1 Schopenhauer is the artist’s, and more especially the musician’s, philosopher. His principal work, The World as Will and Representation,1 which Thomas Mann was fond of describing as a symphony in four movements, 2 is based on a single thought, announced at the outset, which is developed in unforeseen ways that, nevertheless, seem to be inevitable. This apparently simple thought is repeated many times in the work as a recurrent ground-bass to varied melody and harmony and it informs the reader’s consciousness in much the same way that a theme is heard in the variations composed on it. A quarter of the work—its third movement—is given over to an account of the nature of art and aesthetic experience and these are represented as being of singular importance in human life. And Schopenhauer’s discussion of art cul-minates in a celebration of music unrivalled in philosophical writing and which assigns to music pride of place amongst the arts. Moreover, the quality of his finest prose is itself musical: it is expressive of emotion controlled in the manner characteristic of music by subtle rhythmic organisation of sentences, paragraphs, even whole pages, through which the line of thought flows with perfect lucidity.
It is natural to be attracted to a theory of art that credits the products of art with a significance commensurate with the value these works have for us. And this attraction is more clearly felt in the case of Schopenhauer’s theory of music because of the absence of rival theories of distinction which compete for our allegiance. But just as the appeal of an object seen from a distance can diminish when it is approached and seen for what it is, so a more perfect understanding of a theory can disclose weaknesses in it which dispel the theory’s charm. And this is the