Schopenhauer and The Nature of Art

“Different from Plato, for whom “ideas” were by definition not visible, Schopenhauer considered art “materialized idea”: You are more or less aware that it presents the condition of life in detail. For Schopenhauer, art is not representation, pointing to something else; it is what it is, an invitation to stillness, and a meditative break where the will is quiet. We watch people die in a film and are moved, but we do not feel threatened. Still, words can interrupt this calm and connect us to the world as representation of the will, drawing us back into the misery of life. This is the reason why Schopenhauer considered music the genuine art and the sound of being. In the playing of and listening to music all our senses, including the sense of the mind, are attuned to the bad and good fortune of living, without music itself becoming a focus of attention. Art is the world mirror and its gift of “lucid stillness” (T. S. Eliot) is ephemeral but—as the Romantics emphatically stated—a way from aesthetics to ethics…..As the “materialized idea” (“anschauliche Idee”), art shows us how life is—without engaging us in its suffering. The event of art, for creator and audience alike, is the exceptional state of calmness.” –  Taken from “The Essential Schopenhauer”  [p. 15-16, 17 E-pub ed. Oct 2010 – HarperCollins e-book]  in a foreword written by Wolfgang Schirmacher.

 

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