The Thing-in-itself and the inner path

What is knowledge? It is above all else and essentially representation. What is representation? A very complicated physiological occurrence in an animal’s brain, whose result is the consciousness of a picture or image at that very spot. Obviously the relation of such a picture to something entirely different from the animal in whose brain it exists can only be a very indirect one. This is perhaps the simplest and most intelligible way of disclosing the deep gulf between the ideal and the real. This is one of the things of which, like the earth’s motion, we are not immediately aware; the ancients, therefore, did not notice it, just as they did not observe the earth’s motion. (…)
If, without questioning further, we stop altogether at the world as representation, then of course it is immaterial whether I declare objects to be representations in my head or phenomena that exhibit themselves in time and space, since time and space themselves are only in my head. In this sense, then, an identity of the ideal and the real might still be affirmed; yet since Kant, this would be to say nothing new. Moreover, the inner nature of things and of the phenomenal world would obviously not be exhausted in this way, but with it we should still always be only on the ideal side. The real side must be something toto genere different from the world as representation, namely that which things are in themselves; and it is this complete diversity between the ideal and the real that Kant has demonstrated most thoroughly. (…)
In consequence of all this, on the path of objective knowledge, thus starting from the representation, we shall never get beyond the representation, i.e., the phenomenon. We shall therefore remain at the outside of things; we shall never be able to penetrate into their inner nature, and investigate what they are in themselves, in other words, what they may be by themselves. So far I agree with Kant. But now, as the counterpoise to this truth, I have stressed that other truth that we are not merely the knowing subject, but that we our­ selves are also among those realities or entities we require to know, that we ourselves are the thing-in-itself. Consequently, a way from within stands open to us to that real inner nature of things to which we cannot-penetrate from without. It is, so to speak, a subterranean passage, a secret alliance, which, as if by treachery, places us all at once in the fortress that could not be taken by attack from without.
Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), The World as Will and Representation, Vol. II, Chapter 18

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