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Observations placeholder

Schopenhauer, Arthur - The World as Will and Idea - Music and function



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

The World as Will and Idea – Arthur Schopenhauer

So bass is for us in harmony what inorganic nature – the crudest mass on which everything rests, and from which everything arises and develops – is in the world.

Furthermore, in all the parts which together make up the harmony between the bass and the leading voice singing the melody, I recognise the whole gradation of the Ideas in which the will objectifies itself.

Those nearer the bass are the lower of those grades, bodies which, though still inorganic, are manifesting themselves in many ways, the higher represent to me the world of plants and animals.  The definite intervals of a scale are parallel to the definite grades of the will’s objectification, the definite species in nature.

Deviation from the arithmetical correctness of the intervals, through some temperament, or induced by the key selected, is analogous to the individual’s departure from the type of the species; indeed, the impure discords which give no definite interval may be compared to the misbegotten offspring of the union of animals of two different species, or of the union of man with animal.............

............The deep bass moves most ponderously of all, as representative of the crudest mass.  It rises and falls only in large intervals, in thirds, fourths, fifths, never by one tone, unless it is a bass inverted by double counterpoint.

To move slowly is also physically essential to it; a quick run or trill in the low notes cannot even be imagined.  The higher parts, which run parallel to animal life, move more quickly, but still without melodious sequence and meaningful continuity.  The incoherent line sung by each of the parts, and their being bound by the laws of harmony, analogous to the absence in every creature – from the crystal to the most advanced animal – in the whole irrational world, of a coherent consciousness which would make its life into a meaningful whole; for no creature experiences a succession of mental developments, none perfects itself by culture, but everything exists without alteration, always as its species dictates, as determined by inflexible law

 Lastly in the melody, in the high, singing, principal voice leading the whole and progressing with unrestrained freedom, in the unbroken meaningful coherence of one thought from beginning to end, and representing a whole, I recognise the highest grade of the will’s objectification, man’s conscious life and endeavour.  Only he, because he is endowed with reason, constantly looks both ahead and behind him on the path of his reality and of the countless possibilities, and so by completing life’s course in consciousness, he makes of it a coherent whole.  Similarly, only the melody has significant intentional connection from beginning to end.  So it tells the story of the will enlightened by self reflection, the will which imprints itself on reality as sequence of actions


The source of the experience

Schopenhauer, Arthur

Concepts, symbols and science items


Science Items

Activities and commonsteps



Contemplation and detachment