Thursday 17 September 2009
Wagner the Philosopher
Richard Wagner may have read Schopenhauer but he sure as hell did not understand Schopenhauer! Perhaps apes also read the great pessimist with as little understanding as they bring to Nietzsche?!
Anyway, Wagner, by his own account, read The World as Will and Representation several times, impressed by the idea of music as the striving of the will. But he was equally impressed by the notion of the denial of will. His enthusiasm was expressed in a letter to Franz Liszt: "I have...found a sedative which has finally helped me to sleep at night; it is the sincere and heartfelt yearning for death; total unconsciousness, complete annihilation, the end of all dreams-the only ultimate redemption."
He comes closest to Schopenhauer's ideas in Tristan und Isolde, when the lovers express their longing for their individual existence to end. But Wagner transforms this gloomy abnegation to a climax of erotic love, effectively turning Schopenhauer upside down. Tristan and Isolde do not escape the blind force of Will; they just become yet another link in its ongoing evolution. But, what the hell? The sex was good!