First, then, I will briefly discuss the tenets of Schopenhauer’s theory of sensory perception. I then contrast this with his account of aesthetic perception and cognition ( ästhetische Anschauung und Erkenntnis ), which arguably transcends the principle of sufficient reason. Further, I aim to show that the consensus view of Schopenhauer’s theory of the aesthetic attitude, which reduces it to spiritual detachment and disembodied cognition is wholly inadequate. Even focussing on Schopenhauer’s account of the beautiful (and disregarding his theory of the sublime) should suffice to show that, in Schopenhauer’s view, aesthetic perception can really be active, imaginative, and genuinely life-affirming. 1
I shall thus argue that Schopenhauer offers a rich phenomenological account of aesthetic experience, which shows that appreciating beautiful objects requires suspending our individual needs, desires, and appetites. This experience of depersonalisation , by which a willing individual feels himself to be transformed into a ‘pure subject of knowledge’, does not imply a glorification of dispassionate spectatorship, as Nietzsche and many other commentators have maintained, but rightly emphasises that aesthetic contemplation is imaginative as well as enthusiastic, and-as we shall see-requires a genuine interest in the intrinsic value of an object.