‘The Body of Sublime Knowledge: The Aesthetic Phenomenology of Arthur Schopenhauer,’ was published in the Heythrop Journal, Volume 50, Number 2, pp. 228-242 in the Spring of 2009.
The Body of Sublime Knowledge:
The Aesthetic Phenomenology of Arthur Schopenhauer
Schopenhauer has been portrayed, since the emergence of the analytic philosophies of Russell and Moore, with respect to two primary philosophical results. On the one hand, he is described as a ‘metaphysician’ of the Will. On the other hand, he is depicted as an ‘ethicist’ of the tragic self-denial of the Will. Indeed, there is much evidence for such interpretations in his magnum opus. Yet, the collateral effect of our captivation to this picture of mere philosophical results has been to render Schopenhauer’s philosophy into a closed circle or a philosophical dead-end.
Indeed, even the rare admissions of his influence upon major philosophers such as Nietzsche and Wittgenstein have been accompanied by a decided suppression of any consideration of the philosophical context of Schopenhauer’s original questioning and of the specific meaning of ‘metaphysics’ amid his post-Kantian horizons. Until the last decade or so, the usual attitude to the philosophy of Schopenhauer has been dominated by the prejudicial legacy of the logical positivists – and other anti-metaphysicians – with their respective dismissals of ‘metaphysical’ philosophies. For these iconoclasts, the philosophy of Schopenhauer is a contradictory, idiosyncratic – but above all metaphysical – teaching which sought, due to its own weakness or obscurity (or, Orientalism), to escape from the facticity of existence. Of course, Nietzsche could be blamed for some aspects of this picture of Schopenhauer.
Yet, while we will see below that Nietzsche’s criticisms may have their merit, the character of his criticisms is quite distinct from that of the positivists. Indeed, I will explore the depth of the philosophy of Schopenhauer that exceeds the merely anti-metaphysical critiques, especially in light of his overt animosity to idealistic interpretations of Kantian philosophy and the Absolute idealism of Hegel, both dominant in the Academy of his day. To simply brand him a ‘metaphysician’ without any specification of the philosophical context simply obscures that which is critical for an understanding of his philosophy. Schopenhauer does not, as with Kant’s description of the ‘rationalists’, simply play amongst the plethora of mere concepts, nor, does he descend into the passive state of pre-critical ‘empiricism’. On the contrary, as a ‘good’, though dissident, post-Kantian, he remains a transcendental philosopher, but, one honest enough to enact a radical phenomenology – his own hermeneutics of existence. He not only acknowledges our finite predicament, but also discloses phenomenologies of pain, pleasure, laughter and weeping, etc. (not to mention, for the moment, those of beauty and the sublime). In this light, my emphasis will be upon his methodology of contemplation, from which these philosophical results arose in the first place.
We will find in Schopenhauer’s contemplations upon the body, nature and art, an aesthetic phenomenology, one far removed from that of either Husserl or Nietzsche.
Across the following pages, I will lay out a reading of The World, beginning at the end, with Book Four, in an exploration of the methodological topos of Schopenhauer’s magnum opus. Against the backdrop of his ultimate vision of futility, we will turn to each of the books along a pathway of discovery, universalisation, idealisation, and finally, denial of the Will. I will close with a consideration of Nietzsche’s subversion of Schopenhauer’s denial of the Will with his own Dionysian affirmation of Fate. I will seek to disclose Nietzsche’s criticism of a higher contradiction in Schopenhauer’s philosophy, one concerned not, as with the positivists, with his use of ‘metaphysical’ techniques and language, but instead, with the contention that Schopenhauer had failed to live up to his own ‘discovery’ of the tragic sublime.
Before we plunge into the pessimism of Book Four of The World, I would like to make a comment on the organisational structure of the World as Will and Representation. This comment will serve to elucidate my decision to begin with a reading of Book Four. In this way, to put it figuratively, The World will be regarded as being written in a circle or a spiral whose ends join. Or, in other words, I am reading Schopenhauer backward and forwards in a way that is attuned with the hermeneutics of Reiner Schürmann in his Heidegger on Being and Acting: From Principles to Anarchy. It could be suggested that the very thought that Schopenhauer is attempting to convey, his single thought, and the structure of his text have an analogous relationship to that of the singular Will and the Democritean nexus of manifestations, representations under the sway of the principle of sufficient reason.
It is significant that the World is itself a representation and exposes its own temporality in the structure of its narrative. Of course, this could be said of any work, but such a reflection evokes special resonance for The World in its own self-consciousness of the necessarily futile attempt to disclose the truth of a singular Will by means of ‘our way of speaking’ (by the Principle), as Plotinus lamented in his Letter to Flaccus. Moreover, despite the fact that there are four clear divisions to the work, it is certain that there is a cumulative sense to his work, especially evident in Book Four, a book throughwhich Schopenhauer, as Levinas echoes, set ‘ethics’ off as distinct from the first three as it concerns a ‘first’ philosophy which erupts amid an existential topos. It is here that the lessons we have learned from the previous books become re-situated in the elucidation of the single thought. This point intimates the necessity of making a departure from Book Four in my own reading since this book most fully approximates the ‘unity’ of the single thought in the lifeworld, to borrow an expression from Husserl. It is this ‘unity’ of the thought which also necessitates that we read Book Four before a re-consideration of the labyrinth of empirical representation in Book One, or, of the principle of sufficient reason, in its four divisions, set out in the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason. For although it is indeed necessary to have read the Fourfold Root before a first proper reading of The World, the former work remains under the sway of the principle of sufficient reason, as for instance, even in its consideration of the will still in terms of motivation. In this light, my focus will be to disclose the philosophical decisions and methods by which Schopenhauer transcends the principle of sufficient reason in his aesthetic phenomenology of the will.
