Influences: Arthur Schopenhauer

Arthur Schopenhauer (22 February 1788 – 21 September 1860) was a German philosopher best known for his work 'The World as Will and Representation'.

Overview of his Philosophy

In many ways the starting point of the Philosophy of Schopenhauer may be seen as homage to Immanuel Kant. But it is not homage without criticism. Far from it. Schopenhauer ackonowledges an enormous debt to Kant and then provides one of the greatest Philosophical critiques to be written to this date.

Immanuel Kant thought that to understand the phenomenal world was to understand the concepts we use to order our experiences. Although we can never know things in themselves, we can develop a complete understanding of phenomena. Schopenhauer disagreed with Kant. Rather than developing an understanding of the concepts we use to understand phenomena, we need to understand the way we experience the world. Conceptual analysis is beneficial, but to really understand our situation in the world, we need to understand how it is that we can experience the world at all.

Schopenhauer's ensuing attempt to explain that experience - the 'human condition' - led to significant insights into the nature of art and aesthetics as well as to a deeper understanding of human psychology. For example, Schopenhauer claimed that the body is an extension of the will, while art is a spontaneous act which cannot be linked to either the body or the intellect. The intellect allows man to suffer because it brings the suffering or pain of the world into a more vivid consciousness. Logically speaking then, the more intellectually-inclined person suffers most. Through art, Schopenhauer thought, the thinking subject could be jarred out of their limited, individual perspective to feel a sense of the universal directly—the "universal" in question, of course, was the will.

Other notable ideas pertaining to Schopenhauer's metaphysics - in respect of aesthetics - entail the notion of how art is conceived: Schopenhauer argued that art was a spontaneous, pre-determined idea which the artist has in mind before even attempting to create. Art, therefore, placed man above science and ultimately nature since it effectively goes beyond the realm of sufficient reason.

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Geoff Bunn Art & Artist

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