Chapter 15. "Art Transcends Suffering" by Arthur Schopenhauer

Table of Contents
Ideas of Interest from The World as Will and Idea
The Reading Selection from The World as Will and Idea
Related Ideas
Topics Worth Investigating

Arthur Schopenhauer Library of Congress

About the author …

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), born near Danzig, Poland, was reared in a merchant family. Upon the annexation of Danzig by Prussia in 1793, his family moved to Hamburg. While still young, Schopenhauer traveled extensively in Europe and lived for a short time in France and England. His father hoped he would take over the family business as an international merchant, but soon after the death of his father, he left the family business to prepare for the university. His mother, Johanna, opened an intellectual salon, and, as a well-known novelist, developed a friendship with Wolfgang von Goethe. Schopenhauer studied medicine and philosophy at Göttingen and then, after moving to Jena, became enthralled with Plato's and Kant's philosophy. His dissertation The Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason laid the foundation for his magnum opus The World as Will and Idea: a work published at the age of thirty. He tried to lecture at the same time as Hegel lectured at the University of Berlin where he criticized both J.G. Fichte's and G.W.F. Hegel's works. Nevertheless, Schopenhauer's classes were largely ignored by the enthusiastic adherents of Hegel's philosophy. Years later, however, Schopenhauer's philosophy overshadowed Hegel's in influence. Schopenhauer left Berlin and spent most of the remainder of his life in Frankfort. His writing greatly influenced the work of persons in a variety of fields: Nietzsche and Wittgenstein, Freud and Jung, Hardy and Conrad, and Wagner and Rimsky-Korsakov.

About the work …

In his The World as Will and Idea,[1] Schopenhauer argues that the reality behind the appearance of the world is an endlessly striving, irrational, and purposeless transcendent Will or energy, and we become aware of this Will directly in terms of our own volition. The fundamental basis of our world of appearance is, according to Schopenhauer, logical, causal, mathematical, and moral necessity (his fourfold "principle of sufficient reason"). The Will, as fundamental reality, manifests itself as different things according to hierarchical Platonic Forms or Ideas. Schopenhauer explains that these Ideas are recognized æsthetically. The point of life, he thinks, is to seek to overcome or deny the self, which is an instantiation of the Will, and attain compassion for all things through morality, religion, and art. When an individual's will is silenced, that individual becomes resigned, and the will to live is denied. Schopenhauer's philosophy, itself influenced by Kantian and Eastern philosophy, in turn, profoundly affected later developments in art, literature, music, and psychology.

Ideas of Interest from The World as Will and Idea

  1. What are some of the differences between science and art Schopenhauer describes?

  2. How does Schopenhauer define artistic genius? In his view, how does a genius differ from an ordinary person?

  3. What is Schopenhauer's characterization of the two aspects of æsthetic contemplation?

  4. According to Schopenhauer, how can we be freed from "slavery of the will" and attain pure contemplation?

  5. How does Schopenhauer describe the world as idea? How the loss of will is obtained?

  6. What is the distinction drawn by Schopenhauer between the sublime and the beautiful?

  7. How does Schopenhauer describe the loss of the peace of æsthetic contemplation and the experience of the sublime?

  8. In what sense does Schopenhauer argue that everything is beautiful? What does he think is the highest aim of art?

  9. What are the two kinds of æsthetic impression Schopenhauer distinguishes?



Arthur Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Idea. Translated by R. B. Haldane and John Kemp. London: Trübner. 1883. Volume I. Book III.