A merely linear, diachronic reading, while necessary in the first instance, will not allow for an adequate understanding of these decisions, especially with respect to, for example, the assertion in Book Three of the liberating character of a pure will-less subject, or, of losing oneself in the pure aesthetic contemplation of nature and art, and, the simultaneous revelation of the Platonic Ideas. And, while the single thought is implicit throughout the book – or, as with the ‘metaphysician’ Leibniz, ‘everything is in everything’ – the first two books of the World, if considered in isolation from the remainder of the work (not to mention Volume Two of the World) appear to have the character of an abstract metaphysical dualism, that between representation and will, outer and inner. It is in Book Three and Four that this appearance of dualism is explicitly shattered as we begin to understand not only the method by which knowledge and Ideas first emerge, but also fathom the context from which such will-less-ness becomes valorised by Schopenhauer. At the same time, however, his deconstruction of the ‘circle of consciousness’ has its own significance only in the context of the eventual decision for the denial of the Will. In this way, from a methodological starting point, as with Heidegger’s Being and Time, that which comes later in terms of the narrative, is, from a philosophical perspective, that which comes before, and which must be presupposed as the condition of possibility for the initial, provisional expressions. In this way, it is necessary for the reader to ‘keep in mind’ the proposed singularity of the thought so as not to get lost in the labyrinth of representations, which, in this instance, is the phenomenon of the World in its four divisions. I am, of course, not seeking to subject the reader or listener to painful feats of hermeneutical gymnastics, but am attempting to set forth the context of significance, a topos amid which the initial terminologies and philosophical decisions may gain an orientational horizon of meaning. Such a reading will hopefully avoid misunderstandings, and can hope to facilitate a more fertile reading of Schopenhauer.
The Eternal Surface of the Labyrinth (Tragic Existence in Book Four of the World)
Everyone will be familiar with the following narrative of tragic pessimism. Indeed, this narrative has come to define the philosophy of Schopenhauer. Life is futile, tragic and, indeed, comedic, he declares in The World. Everything is deception, delusion, ridicule and mask. Pleasure, though a perceptible phenomenon, is merely the removal of pain amid a suffering disclosed by myriad pains and their eternal recurrence.
Schopenhauer seeks to disclose this expressive/interpretive struggle as the discordant music at the heart of the world. Amid the radical temporality of existence, each of us is merely a ‘vanishing’, a fleeting moment out-flashing from the striving of a blind, purposeless Will. We erupt from out of this vortex, we come into ‘form’, manifest, only to be annihilated in death – which is the re-assertion of the ultimacy of the Will. As we will see, he is quick to remind us that the individual is not what we are. Existence is a phenomenal objectification of the Will, and each of us is subject to the overwhelming desires of the Will. We are Will deluded, thrown, disciplined by the Veil of Maya. Death is really nothing. We hold up in our many individualities, subject to the insatiable appetites of the Will, seeking to satisfy, quench, these proliferating desires. Every satisfaction is merely the temporary removal, a ‘little death’, as Bataille intimated, which is, at its heart, an insatiable desire that incessantly re-emerges in countless differing ‘forms’.
Even if desire reaches its target, before long, another desire craves fulfilment in its wake. We fight, compete, struggle, each with the other in a self-destroying/self-creating effervescence of Will. Yet, we are as bubbles which pop upon the surface of a raging ocean. Existence is a war between various assertions of the Will fighting among [themselves], as It tears at its own flesh. We are incarcerated in the excession of the Will through the ceaselessly repeated ritualisations of our own individuation. Schopenhauer leaves us with these naked words: This is our situation until we die, and then, there is nothing – but Will. Suicide is also deemed futile as that which is killed off is merely the mask, the makeshift dwelling that shelters the Will for the time being. As Sartre would later dramatise, there is ‘no exit.’
If our existence is indeed such a self-contradictory system of insatiable needs, (and hence, a system of suffering, an impossible system), then for Schopenhauer, existence, as the life or flux of the Will, is essentially futile and should be denied. At the same time, however, as long as we live, there is no escape from the facticity of primordial restlessness, from this drive. This Sisyphian ‘result’, one which longs for silence, will serve the background sense, or pre-understanding, for our reading, a sense which will allow us to understand not only the ways and means of the narrative pathway, but also the specific decisions made along the way, especially in regards to the valuations of the phenomena which are encountered. We will thus turn from the end to the beginning of The World so as to begin our attempt to uncover the method of Schopenhauer.
The World as Will and Representation
World as Representation (First Aspect)
As we embark upon a path of retrieving the questioning of Schopenhauer, to attempt to think his ‘single thought’, we are immediately engulfed by the propositions of his text and its poetic logic. We orient ourselves amid a narrative multiplicity that tells the story of that which is paradoxically singular and timeless. Even though we may eventually fathom our emergence from Will, we are, in the first instance, as we will understand later, operating within the regime of the Principle of Sufficient Reason (hereafter, the Principle) and its nexus of relations which remain only upon the surface.
Continuing from his earlier study of the Principle in The Fourfold Root, the ‘prior’ of the ‘first aspect’ of The World, is, for Schopenhauer, as with the Kantian tradition per se, the universal form of representation, that of the necessary relationship between the subject and object. The object is there for the subject and cannot exist without it as its ground. The subject is never an object, but is itself outside all temporal ‘objectivity’. This is the ‘first’, the true subject, outside of the labyrinth of representation. But, we cannot know this in the first instance. We are inscribed within the domain of space-time and causality – abiding the individuality of the Principle (and, in the first instance, we cannot know this either), in its divisions of Being, Becoming, Ground and Will (in the sense of motivation). In this domain, we are always only projections of surface, and all accounts which rely on the Principle, such as causal explanations, or aetiology, and thus, of science as such, must remain only upon the surface. We excavate to deeper, hidden levels, but, still, remain only upon another surface, detached from the inner truth of existence, and indeed, with Kant, we grow to become sceptical of any possible knowledge (although not a thinking) of such an inner truth. Indeed, it is this experience of exteriority, incarceration to merely the surface of existence, to the pure gaze, which provokes the question of interiority, of the inner truth of existence. For, if all were merely surface, if everything, including my own self, was merely a representation, a detached surface for a gaze, there would have been no quarter given to any question of the inner truth of existence, or, even of that of the ‘I’. In fact, I would not even apprehend my ‘subjectivity’ or ‘body’ at all as abstract concepts or expressions of existence. Yet, since I am, there must already be an elsewhere, a transcendence, that is, simultaneously, here.
