Schopenhauer on the metaphysics of art and morality

Came, Daniel (2015) Schopenhauer on the metaphysics of art and morality. In: A companion to Schopenhauer. Blackwell Companions to Philosophy . Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 1119144809

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Schopenhauer’s accounts of art and morality emerge from his metaphysics and pessimism. In Book 1 of his main work, The World as Will and Representation, the empirical world is argued to be merely an idea or representation of the thing-in-itself, which, in Book 2, is identified as a fundamental force or energy (the will) that is generative of all things. The world of phenomena, the empirical world, appears as objectifications of the noumenal will. There are multiple grades of objectification: forces of nature, rocks, plants, animals, humans, states of consciousness, and so on. The will is “present and undivided in every object of nature and every living being”. Particular objects or individuals are “copies” of “Platonic Ideas”, the latter being models or archetypes of the plurality of particulars which populate the empirical realm. The will enters the human sphere in the form of perpetual desire. All self-conscious beings are characterized by an incessant and inherently painful willing. Willing is a sufficient condition of suffering, because all willing arises necessarily from a want or deficiency, and to experience a want is to suffer: to live is to will; to will is to suffer; therefore to live is to suffer. Indeed, nature as a whole is destructive and amoral. Echoing the idea of the fallen world, Schopenhauer exhibits a nihilistic hatred of the empirical and gives expression to a tortured yearning for metaphysical consolation. He quotes St. Paul: “the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together.”

However, for humans there are three possible avenues of release from this unhappy state. The first is through the contemplation in (good) art of the realm of Platonic Ideas, whereby we, albeit temporarily, see through the illusory realm of phenomena, lose our egoistic orientation to the world, and overcome the division between subject and object. Here Schopenhauer explicitly opposes Plato: good art does not copy particulars, it copies the universals themselves. The second is the instinct of compassion. Morality űberhaupt concerns the thing-in-itself and is thus “incomparably more important than the physical which concerns only phenomena or representations”. The moral, by contrast, discloses “the depths of our own inner nature” (WWR 2, 589). The third is the denial of the will or “resignation”, the renunciation of self and world. It is in these terms that Schopenhauer understands our “final emancipation” from the will and our “true salvation” – a condition in which we become “the very opposite of what we are” – i.e. non-will (nothing). Thus Schopenhauer finds value in modes of experience that entail the dissolution of one’s own individual subjectivity and hence release from suffering. In this paper I examine the interrelations between Schopenhauer’s accounts of these three modes of experience.

Keywords:Schopenhauer, art, morality, pessimism, metaphysics
Subjects:V Historical and Philosophical studies > V500 Philosophy
Divisions:College of Arts
ID Code:30433
Deposited On:14 Mar 2018 09:47

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