The Belle Époque


Schopenhauer.jpgSchopenhauer, philosopher and author of The World as Will and Representation, a philosophy that was described as philosophical pessimism. One example of this is the parable of the hedgehog he developed to describe the perils of human intimacy. The concept originates in the following parable Parerga und Paralipomena, Volume II, Chapter XXXI, Section 396:[1]


Schopenhauer was an important influence on Nietzsche, who would, in turn, be an important influence on many philosophers and thinkers in the 20th Century. Nietzsche would also, for a time, be the brunt of many jokes. For our class, something I’ve emphasized is the relationship between Nietzsche and Wagner. In 1871, when Nietzsche wrote the Preface for his book The Birth of Tragedy, he decided to dedicate this work to Wagner, writing “Let such ‘serious’ readers learn something from the fact that I am convinced that art represents the highest task and the truly metaphysical activity of this life, in the sense of that man to whom, as my sublime predecessor on this path, I wish to dedicate this essay” (Nietzsche 32). Seventeen years later, in 1888, he would write the opposite: “For such a task I required a special self-discipline: to take sides against everything sick in me, including Wagner, including Schopenhauer, including all of modern ‘humaneness’ (Nietzsche 614). What words would Nietzsche use to describe the change of heart he’d felt between 1871 and 1888?

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)



The Intellectual Conscience

Herd Instinct

In the Horizon of the Infinite

The Meaning of our Cheerfulness

“The wanderer” speaks


Richard Wagner(1813-1883)

Tristan und Isolde, the Tristan chord


Richard Strauss, 1864-1949

Music Lessons

Consonance and Dissonance (31 seconds)

Harmonic Suspension

Sigmund Freud (1854-1939)

1871 – 1914

A. Fascination with Electricity

B. Impressionism

  • Whistler’s paintings
  • Debussey’s Music

C. New Science

  • phrenology
  • neuroscience
  • psychoanalysis

D. German Cultural Dominance

  • music
  • philosophy
  • psychology
  • fairy tales

Also Sprach Zarathustra, Richard Strauss

The Rite of Spring

To learn more about the significance of this performance, you might want to read Modris Ekstein’s The Rite of Spring. This incident is also talked about in This is your Brain on Music.  


To know more about the relationship between Whistler’s paintings and Debussey’s compositions, you might want to listen to this podcast.

Across the Atlantic, Jazz music was developing.

Watch Part I of Ken Burn’s Jazz. There you’ll see the intersections of the slave trade and European immigration in the steamy streets of New Orleans, among other things.