Indeed, there is, for Schopenhauer, something in the world that has a unique status with respect to the representations of phenomenal/noumenal existence. This is, after all, my own body. Of course, this too, in its first aspect, is merely representation, just like any object for a subject, any empirical representation. Yet, as we will see in the next section, there is another knowing associated with the body, one which exposes the limitation of the Principle in its claim to exhaust philosophical truth. Yet, it could be argued that we must already have known about such a departure from the labyrinth of representation to ever have regarded it as a labyrinth at all. It is our transcendence from the embedded-ness of brute facticity which has already allowed us the means to describe our situation and to intimate the ground of transcendence in that which is beyond the Principle. We would have never been able to formulate such a principle at all if we had not had the experience already of the beyond, which in this case is the inside, the inner truth of the world. We will thus turn to Book Two, so as to explore Schopenhauer’s solution to the ‘riddle of existence’ in the body, the immediate object of the Will. We will find however that these answers provoke much deeper and still more profound questions.
Riddle of the Inside: The Body as the Topos of Will
World as Will (First Aspect)
That which for Schopenhauer is unique for each self amongst the plethora of things in the world is its own body. We may embrace the other, caress her, but, except perhaps for the intimacy of eroticism (as Bataille muses), or, of laughter or sorrow, we do not, from the perspective of exteriority, feel, know her inner truth, we do not know what she knows, feel what she feels. Amid the regime of individuality, we are not her, though this judgement never seems to satisfy. We grasp her, but within the horizons of the Principle. We remain still only upon the surface. Even everyday communication, from this perspective of the gaze, is still only another mirror, another surface. At the same time, we do experience the intimate states of our own bodies, or, more appropriately, my body. In this way, one can disclose a sense of the inner truth of existence as my disposition and my feeling. We are initiated into the secret cult of our own selves that abides behind the mask of the body amid its dissimulations and postures. It is these feelings of the body, of the inside, that intimate the inner truth of existence. And, moreover, we have the distinct sense that others abide this secret as well.
Contrary to the German Idealist attempts to transcend the critical limits of knowledge via an intellectual intuition, it is, for Schopenhauer, in the experience of intense pleasure and/or pain that something different emerges amidst the labyrinth of the gaze, something that disrupts the look, breaks open another dimension of existence – another truth is heard through the cracks of the sound-proof mirror of representation. Amid this bodily phenomenology of pleasure and pain, Schopenhauer asserts that the Will itself is stirred, provoked, aroused, and summoned to reveal itself as the inner truth and being of existence. It sends out its shock waves through the bodies of the ones who have incited it. In this way, the body as the immediate object of the will, unfolds the topos of the Will, its place of discovery as the inner truth of the world. In this light, we may begin to first trace the link between the individual will amid its body with the Will as the primordial truth of the All.
Amid this topos of existence, Schopenhauer surmises, in the first instance, that it is through reflection and inference, the will of the self can be universalised into the Will of each and All. Yet, such a universalisation of the Will through mere reflection seems to remain at the level of the surface. This repetition of the surface, as the universal Will, calls for a deeper experience of ‘unity’ which transcends a mere theoretical dualism of representation and a Will, regarded merely as an ‘object’. The feeling or practical experience of the originary unity of inner experience (Bataille) and the Will arises from the pragmatic event of de-individualisation in a phenomenology of desire, of giving oneself up to the Will (just as we will give ourselves up to the beautiful and sublime in aesthetic contemplation) – of feeling oneself to be an event in the life of the Will. In a rejection of the ‘idealism’ of Kant’s treatment of the will in the Second Critique, it is through the inner experience of willing, amid the body, that reflection is able to conceive, in the first instance, of the passage from the specific will that I feel in myself and the Will as the inner truth of all phenomena. In this way, the discovery of the will can thus be regarded in two ways – as a representation, communicated in language and gesture, and as will in the sense of the practical experience of the body of the self and its experience of willing existence. In this way, beyond and before the merely reflective universalisation of the will, there lies a practical, existential topos, an ontological rooting of the individual will in the Will itself.
In the wake of this rooting, Schopenhauer postulates what we will designate, for our purposes, as a noumenology of the Will. In this context, and this is where our reading of Book Four can be most illuminating, the blind striving of the will, throughout its excessive longings becomes multiplied and distributed within the domain of the Principle – indeed, it becomes a hydra at war with itself. The will to live, or more properly the will-to-phenomenality is expressed as the various gradations of Will in its struggle amongst the myriad networks of the singular Will. This struggle occurs even prior to the entrance into the domain of the Principle, as a clash for manifest-ness per se. The struggle for presence/power reveals an internal antagonism of the Will with itself, as it exists in contradiction with itself (bellum omnium contra omnes, as he refers to the perceptive Hobbes). In its struggle for self-expression and self-knowing, the Will becomes distributed via the Principle into momentary sites amid a mathesis of order (principle of individuation). But, it is not tamed by this sublimation.
The antagonism, in its initial captivity to individuation, manifests itself as the struggle of the ego against any resistance and is facilitated by the presumption that everything and everyone else, for the ego, is only ‘there’ as representation, indirectly. In a critical allusion to the ‘egoism’ of Fichte, Schopenhauer contends that the individual regards itself as the seat of the knowing subject, whose representation the phenomenal world is. The ‘ego’ asserts that all representation is, in this way, dependent upon its own be-ing and its own acts of consciousness. And, this knowledge is regarded as immediate and certain to the ego through the direct experience of the will and of consciousness (given by Nature herself). In this way, despite the radical finitude of each existent, Schopenhauer insists that the ego remains deluded, presuming itself to be the centre of the world and would ‘annihilate the world, in order to maintain his own self, that drop in the ocean, a little longer.’ There is thus a tragic paradox expressed here: at once the ego as the seat of the individual will supposes itself to be the centre of all things. Yet, its “will-to-power” gives, expresses and fans the flames of the inner antagonism of the Will itself, threatening all things as its mere expressions.
In this context, it is not sufficient to speak only of representations, of bodies, individual will, the Universalisation of the will and the objectifications of the Will. This gives us merely a ‘metaphysics’ of the Principle, one bound to and powered by the blind striving of the Will, conceived as the ‘outside’ (much like Kant’s description of the noumena as the raging sea around his safe island, or Wittgenstein’s mystical at the limits of the Welt).
For Schopenhauer, this depiction is inadequate in that it not only fails to acknowledge the pragmatic experience of the non-rational depth of human existence, but furthermore remains mute with respect to the other knowing, beyond the Principle, of the adequate objectivities of the will, the so-called Platonic Ideas, and, of Music as the direct representation of the Will, not to mention the be-ing of the Will itself. In this light, I will turn to an exploration of his aesthetic phenomenology so as to disclose these depths.
