In an discussion about Schopenhauer , the French philosophy teacher Christophe Salaün says:

"L'expérience esthétique est la suspension momentanée de la douleur, du désir. En supprimant provisoirement la douleur elle nous fait rentrer dans une sorte d'autre monde où le temps n'existe plus."


"Aesthetic experience is the suspension of pain, of desire. In suspending pain tentatively, we enter in another world, a world where time doesn't exist anymore."

How does the aesthetic experience suspend pain and desire? Is he referring to the experience we have with music when we 'forget' ourselves and the world around us?

  • 1
    Could you please add a bit context to the author and the project for those of us who do not understand French? A quick google search informed me that he worked quite a lot on Schopenhauer (limited knowledge of French), but I am not sure whether he paraphrases/explains Schopenhauer in the quote or having a point of his own. – Philip Klöcking May 17 '17 at 17:40
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    You should have mentioned in your post that Salaün refers to Schopenhauer's philosophy, where aesthetic experience, a contemplative, disinterested attitude, is identified with suspension of the Will, which is the source of all pain and suffering in the world. Schopenhauer was influenced by the Buddhist conception that desires ("will") are the cause of all suffering and to end one we have to end the other. See Soll's Willing and Nothingness, p.94 – Conifold May 17 '17 at 21:51
  • Schopenhauer was a avid reader of the Upanishads. I think rather than the word aesthetic, which carries certain connotations, a better word would be mystical. the mystical state of samadhi, or satori, is described in the manner quoted. – Swami Vishwananda May 18 '17 at 4:57
  • @Conifold I edited the question. – reddit_10 May 18 '17 at 11:40


Schopenhauer believes that aesthetic experience can provide a temporary suspension of pain and desire. Permanent suspension is possible only through morality.


In Schopenhauer’s view, the whole organic and inorganic world is ultimately governed by an insatiable, blind will. Life as a whole is purposeless: there is no ultimate goal or meaning, for the metaphysical will is only interested in manifesting itself in (or as) a myriad of phenomena, which we call the “world” or “life.” Human life, too, is nothing but an insignificant product or “objectivation” of the blind, unconscious will, and because our life is determined by willing (that is, by needs, affects, urges, and desires), and since willing is characterized by lack, our life is essentially full of misery and suffering. We are constantly searching for objects that can satisfy our needs and desires; once we have finally found a way to satisfy one desire, another one crops up, and we become restless willing subjects once again, and so on in an endless whirlpool of willing, suffering, momentary satisfaction, boredom, willing again, etc. Life is not a good thing. The only way, Schopenhauer argues, to escape from these torments of willing is by “seeing the world aright,” as Wittgenstein would have it: that is, by acknowledging the pointlessness and insignificance of our own willing existence and ultimately by giving up willing as such—which in fact really means abandoning our own individuality, our own willing selves. This is momentarily possible in aesthetic experiences of beauty and sublimity and permanently achievable only in the exceptional ethical practices of detachment, mysticism, and asceticism, in which the will to life is eventually denied and sheer nothingness is embraced—either through harsh suffering or through sainthood. (Bart Vandenabeele, 'Schopenhauer on Sense Perception and Aesthetic Cognition', The Journal of Aesthetic Education, Vol. 45, No. 1 (Spring 2011), pp. 37-8.)


WWR = World as Will and Representation (tr. E.F.J. Payne (New York, 1969)

The will is not ... primarily a kind of hidden metaphysical "thing" behind the "veil of appearances," but is a sort of drive which can be observed empirically in, e.g., bodily movements. Willing is acting (and vice versa) and every thought or affect is an individual manifestation of and connected with the interests of this will. "Thus, originally and by its nature, knowledge is completely the servant of the will" and as "it is the principle of sufficient reason that places the objects in this relation to the body and so to the will, the sole endeavor of knowledge, serving this will, will be to get to know ... just those relations that are laid down by the principle of sufficient reason, and thus to follow their many different connections in space, time, and causality." Schopenhauer adds most conspicuously to this: "For only through these is the object interesting to the individual, in other words, has it a relation to the will" (WWR I, (WWR I, (WWR I, (WWR I, §33, 176-77). It is beyond doubt that, according to Schopenhauer, perception and knowledge in general always remain subordinate to the service of the will. The brain "came into being for this service" (WWR I, §33).

There is, however, an important exception to this picture of ordinary perception. Now and then, it is possible to "let our whole consciousness be filled by the calm contemplation of the [...] object actually present" (WWR I, §34), and one then feels liberated from the striving of the will and "the entire consciousness is filled and occupied by a single image of perception" (WWR I, §34). (Bart Vandenabeele, 'On the Notion of "Disinterestedness": Kant, Lyotard, and Schopenhauer', Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 62, No. 4 (Oct., 2001), pp.714-5.)


Schopenhauer describes the aesthetic conditions under which the suspension of pain and desire are possible : when 'the entire consciousness is filled and occupied by a single image of perception' there is no scope for the intrusion of pain and desire. How this is psychologically possible is not something he can explain as a philosopher; but that it is so, he is sure and we can put him to the test. The claim is nothing if not verifiable.


As well as the two articles cited above, an excellent overview of Schopenhauer, include his account of aesthetic experience, can be found in Christopher Janaway, Schopenhauer, Self and World in Schopenhauer's Philosophy, ISBN 10: 0198249691 / ISBN 13: 9780198249696. Published by OUP Oxford, 1997. For a quicker look, see Christopher Janaway, Schopenhauer: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions), ISBN 10: 0192802593 / ISBN 13: 9780192802590 Published by Oxford University Press.

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