Schopenhauer on Aesthetics
“The intrinsic problem of the metaphysics of the beautiful can be stated very simply: how is it possible for us to take pleasure in an object when this object has no kind of connection with our desires?
For we all feel that pleasure in a thing can really arise from its relation to our will or, as we like to put it, our aims; so that pleasure divorced from a stimulation of the will seems to be a contradiction. Yet it is quite obvious that the beautiful at such excites pleasure in us without having any kind of connection with our personal aims, that is to say with our will.
My solution to this problem has been that in the beautiful we always perceive the intrinsic and primary forms of animate and inanimate nature, that is to say Plato’s Ideas thereof, an that this perception stipulates the existence of its essential correlative, the will-less subject of knowledge, i.e. pure intelligence without aims or intentions. Through this, when an aesthetic perception occurs, the will completely vanishes from consciousness. But will is the sole source of all our troubles and sufferings. This is the origin of the feeling of pleasure, which accompanies the perception of the beautiful. It therefore rests on the abolition of all possibility of suffering. – If it would be objected that the possibility of pleasure would then also be abolished, one should remember that, as I have often demonstrated, happiness, gratification, is of a negative nature, namely the mere cessation of suffering, pain on the other hand positive. Thus, when all desire disappears from consciousness, there still remains the condition of pleasure, i.e. the absence of all pain, and in this case the absence even of the possibility of pain, in that the individual is transformed from a willing subject into a purely knowing subject, yet continues to be conscious of himself and of his actions as a knowing subject.
As we know, the world as will is the primary (ordine prior) and the world as idea the secondary world (ordine posterior). The former is the world of desire and consequently that of pain and thousandfold misery. The latter, however, is in itself intrinsically painless: in addition it contains a remarkable spectacle, altogether significant or at the very least entertaining. Enjoyment of this spectacle constitutes aesthetic pleasure.” – Essays and Aphorisms, Arthur Schopenhauer