Aesthetic Phenomenology: Contemplation, Art, and Ideas
World as Representation (Second Aspect)
An aesthetic phenomenology is one that concerns ‘representations’, and thus a typology of knowing, which are not determined by the Principle. And, this indication is not to an aesthetic of space and time, but toward a phenomenological aesthetics of human existence. The basic comportment and expression of such a phenomenology is a transcendence of the Will through aesthetic contemplation – as an ‘aesthetic method of consideration’, which, Schopenhauer describes in this extended reflection:
In the aesthetic method of consideration we found two inseparable constituent parts: namely, knowledge of the object not as an individual thing, but as Platonic Idea, in other words, as persistent form of this whole species of things; and the self-consciousness of the knower, not as individual, but as pure, will-less subject of knowledge. The condition under which the two constituent parts appear always united was the abandonment of the method of knowledge that is bound to the principle of sufficient reason, a knowledge that, on the contrary, is the only appropriate kind for serving the will and also of science.
Contemplation (and other methods) is the gateway through which we can exit the confines of individuality, of the Principle, and of the ‘noise’ of the strivings of the Will itself. It is through our contemplation of Art that Ideas erupt and alight into our awareness. Yet, the Cartesian picture that regard Ideas as ‘things’ which somehow emerge into our subjective, egoist ‘minds’, fails to comprehend the significance of Ideas and the topos of their emergence. Ideas do not come to us, as we delusory assume in analogy to ‘our own’ concepts of understanding in the will-to-live. Instead, we go, are thrown, to them, to the things themselves and this is where we begin to gain a sense of the meaning of the denial of the Will and how Schopenhauer’s ethical judgment has already and originally shaped this site of decision. It is through the loss of the individual will that we truly begin to fathom the Will itself through a phenomenology of its deeper manifestations in Art and Music, but this is only an expression that has been sublimated through the quieting or suppression of the individual will and thus of the Will itself.
Ideas are the adequate objectivities of the Will (as distinct from gradations of the objectifications of the Will which we saw in the last section). As with the Will itself, beyond the jurisdiction of the Principle, each retains only the universal form of representation, that of an object for a subject. These are themselves distinct as they are expressions of the primordial strife at the heart of the Will, a strife which in turn grounds the Principle (without itself being aware of this unconscious a priori, first intimated by Schelling).
The pathway of this aesthetic phenomenology begins with the moment of ‘pure contemplation’, an event of forgetting all individuality, one which allows us to breach the walls not only of the principle of individuation, or the individual will amidst the site of the Principle. Indeed, it is a forgetting of the Will itself, a quieting of its state of suffering amid the silent open-ness of contemplation, one that is always associated with the perceptive body in one of its myriad ‘forms’.
Such a pathway begins with what Schopenhauer designates as the ‘genius’, a being of powerful imagination and openness, who, amid his own aesthetic contemplations, becomes aware of himself as a pure will-less subject of knowing. Schopenhauer describes such genius:
Now according to our explanation, genius consists in the ability to know, independently of the principle of sufficient reason, not individual things… but the Ideas of such things, and in the ability to be, in face of these, the correlative of the Idea… no longer individual, but pure subject of knowing.
The disclosure of the Ideas (as distinct from the concepts of understanding or the reflections of reason) occurs through the contemplation of beauty and the sublime (the latter as explicitly related to the body, which is, as we have seen, the immediate object of the Will). Contemplation is the falling away of individuality, and, for Schopenhauer, cannot be taught through the procedures of the Principle, just as morality cannot be taught via commandments, catechisms and ethical codes. Instead, such a contemplation is seduced by the beautiful and the sublime in their own specific ways. It is the openness to such seduction that is the measure of genius.
As he narrates, while the Artist displays the Ideas in concreta, having access to them through the expression of his own character, it is the philosopher who contemplates the work of art so as to disclose individuality in the sphere of representation as merely the expression of the Ideas through the prism of the Principle. In this way, for the aesthetic phenomenologist, alongside or behind the Principle, there are also the Ideas, intimated through the cracks in the phenomenon. This is a form of knowledge outside not only the jurisdiction of the Principle, but also, of the Will itself – at least from a phenomenological perspective, for ontologically, this individual and his moments of pure will-lessness, as he is embodied, must, tragically, come crashing down, returning again to the Will. In this way, contemplation intimates death, an anticipated, dramatised death, perhaps, in its noumenological explorations of the destruction of individuality (Dionysus), conceived, for Schopenhauer, as a return to the pure subject as the unknown knower (Upanishads). The achievement of this pure will-less subject, as the destruction of individuality, transforms the character of the a priori – it is beyond space-time and causality (Principle of Sufficient Reason). In this way, the object reveals itself anew as Idea (still as perception, as eidos), but as a non-rational representation, or, the adequate objectivity of the will, disclosed through the contemplations of beauty and the sublime.
As we have seen, it is the genius who is distinguished in that she can see the thing in itself as Idea, outside the Principle, and she knows herself as a pure subject of knowing. Normally, the will serves the individual directly, or better, the individual serves the will, in a futile attempt to satisfy its desires. Yet, the individual remains locked inside this modulating nexus of relations, unable to know itself as the pure subject which underlies All, and not knowing the objects, representations, as in truth, Ideas, which have become entrapped within the principle of individuation. It is the ‘genius’ – and this can be anyone (to varying degrees) – who enters into a contemplation of existence, in the first instance, through the beautiful. Amidst the event of contemplation, one is delivered from ‘knowledge in service of the will’, one forgets ‘oneself as an individual’ – one comes to know oneself as the pure subject of knowing. To this subjective aspect of contemplation, there is the objective aspect of the Idea. Schopenhauer remarks that the state of pure perception is facilitated by objects which by their ‘manifold’ and ‘strict form’ become representatives of the Ideas, as in the case of natural beauty. This is the case with the beautiful, which as a quieting of the will, is disclosed in the beholding of the beautiful object as Idea. The beautiful affects us, Schopenhauer contends, in a type of natural or artistic experience, in which Ideas ‘readily speak to us’ and invite us to aesthetic contemplation wherein is born the self-awareness of the pure subject of knowing and the true objectivity of the Ideas.
