Wagner's Philosophers


01Wagner And German Idealism2013052020131209Professor Roger Scruton explores the philosophical background that influenced the young Richard Wagner. The German universities of his youth were in a state of intellectual ferment in the aftermath of the greatest philosopher of modern times, Immanuel kant. Out of this came a school of philosophy known as German Idealism. Wagner was particular influenced by the most famous of these philosophers, Hegel. And, even though Wagner was later to radically revise his philosophical views, the ideas of Hegel can still be traced in his great cycle of music dramas, The Ring: the notion that nothing human is permanent, and all must perish in the spirit's ongoing search for self-knowledge. And the essence of this spirit, Hegel argued, is freedom. Wagner took this idea one step further. Freedom, for Wagner, was not only a political phenomenon, it was also a profound spiritual reality, revealed in the moment of sacrifice.

"Wagner and German Idealism

02Wagner And The Philosophy Of Revolution2013052120131210:

Professor Anthony Grayling looks at the crucial years before and after the Dresden uprising of 1849 when Wagner was manning the barricades with revolutionaries such as Mikhail Bakunin. After the death of the philosopher, Hegel, in 1831, a group of his followers, the Young Hegelians argued that the forces of freedom and reason would continue to conquer everything in their way. Into this heady mix came the attacks on religious orthodoxy of Ludwig Feurbach and the political and economic theories of Proudhon. Wagner drank this all in greedily. And during his years of exile in Switzerland these ideas bubbled away and were reborn in his own philosophical essays concerning the artwork of the future aimed at remaking society along utopian socialist lines.

"Wagner and the Philosophy of Revolution:

03Wagner And Schopenhauer2013052220131211Professor Christopher Janaway on Wagner's life-changing encounter with the pessimistic philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer. In 1854 he read Schopenhauer's masterwork, The World as Will and Representation; and it hit him like a thunderbolt. Wagner discovered a thinker who endorsed his own developing views on the role of music and gave him a new way to think about his perpetual struggles with desire and erotic love. It also convinced him of the futility of political agitation. It can be argued that Wagner bent these ideas to his own purposes; and that Tristan and Isolde, written in the aftermath of this great encounter, is really a Schopenhauerian experiment gone wrong: instead of losing desire and attachment, the two lovers intensify both to the extreme. It was only in his last opera, Parsifal, that Wagner finally produced a music drama that seems in many respects at peace with the ascetic ideal of his philosophical hero, Arthur Schopenhauer.

"Wagner and Schopenhauer

04Wagner And Nietzsche2013052320131212Wagner and Nietzsche

Michael Tanner looks at the relationship between two titans of German culture, the 55-year old composer Richard Wagner and the precocious 24-year old philologist, who was destined to become the great philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche. Out of their heady late-night chats about Schopenhauer, Euripedes and Socrates came Nietzsche's first book, The Birth of Tragedy out of the Spirit of Music. The relationship was to darken and turn sour in later years when Nietzsche accused Wagner of ""slobbering at the foot of the cross"" in his final opera, Parsifal. But to the end Nietzsche was to regard his encounter with Wagner as one of the most important events of his life.

05 LASTWagner And Adorno2013052420131213Professor John Deathridge explores the posthumous reputation of Wagner in the 20th Century as seen through the lens of the philosopher Theodor Adorno who had pertinent things to say about Wagner's appropriation by the fascists, his infamous anti-semitism, and the related issues of German culture post-World War 2, the culture industry and mass culture in general.

Professor John Deathridge explores the posthumous reputation of Wagner in the 20th century

"Wagner and Adorno