Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 December 2013
German Idealism began with Leibniz and lasted until Schopenhauer, with a few central European after-shocks in the work of Husserl and his followers. That great epoch in German philosophy coincided with a great epoch in German music. It is scarcely surprising, therefore, that Idealist philosophers should have paid special attention to this art form. Looking back on it, is there anything of this prolonged encounter between music and philosophy that we can consider to be a real advance, and one that we should draw on? Many have thought so, not least because Idealism, as it matured in the post-Kantian period, inherited the adulation for art in general, and music in particular, that we find in the writings of the German Romantics, notably in Schiller, Tieck and Wackenroder. The post-Kantian Idealists connected aesthetic experience with their claims to reveal the secret meaning of things, in the infinite, the absolute, the transcendental, the ineffable or some other such object of a quasi-religious devotion. Such we find in the writings of Schelling, Fichte, Hegel and Schopenhauer, the last of whom made music not only an object of philosophy, but a prime example of it. Music, Schopenhauer wrote, is not unconscious arithmetic, as Leibniz had claimed, but unconscious philosophy, since in music the inner essence of the world, which is will, is made directly present to the intellect.