To a significant extent, the beautiful allows for a transition to the topos of aesthetic contemplation and the realisation of pure subjectivity and objectivity, but to a great extent, merely as a superficial phenomenology. Indeed, we have lost ourselves so fully in the beautiful object, that we have forgotten our very existence, lost in the shining objectivity of the Idea. We forget the facticity of our own embodiment. In this way, a phenomenology which merely considers the clarity and distinctness of beauty will forget existence and its radical temporality or finitude. It would, moreover, overlook the very event by which the subject of knowing becomes constituted as the condition for the nexus of representations. But, it is the sublime which allows us to open these doors.
Schopenhauer contends the sublime remains wholly dependent upon the subjective aspect of contemplation, and is indeed a ‘modification of it’. Of course, to be sure, this is the pure subjectivity and objectivity that is outside the Principle. In distinction to the beautiful which easily invites, transports us away, even to a forgetfulness of our own finite existence, the sublime is the intimation of that which is threatening and terrible in nature and art, of that which is hostile to the ‘human will in general, as manifested in its objectivity, the human body.’ Moreover, in light of the inexorability of annihilation, of death, associated with the body, and, of the re-awakening of the Will amidst this contemplation, Schopenhauer contends that the protracted war of the sublime is the place for a hermeneutics of existence.
Nevertheless, the beholder may not direct his attention to this relation to his will which is so pressing and hostile, but although he perceives and acknowledges it, he may consciously turn away from it, forcibly tear himself from his will and its relations, and giving himself up entirely to knowledge, may quietly contemplate, as pure will-less subject of knowing, those very objects so terrible to his will.
In this event, in distinction to the bodiless feeling of beauty, the sublime is a state of exaltation which is almost a dare – in the remembrance and dread recognition of the threat to oneself, the body becomes a symbol of death. One holds off the individual will and the interests of the body, but remains consciously linked to it and its existence. Amid this suspension, the terrible becomes susceptible of contemplation, even if such a topos of thought will only be makeshift.
In that the beautiful reveals the pure subject of knowing and the Idea, the Will is forgotten as is its immediate object, the body. Such a forgetfulness is not possible for the sublime, as it obtains its pure state of knowing by a ‘conscious and violent tearing away’ from the terrible in a transcendence of the hegemony of individuation. That which is distinct in his phenomenology of the sublime, from that of the beautiful, and the phenomenological ‘science’ of Husserl, is that this pure knowledge is not only attained as a decision, and act, but one that is ‘accompanied by a constant recollection of the will, yet not of a single individual willing, such as fear or desire, but of human willing in general, in so far as it is expressed universally through its objectivity, the human body.’ Schopenhauer suggests this state of holding at bay the interests of the human body, as such, in the face of the threatening, may become undermined if one is invaded by the terrible in a specific affliction, such as anxiety. Yet, he undertakes to show how the sublime severs itself from the beautiful in the awakening to the terrible even in the beautiful itself, and of the experience of the ugly, absurd or ridiculous. He slides down a path which is increasingly poetic, but each description of the sublime event, as he moves along the path, leads ever inward to the nullity of existence. From boredom, the tragic character of the desert, to the utter tempestuous chaos of nature in its most extreme out-flashings, we are forced to realise our helpless and vanishing state, as he contends in Book Four. Yet, it is in the sublime, amid the utter threatening, as Kant himself had done in the Critique of Judgement, that Schopenhauer discloses, though in a differing way, the grounding event of the world. He writes:
But against such a ghost of our own nothingness, against such a lying impossibility, there arises the immediate consciousness that all these worlds exist only in our representation, only as modifications of the eternal subject of pure knowing. This we find ourselves to be, as soon as we forget individuality; it is the necessary, conditional supporter of all worlds and all periods of time.
In this way, the pure will-less subject is revealed as the ‘conditional supporter’ of worlds, which are conceived as its ‘representations’. This testifies to an awakening amid the terrible achieved through a ‘free, conscious exaltation above the will’, for contemplation is only possible if we turn away from the Will. The latter has a ‘hostile relation’ with contemplation and would ‘do away’ with it ‘if we gave ourselves up to it.’ Yet, unlike Kant, Schopenhauer acknowledges the conditionality of the subject and the persitence of the objectivity of the Will as the inner truth of these ‘representations’ of the subject (as embodiement). It is this lingering facticity that distinguishes Schopenhauer from Kant (and Husserl), as he is viscerally aware that this freedom exists only in a makeshift defiance of the thinker vis-a-vis the Will. In this way, his interpretation of the sublime can be distinguished from that of Kant, who, with his martial allegory, contends that not only does the imagination fail in its confrontation with the sublime, but also that reason unambiguously subjects the sublime to the status of merely one of its own representations. For Schopenhauer, despite the illusions of the beautiful, and the disclosure of a pure subject of knowing, we may never achieve unconditional autonomy from the Will, and thus, the meaning of freedom must be re-articulated from within the horizons of the striving and defiance of finite existence.
This defiance is another piece in the network of resistance, and will be disclosed through an exploration of specific instances of art, architecture, painting, tragic poetry, the highest form of poetry, drama, and epic poetry. And, at the apex of human defiance, there is Music which is unique as it is, for Schopenhauer, the highest form of aesthetic expression. While the lower forms of art express the truth of the Ideas, or are instantiations of the Ideas (‘copies’, if you will), it is music which for Schopenhauer is the direct representation of the Will itself. Music transcends the world as representation in both of its aspects, of the Platonic Ideas and the representations of mere phenomena. It is the universal language.
Each of these arts, and many others, are, for Schopenhauer, methods and topoi of a higher, non-scientific philosophy, described as a hermeneutics of existence, and is the meaning of his aesthetic phenomenology. But, as we will consider in the next section, it is his ethical and aesthetic judgements against the futility of life which give to these various arts of defiance their value and meaning, as they intimate a resistance to the oblivion of the Will.
Nietzsche and Schopenhauer: A Critique of Pure Silence
World as Will (Second Aspect)
Returning to Schopenhauer’s moral judgment against existence, and his advocacy of a quieting of the Will, we have ascertained that he regards disinterestedness, will-less-ness as the criteria of art and ethics. Moreover, despite his disclosure of the aesthetic dimension of the sublime, in which such unambiguous will-less-ness is deemed impossible, he articulates a moral judgment against the ‘world’ and calls on us to silence the will. His lament, his honest denunciation of life as deception, his declaration that pleasure is only a temporary, illusory release, expresses an ontology and ethics of suffering, of nihilism, which, for Nietzsche and Bataille, is merely an attempt to escape from the abyss of desire and voluptuousness.
