Music, Posthumanism and Nietzsche By Stefan Lorenz Sorgner



In this article, I will show that the first order Empfindung associated to music is the dissolution of individuality which from a posthumanist(1) perspective brings about the realisation of the embeddedness of human beings in this world. Hence, music can bring about more than pain and pleasure in the recipients. In this context, I will also explain that the Empfindungen of a recipient of an artistic piece are the result of the interplay between the first order Empfindungen which are dependent upon the type of art one is confronted with and the second order Empfindungen which are the result of individual qualities of an artistic piece

It has already been put forward by philosophers like Plotinus (Sorgner 2010a), Schopenhauer (Sorgner 2011) and Nietzsche (Sorgner 2006) that music is best in bringing about the dissolution of the individual. They are correct concerning this analysis and the phenomenological description of the issue in question, but not concerning their explanation. Firstly, I will describe in detail why Schopenhauer holds that music is the best type of art to bring about the dissolution of individuality in recipients. However, Schopenhauer refers to some realms outside of time and space to explain the Empfindung of ecstasy which I regard as implausible from a posthumanist perspective. The posthumanist movement is a strong contemporary movement and one whose premises I share. Secondly, I will explain some fundamental premises of posthumanism, whereby I will also state how Welsch describes the relationship between posthumanism and the arts and in what respect Nietzsche has already put forward a similar concept in his “Birth of Tragedy”. Thirdly, I will explain how the dissolution of the individual can be described from a posthumanist perspective.

Schopenhauer, the dissolution of Individuality and Music

According to Schopenhauer, the conditio humana is such that we as individuals are in the process of striving permanently, and striving is connected with pain. Hence, human beings as striving individual are suffering. There are at least two further sources for suffering, namely ones level in the social hierarchy. If someone does not have a solid financial foundation, then the additional suffering is a result of this lack and of the need to strive in order to be able to survive. If someone has got a solid financial foundation, then he has to strive to take care that he remains in this situation. In addition, this person might be suffering out of boredom, because he has got everything he needs and there is no need to struggle for his survival. In any case, the human condition is wretched, and the lives of human beings have to be full of pain, suffering, and dissatisfaction.

What can be done in order to deal with this situation and to live a good life? Schopenhauer’s suggestion is that one ought to live ascetically, because in this way one can achieve a long term liberation of the will, quieten ones individual will and reach salvation. If one is not able to or willing to act thus, one can at least quieten ones will for a short period of time by being in a state of aesthetic contemplation or free and will less knowing. (Deu, 1, 246, W1, § 41). This state can be reached by means of various types of art, which can bring about one of two aesthetic states, e.g. experiencing beauty or the sublime. However, not all types of art have the same potential for enabling the recipient of a work of art to reach the state of aesthetic contemplation. Schopenhauer presents a hierarchy of the arts based upon the criterion of the potential to realise the aesthetic state in the art recipients. According to him, music which was composed by a genius affects recipients strongly, fast, necessarily, and infallibly, and thereby it can bring about the quietening of the will for a short time. (Deu, 1, 302-303, W1, § 52) The process of the quietening of the will can also be referred to as a type of ecstasy, salvation, or dissolution of the ego or of ones individuality. These are several ways of talking about the same experience, and there are many more ways of trying to find words for the same type of experience. Music in general is supposed to be the best type of art for taking recipients into such a state – a state which I refer to as first order Empfindung. However, this is not the only Empfindung one can have by listening to music. continue reading entire article, please click below read more