fact, it would seem, with eyes. In the first volume of The World as Will and Representation, Schopenhauer makes the following ‘ancestral statement’ when writes of our world:
And yet the existence of this whole world remained forever dependent on that first eye that opened, were it even that of an insect.
Fine! But where did that first eye come from?
There are clearly all sorts of very obvious problems here about what was happening before subjectivity emerged, since there could be no world supported by it (since ‘Intellect and matter are correlatives’ as he puts it).
Reading Schopenhauer’s work as a whole, one gets a vague sense that a material world is there and is building up to the creation of an eye. But there can be no matter in the world before representation. All such difficulties are summarised by Meillassoux as referring to the aforementioned ‘ancestral realm’. The key question pertaining to all talk of the ‘ancestral realm’ is, of course, this one: How are we to conceive of the empirical sciences capacity to yield knowledge of the ancestral realm?
Or, more modestly and more specifically in relation to Schopenhauer, the question is: how do we explain all our scientific knowledge of the world as it existed and developed before the ‘first eye that opened’? It seems to me that Schopenhauer has no discernable answer to the philosophical puzzle of a timeless incubation period of representation itself but he does seem to believe that living beings were produced on a pre-organic stratum in the first sentence of the second volume of The World as Will and Representation:
In endless space countless luminous spheres, round each of which some dozen smaller illuminated ones revolve, hot at the core and covered over with a cold hard crust; on this crust a mouldy film has produced living and knowing beings; this is empirical truth, the real, the world.
Admittedly, Schopenhauer does then go on to cloud this issue considerably by marking this view out as being provisional and programmatic and by rehearsing Berkeley’s argument that nothing can be perceived without a perceiver and thereby suggesting that his characterisation of what we take to be the real is naïve and pre-reflective in a way that has been philosophically revolutionised by the achievements of Descartes, Berkeleley and Kant. Nor, I should mention, does Schopenhauer clarify matters any further by his innumerable conflations of the terms ‘mind’ and ‘brain’.
But what is, in any case, obvious in the quote from The World as Will and Representation about the insect’s eye is Schopenhauer’s characteristic lack of, as opposed to Heidegger’s resolute attachment to, what some may be lured into calling the slightly maladroit term ‘specicism’. (It would be strange if Heidegger and Schopenhauer were bedfellows, given Heidegger’s snide sideswipes against Schopenhauer in, for example, the Nietzsche lectures. We must not imagine, though, that just because Heidegger disavowed Schopenhauer he did not borrow anything from him and their aesthetics, in particular, share some striking similarities.) Admittedly, in Schopenhauer’s metaphysics of the Platonic Ideas, which is a kind of weird neo-classical adjunct to his Kantian philosophy of the will as thing-in-itself, Man is the pinnacle of all the Ideas. And in his aesthetics, which is largely based upon his Platonic metaphysics (the chief exception here being music and, arguably, tragedy), the quintessentially Schopenhauerian and, in fact, ultimately classical claim is that: ‘Man is more beautiful than all other objects’. Or, as Dale Jacquette has phrased it: ‘Schopenhauer’s nineteenth century transcendental idealism confirms the ancient Greek ideal of the human form as paramount among artistic subjects.’ Or, alternatively, as Clément Rosset, has it: in Schopenhauer, humanity is a ‘privileged manifestation’.
So it would be obviously wrong to simply assert that there is no privileging of the human or ‘specicism’ at all in Schopenhauer’s philosophy. But although man may indeed be paramount among artistic subjects, he is not paramount among existence subjects, to coin an admittedly initially rather unattractive phrase. If ‘correlationism’ is, therefore, defined as the characterisation of man and world as being irreplaceably interlocked (the phenomenological fetish), Schopenhauer can justifiably be denied the label. If it is to be defined – and it hasn’t been, so far, by Meillassoux – as animal and world as being interlocked then he can justifiably be attached to it.
No object without subject. But who is the subject? The Schopenhauerian insect belongs to Meillassoux’s ancestral realm. Meillassoux: ‘I will call ancestral any reality anterior to the emergence of the human species’.
 Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation Vol. II (New York: Dover, 2004), 15.
 Quentin Meillassoux, After Finitude (London: Continuum, 2009), 5.
 This in itself appear to be a problem, since the blind can tell objects from their sense of touch alone without an eye. Indeed, the sense of touch is prioritised by all of us insofar as if we could see something but feel nothing we would take it to be mirage, whereas if we could see nothing but feel something we would take it to be an invisible object. Schopenhauer is explicit about a certain priority that may be afforded to touch: ‘Touch, however, is a thoroughly versatile, and well-informed sense. For whereas each of the other senses gives us only an entirely one sided account of the object, such as its sound or its relation to light, touch […] supplies the understanding with data regarding simultaneously the form, size, hardness, smoothness, texture, firmness, temperature and weight of bodies; and it does all this with the least possibility of illusion and deception, to which all the other senses are far more liable.’ The World as Will and Representation Vol. II, 27.
 F. Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation Vol. I,, 30. We must not suppose, however, that the world of this insect looks the same as ours: ‘the insect sees everything on its little stem and leaf with the most minute accuracy and better than we can;’ (p.146)
 Meillassoux, After Finitude, 26.
 Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation Vol. II, 3.
 See e.g. Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation Vol. II, 46.
 As I previously noted in Subjectivity and Irreligion (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2003).
 Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation I, 210. D. Jacquette, The Philosophy of Schopenhauer (Chesham: Acumen, 2005), 154.
 Clément Rosset, Schopenhauer, Philosphe de l’absurde (Paris: PUF, 1994), p.92. Contrast this with the tone of David Hume’s comment that ‘the life of a man is of no greater importance to the universe than the life of an oyster’, Selected Essays (Oxford University Press, 2008), p. 319.
 ‘We do not know of any correlation that would be given elsewhere than in human beings’, Meillassoux, After Finitude, p.11. See also p.50: ‘the correlationist cogito also institutes a certain kind of solipsism, which could be called ‘species solipsism’.’ We must not imagine, however, that all of Meillassoux’s fellow critics of correlationism will limit correlationism to the human species: I may be permitted to record here that Graham Harman explicitly does not.