While it is clear from a reading of Book Four that Schopenhauer is not disclosing a purely negative philosophy of the Will, it is also certain that his ultimate ethical decision upon life is negative. He acknowledges that there exists an affirmation of the Will, in the senses of the Will in the body and the will-to-live in sexual reproduction, yet, he subverts his ‘discovery’ through an objection to the insidious ‘results’ of such an affirmation. On the one hand, the will to live, a situation of limit, is the place where the Idea of the species itself becomes manifest, as the begetter is the same as the begotten in essence (as our salvation). In this context, he even contends that the primary object of the will is the genitals (as the object of knowledge is the brain). On the other hand, however, he immediately connects this will to life with its opposite, to that of death in examples from the religious myths of Adam, Proserpine and Shiva (which is also significant for Bataille). In this way, the relationship between sexual procreation and death becomes manifest, and thus, the negativity of life, as the guilt of finitude is projected onto successive generations as the casting of innumerable individuals into the jaws of pain, suffering and death (and thus, for Schopenhauer, the shame of erotic life and his misogyny). In this light, Schopenhauer sets forth a nihilistic pessimism which, while it acknowledges the actuality of life in its willing being, denies to this life any possibility of self-fulfilment and self-knowing, and thus, of an affirmation of its enigmatic predicament. Such is a philosophy whose purpose is a preparation for death.
Nietzsche’s tragic pessimism, on the contrary, is an affirmation of tragic fate even as early as The Birth of Tragedy from out of the Spirit of Music and continues throughout his subsequent works, in his joy at the rending of the dread curtain in Beyond Good and Evil, or the volcanic ‘will to power’ and the enigmatic ‘Vision and the Riddle’ of Thus Spoke Zarathustra. For Nietzsche, Schopenhauer’s resignation lies in his severance of the Ideas from the domain of Life (which has been incarcerated under the strictures of the Principle), and thus, of his failure to affirm the Will in its naked musicality. The former stands in awe of the overwhelming juxtaposition of the ideal in its pathos from the myriad perspectives of existence – and, of the impossibility of integration and fulfilment. But, that would be the best reading. If the Ideas are instead tables of values, in the sense of Thus Spoke Zarathustra, adjacent to concepts, or worn out metaphors, and if both of these species of representations stand in the way of a primal return to the Dionysian condition, then there will be, for Nietzsche, another reading that does not necessitate a quieting of the Will.
Nietzsche sets out his own interpretation, or, for some, dramatisation, of the principle of individuation through his myth of Apollo and Dionysus. Although it is widely believed that The Birth is completely under the spell of Schopenhauer, it would be helpful to acknowledge Nietzsche’s innovations, ones which already intimate his later denunciations of the Platonic denial of perspective. Nietzsche is obviously playing in the same field, but his vision of Schopenhauer has already been transfigured, as is made obvious with his ‘Schopenhauer as Educator’, where his teacher had become his own mask.
Schopenhauer’s moral judgement against existence discloses, for Nietzsche, that he is not truly a tragic thinker in that he wishes to let himself off the hook (as with Euripidean tragedy which sought to save the household from Dionysian, musical intoxication). This desire for a release from the striving of the Will exposes an ignoble abdication from that which Schopenhauer had already disclosed in his phenomenology of the sublime: the contention that human existence expresses itself in defiance of and struggle against the terrible, the threatening. Schopenhauer’s desire for release is, Nietzsche declares, still a desire, but one which recoils in the face of the abyss, of the terrible.
Nietzsche acknowledges that there is a breach, crack in existence (Leonard Cohen). Yet, he gives a differing characterisation, valuation, to this interruption with his myths of the birth and death of God. He not only criticises Schopenhauer’s repetition of the Platonic Ideas but also his moral judgment with respect to existence. For his teacher, life is suffering, pain, and therefore, it is refuted…. Nietzsche would respond to the same conditions, ‘Again!’ The terrible thought of eternal recurrence has its undeniable ‘basis’ in an affirmation of a single joy, (Schopenhauer had already written that perhaps no one when presented with the possibility of living this life again would consent. Each would rather will non-existence). From Nietzsche’s perspective, the ‘negative’ valuations (Book Four) suddenly dissolve, disappear… a novel topos opens through his re-valuation. In his version of the myth, the ‘Will’ (a mere invention) intimates, as a metaphor, the excessive Dionysian power that seeks redemption in illusion, in the Apollonian. Yet, from the order of dream, the individual will seek a return to the source of existence in the discordant music of becoming. The tragic event is the destruction of individuality, but this event is simultaneously the affirmation of the primordial oneness of being, of the Dionysian – of the Will-to-power (and, thus, of the ‘Will’).
We could imagine Schopenhauer’s response to Nietzsche in which he could retort that the latter’s joy is merely an illusion, and that his dangerous thoughts will all too quickly precipitate the inherent tragedy. And, as it is based upon egoism, his joy is moreover immoral and will lead only to suffering, pain and disappointment. Neither Will nor Reason – but Void.
A Nietzschean rejoinder would predictably assert that willing liberates, that the body is the great reason, and its oscillations are the music of the unfathomable. Nietzsche perhaps would ask, “How can you command silence? Is this not just like the Alexandrian ‘man’? Who wants this truth after all – why not deception, untruth, feeling?” For Nietzsche, it is not Will, Reason or Void, but a will to creation and power amid this vanishing world that is indicative of the affirmations and denials of existence.
Instead of a denial of the Will, if we wish to take up Nietzsche’s non-ascetic path, there will be an affirmation of the self (as in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, ‘On the Three Evils’), but not as a metaphysical-ethical ‘atom’, but as self-interpretation/expression of existence. The existence of the self becomes as a makeshift artwork, in flux, and together with others, this indigenous situation expresses a world. In this way, as we can see from the notes appended to his early essay Truth and Lying in the Extra-Moral Sense, it is art which is the most ‘true’ as it has no pretence to the ‘truth’ – it is illusion and it honestly displays this fact. He would write soon after, ‘The world can only be justified as an aesthetic phenomenon.’ (Birth of Tragedy)
For Nietzsche, the world is the incessant, tragic, vanishing of the Apollonian image as the makeshift expression of the tragic eruption of the Dionysian self, and as with Greek Tragedy, and for most contemporary philosophy, any attempt to flee from this basic state of finitude, as with the Ideas, would be a denial of affirmation, it would be no better than bad comedy or a farce. Yet, Schopenhauer would beg to differ. Though we are betwixt Reason and Will, there is contemplation. It is quite likely that Nietzsche, in a differing context, could share these explorations of thought with his mentor. However, that upon which they may differ is the status of these flights, contemplations, thoughts, or, of anything deployed in this way, with respect to their affirmation or negation amid the field of sublime existence.
