Richard Wagner (1813-1883) 

Richard Wagner was a great German composer who strove to reinvent and reinvigorate opera by developing new ways of bringing music and drama together. In his youth, Nietzsche was a great admirer of Wagner's, and made friends with Wagner and his wife, Cosima. Nietzsche's first book, The Birth of Tragedy (1872), contained a long eulogy to Wagner that Nietzsche later regretted. Until the mid- 1870's, Nietzsche considered Wagner an artist of genius not bogged down by the morality of his day but rising above it to create something new and life-affirming. By the mid-70's, their relationship had cooled, partly owing to Nietzsche's dislike for Wagner's anti-Semitism, nationalism, and growing egomania, and partly owing to Wagner's last opera, Parsifal, which, to Nietzsche, expressed a contemptible expression of traditional Christian morality. One of Nietzsche's last books, The Case of Wagner (1888), explains his break with the German composer.

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)

Arthur Schopenhauer was a German philosopher profoundly influenced by Kant and by Indian philosophy, whose great work was The World as Will and as Idea (1819). Schopenhauer followed Kant in suggesting that the world we perceive consists merely of appearances, and that we cannot sense the "thing-in- itself." Only in ourselves can we sense the will that underlies and drives all things. We see the influence of Indian philosophy in Schopenhauer's assertion that true peace can only be found in an extinction of the will. In art, he argues, we find a temporary calming of the passions, while an ascetic might be able to extinguish the ego entirely.

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)

Immanuel Kant was a German skeptic philosopher who built on theories of David Hume and brought the school of thought to an even higher level. Kant theorized that all humans are born with innate “experiences” that then reflect onto the world, giving them a perspective. Thus, since no one actually knows what other people see, the idea of “reasoning” is not valid. Kant’s philosophies applied the brakes to the Enlightenment, effectively denouncing reason as an invalid approach to thought.

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831)

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was German philosopher and author of the Phenomenology of Spirit and Philosophy of Right. For Habermas, Hegel views public opinion in a similar way to Kant, but his view of civil society emphasizes its discontinuity and confusion. Civil society for Hegel cannot provide the rational basis for private people to turn political authority (domination) into rational authority.

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