Wagner and German Idealism
Professor 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.