For Nietzsche, the narrative of Schopenhauer can be disclosed as another artistic and expressive variation of Dionysian-Apollonian existence. Amid the horizons of his genealogical method, Schopenhauer’s craving for an ethical autonomy of pure silence serves merely to conceal his own entanglement amid existence, an entanglement which Schopenhauer himself disclosed as the topos of a hermeneutics of existence. Nietzsche throws into question the very possibility of Schopenhauer’s denial of the will, when he asks in Beyond Good and Evil:
How is the denial of the will possible? How is the saint possible? This really seems to have been the question over which Schopenhauer became a philosopher and began.
With these questions, Nietzsche seeks to unmask the will to power that lies behind the notion of pity and the denial of the Will. For was it not the case that Schopenhauer played the flute every evening after dinner? Such a denial could take place only as the assertion of another, in this case, ascetic, will to power. Having sought to discover the Will, Schopenhauer seeks neither an affirmation of the Will as the will to life, nor a will to creation in which one would declare, ‘Thus, I willed it.’ His denial of the Will amounts to, for Nietzsche, a denial even of truth, beauty and goodness, as each of these is bound up in the web of existence, in its lightness and shadow. Once the mask is removed, we can begin to see that Schopenhauer, far from denying the will, is asserting his own will and its law tablets recommending silence and repose, a will to deny all will. Schopenhauer’s denial of the will is due, from this perspective, to the insufficiency of its expression in the domain of the Principle – that of determinant causality and un-freedom, i.e., of suffering. It is Nietzsche however who shows that the realm of the Principle is itself just another will to power, another ‘fiction’. And thus, that there is no necessity to recognize the Kantian ‘limits of knowledge’ which ‘justify’ the hegemony of the empirical ‘science’ of the ‘given’.
Schopenhauer remains a slave to these limits and to this ‘given’, conceding to the realm of representation its sovereignty over existence and its suppression of the will in its struggle for authentic self-expression and self-knowing. Schopenhauer’s valorisation of the Platonic Ideas is moreover a further symptom of his denial of the will, of the self in its striving, and his search for an impossible release from the sublime event of the will, an event that he himself had discovered. Nietzsche rejects such a will for release, and its attempt to enact a dissolution of the tension and contradiction at the heart of existence. Indeed, as he writes in the Preface to Beyond Good and Evil, there have been many attempts to lighten or dissolve the tension of the bow, to achieve pure silence. Yet, it will be his own wakeful task to increase the tension of the bow so that the creative will to power may find its target.
References and Further Reading
Bataille, G. (1992) Theory of Religion, New York: Zone Books.
________. (2004) On Nietzsche (2004), Trs. Bruce Boone, London: Continuum International Publishing.
Hesiod (1999) Theogony, Trs. by M.L. West, Oxford.
Husserl, Edmund (1964) Phenomenology of Internal Time Consciousness. Ed. by M. Heidegger, Trs. by J.S. Churchill, Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Janaway, Christopher (1999) Self and World in Schopenhauer’s Philosophy, Oxford.
Magee, Brian. (2000) Wagner and Philosophy, London: Penguin.
________. (1997) The Philosophy of Schopenhauer, London: Clarendon Press.
Nietzsche, Friedrich (1967) The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music, Trs. by W. Kaufmann, New York: Random House.
________. Beyond Good and Evil (2003) Trs. by R.J. Hollingdale, London: Penguin Books.
________. Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1995), Trs. by W. Kaufmann, New York: Random House.
Safranski, Rudiger (1991). Schopenhauer and the Wild Years of Philosophy,
Schürmann, Reiner (1987) Heidegger on Being and Acting: From Principles to Anarchy, Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Schopenhauer, Arthur (1958). The World as Will and Representation, Trs. E.F.J.
Payne, London: Dover Publications, 1958.
Young, Julian (2005) Schopenhauer, London: Routledge.
 Magee, Brian (1997) (1997) The Philosophy of Schopenhauer, London: Clarendon Press.
 For instance, Ray Monk, in his biography, Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius, acknowledges that Wittgenstein had been influenced by Schopenhauer, but says it almost in embarrassment in the face of a troubled youth. However, once the prejudicial gaze of analytic philosophy is ‘bracketed’, it is possible to see an unmistakeable genealogy of influence in Wittgenstein’s early and later philosophy.
 For an introduction to the new reception of the philosophy of Schopenhauer, see Brian Magee, The Philosophy of Schopenhauer, Clarendon Press (1997), Christopher Janaway, Self and World in Schopenhauer’s Philosophy, Oxford (1999), Julian Young, Schopenhauer, Routledge (2005). For an interesting narrative of the historical period, see Rudiger Safranski, Schopenhauer and the Wild Years of Philosophy, Harvard University Press (1991).
 Nietzsche’s ambiguous treatment of Schopenhauer leaves un-decided the legacy of his interpretation, both in his early excursions in The Birth of Tragedy, Untimely Meditations, and in his later rejection of Schopenhauerian pessimism, as in Beyond Good and Evil, The Gay Science and Thus Spoke Zarathustra. It could be argued that Nietzsche’s portrayal of Schopenhauer has cast him into a bust, a surface across, as with Psyche, by Savinio, is inscribed, cut signs of the life that is denied to us. That which is denied, however, if we remain merely upon the surface, is any hope to be enlightened with respect to the philosophical method/event that led to these ‘results’.
 Schürmann, Reiner (1987) Heidegger on Being and Acting: From Principles to Anarchy, Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
 Much of this ‘picture’, as I have indicated, can be said to have been publicised by Nietzsche. Of course, his own early variations upon the theme of pessimism are already markedly distinct from Schopenhauer, and his later criticisms increasingly revolve around the ethical decisions of Book Four. One could assert naively that the work of Schopenhauer should be able to speak for itself. But, we can see that this is already always not the case, as the ghost of Nietzsche confirms. All that is possible is an attempt to retrieve that path of questioning, to enact the method itself amid a hermeneutical topos.
