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Schopenhauer’s Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art



This essay focuses on Schopenhauer’s aesthetics and philosophy of art, areas of his philosophy which have attracted the most philosophical attention in recent years. After discussing the subjective and objective aspects of aesthetic experience on his account, I shall offer interpretations of Schopenhauer’s theory of the sublime and solution to the problem of tragedy. In addition, I shall touch upon the liveliest interpretive debates concerning his aesthetic theory: the intelligibility of the “Platonic Ideas” as the objects of aesthetic experience and the very possibility of aesthetic experience within Schopenhauer’s system. Another aim of this essay is to suggest how some of Schopenhauer’s aesthetic doctrines may be interpreted in a less metaphysically extravagant way. When understood in this manner, contemporary aestheticians might be inclined to take a closer look at Schopenhauer’s aesthetic theory and philosophy of art, for it is distinctive in the tradition of Western philosophical aesthetics in its attempt to highlight and balance the hedonic and cognitive importance of aesthetic experiences; in its sensitivity both to the aesthetic experience of nature as well as of art; in the high value placed on the experience of music (a higher value than afforded by any previous aesthetic theory); and in the innovative solution to the problem of tragedy it offers.