 As one will recall, the four groundings of the Principle of Sufficient Reason in the domain of empirical representation, Causality (Becoming), Concept (Understanding and Reason), Being (aesthetic of space and time), and Will (motivation) lay out the theoretical foundation of the phenomenal world as projected amid the horizons of the Principle. It is this latter principle as the subject as will, which allows for a transition into the World in its disclosure of the representation as the objectification of the Will. But, in the Fourfold, this is still an intellectual Will as there are motives, mere maxims/concepts, which determines its life, existence. In this light, we depart from the everyday amid a breach from which we consider the world merely in intellectual and moral/political ways. We take this detour into the World so as to trace the root of this existent self amid its world.
 Schopenhauer will admit that for the most part the experiences of the subject, and this includes his feelings, remain at the level of the surface, still caught within the labyrinth of representation, even if with the realisation of the uniqueness of the subject of Will – it is still regulated by the Principle of Sufficient Reason.
 Despite the intense lengths he went to disclose the riddle of the world, it seems strange that he seeks to silence this will, and finds the origin of knowledge and ‘ethics’ as the ascetic quieting of the Will. Yet, it is also not surprising in that we already know from Book Four that the Will is suffering.
 We apprehend the mirror of existence, indeed we already know it as a mirror, and always feel the inner experience of this unique self amid our ceaseless abjection, of that we deem we are not (Kristeva).
 In this way, the transition from Book One to Book Two is to a large extent organisational as there must have already been the experience of the will (and of pure will-lessness, as we will see below) before there could have been any of these architectonic divisions. We are already always Will, and, nothing else besides.
 He outlines the gradations of the objectification of Will at four different levels or grades. The Lowest are universal forces of nature (qualitates occultae), which are outside the Principle of Sufficient Reason and time, a sort of Hesiodic chaos. Next are Plant life, Animal life, and then, as the pinnacle expression of the Will, Human Life. Yet, this schema of the objectifications of the Will is not a rationalist picture of the levels of existence or a neo-platonic sequence of emanations, but of the self-expressivity of the Will.
 World, p. 332.
 As we have already noted, Schopenhauer intensifies his picture of suffering in Book Four, and moves to advocate a denial of the Will to live. Why he does this would be at first unclear in the context of his early depictions of the will to life, a vital eruption of myriad beings in the world, at once representations (but also Will), each vying against the other in a struggle for presence, for life. However, he will assert that this scenario of the will to live is that of a merely ‘animal survival’, and, that the ‘understanding’ that ‘governs’ the world is a crude instrument, ceaselessly subject to the desires of the Will.
 World, pp. 195-196.
 We are still only upon the surface as such, yet, we are travelling ever further into the core of the world, and as we are rooted in the will, perhaps we can find our way back to the source. But, perhaps such a happy return to the blind striving of a chaotic will can only occur in death, or perhaps, as a tunnelling of resistance that seeks to protect the noumenality of existence through praxis and poiesis.
 World, p. 194.
 It is illuminating to contrast Schopenhauer’s aesthetic phenomenology with that of Husserl, who regarded phenomenology as a science, even if a strange one. Indeed, one may notice some resemblances between Schopenhauer’s pure will-less subject and Husserl’s epoche. However, I would argue that the resemblance is superficial as the method of Schopenhauer, as the loss of the self in the contemplation of art and nature cannot in the first instance simply be turned on and off like the Husserl’s switch of ‘bracketing’. For Schopenhauer, there persists a struggle amid the world, of will and its representations, expressions, and in the Ideas themselves, which is linked to the body as the immediate object of the Will. This is also the background for his assessment of Art as that which discloses truth in an exemplary manner (contra science, etc.) Husserl’s phenomenological reduction, in its uprooting of merely theoretical depictions of the world, would be compatible with Schopenhauer, but again, this would occur, for the latter, and be, quite unplanned, in an un-scientific manner. But, we could still fathom this meaning of this reduction. However, it is that other reduction, that of the eidetic which would contrary to the sentiments of Schopenhauer. He does not wish to obliterate the transcendent into the pure immanence of self-consciousness, and of its basic structures, or ideas. This would be a reversion to Cartesianism and Fichteanism, and of the worst kind, as it would incarcerate us once again in the labyrinth of self-consciousness, which is not for Schopenhauer the birthplace of the Ideas. On the contrary, for him, it is with the radical loss of the self in aesthetic contemplation, in stillness, that Ideas come to the surface, but always, again contrary to Husserl, sheltered in the dwelling of the body, that makeshift, transcendent ‘thing’. We begin to fathom his in an exploration of the aesthetic phenomenologies of beauty and the sublime. In this context, we will apprehend the topos of the body.
 World, p. 199.
 Ibid., p. 200.
 Ibid., p. 200.
 Ibid., p. 201.
 Ibid., p. 201.
 For an exploration of this indication of ‘makeshift’in the context of the early philosophy of Heidegger, see Luchte, J. (2003) ‘Makshift: Phenomenology of Original Temporality’, Philosophy Today, Vol. 3.
 The World, p. 202.
 Ibid., p. 205.
 Ibid., p. 209.
 Magee comments, in his Wagner and Philosophy, that Schopenhauer never knew that he inspired Wagner’s operas, even as the latter never felt up to a meeting with the Master.
 For an further exploration of the relationship between Schopenhauer and Nietzsche in the context of the implications of Nietzsche’s poetry for modern philosophy , see Luchte, J. (2007) ‘The Wreckage of Stars: Nietzsche and the Ecstasy of Poetry’, Hyperion: On the Future of Aesthetics, Nietzsche Circle.
 In his later works, a will to survival is impossible as there is always a struggle for the enhancement of power. Moreover, a will to nothingness is merely a symptom of fatigue in the face of the overwhelming power of life. Yet, within the horizons of Nietzsche’s will to power, joy affirms the eternal recurrence of the same, and reveals its own music amid its affirmation of tragic destiny. It is Dionysian ecstasy, self-overcoming, which affirms the tenuousness and illusion of existence (art, etc).
 World, p. 324.
 Nietzsche, F. (1966) Beyond Good and Evil, trs. By Walter Kaufmann, New York: Vintage, Aphorism 47, pp.61-62. Such questioning is all the more pertinent in light of Nietzsche’s perplexity in the face of Schopenhauer’s own violin playing upon which Nietzsche remarks in Beyond Good and Evil.