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					                                      Cristina GELAN                                          73


Cristina GELAN

               J. C. Friedrich von Schiller.
                  Aesthetics and Politics

                                         Abstract
        To arrive at a practical solution in the political problem, one must take the
        road of aesthetics because, in Schiller’s opinion, it is only through beauty
        that we arrive at freedom. This can only be demonstrated if we first know
        the principles by which reason is guided in political legislation;
        for, although in its aesthetic state human action is truly free and it is free to
        the highest degree from any constrictions, it is not, nevertheless, beyond laws.
        Reason and the illumination of the mind, Friedrich Schiller believes, are not
        enough to make the truth triumph and heal the political: an education of
        feeling is necessary. The education of feeling represents the most stringent
        necessity as it becomes both a means to render efficient the improvement of
        ideas and judgments in practical life, and a cause generating this
        improvement. For, any amelioration in the sphere of the political must have
        in view the ennoblement of the character, and the instrument most at hand to
        this aim is the art of the beautiful.
        Beauty is the common object of the two impulses or instincts (reason and
        experience) and is best expressed through the concept of play; it is only play
        that renders man complete and develops his double nature. Making the
        beautiful a mere play does not involve a degradation of beauty; restricting
        the beautiful, which is regarded as an element of culture, to mere play is not
        in contradiction with the dignity of beauty, but we must look at the idea of
        play as it was expressed by Johan Huizinga also, and see man as the
        homo ludens providing the art of life.



In one of the Letters upon the Aesthetic Education of Man,
Friedrich Schiller conveys the idea that “to arrive at a solution even in
the political problem, the road of aesthetics must be pursued”1,
considering that the edifice of true political freedom represents the most
accomplished of the works of art.

1 Schiller, Friedrich, The Aesthetical Essays. Letters upon the Aesthetic Education of Man, 1976,

Letter II, Univers, Bucureşti, 1981, p. 253;
74                       J. C. Friedrich von Schiller. Aesthetics and Politics

From the very beginning we need to clarify the issue of aesthetics in the
work of Friedrich Schiller; to this purpose, it is essential to understand
that the assertions the philosopher makes regarding this issue are based
on Kantian principles2. According to the former, the task of the artist
(the one whose instrument is the art of beauty) is to take the matter from
the his age and raise it to the form in the sphere of the humane, while at
the same time showing the direction to goodness and truth; for, the
beautiful represents an equilibrium between reality and form, since
beauty reunites the two opposed determinations of feeling and of
thinking, the former being certified by experience and the latter, by
reason. To reach the aesthetic state means to unify the two
determinations and not to mingle or isolate them. As the poet-
philosopher shows in Letter XIX, the human spirit is passive by the
impressions of the senses and active by thinking; it is the beautiful that
builds a bridge over the gap when, “urged by the senses, allows thought
to rise above the two impulses, affirming its humanity through self-
awareness and through will”3. Thus, the beautiful may become the means
leading man from matter to form, from feelings to laws.
Reason and the illumination of the mind, Friedrich Schiller believes, are
not enough to make the truth triumph and heal the political: an
education of feeling is necessary. The education of feeling represents the
most stringent necessity as it becomes both a means to render efficient
the improvement of ideas and judgments in practical life, and a cause
generating this improvement. For, any amelioration in the sphere of the
political must have in view the ennoblement of the character, and the
instrument most at hand to this aim is the art of the beautiful.
At a closer look on modern culture, the philosopher finds that modernity
has mutilated people and estranged them from one another. To illustrate
this, Friedrich Schiller brings forth the example of ancient Greek culture,
highlighting the contrast between the cultural form of humanity during
the modern age and that in ancient Greece. According to Schiller, the
period of Greek culture shows the sublime awakening of the powers of
the mind, due to the fact that the domain of the senses and the domain
of the spirit had no distinctly separated property, as Grecian nature
combined all the charms of art and all the dignity of wisdom.

2   Kant, Immanuel, The Critique of Judgment, Trei, Bucureşti, 1995, pp. 25-43;
3   Idem 1, Letter XIX, p. 309;
                                 Cristina GELAN                            75

The Greek, Schiller believes, receives his forms from nature, for nature is
the one that unifies all things, while modern man receives his forms from
intelligence, which divides all things. Thus, modern man only gets to
form himself as fragmentary and fails to develop the harmony of his
being, “having nothing in his ears but the monotonous sound of the
perpetually revolving wheel”4; instead of imprinting the seal of humanity
on his being, he ends by being nothing more than the living impress of the
craft to which he devotes himself, of the science that he cultivates.
Moreover, the governing authorities, knowing humanity only by
representation, compelled to classify and therefore simplify the
multiplicity of citizens, totally lose sight of the meaning of humanity,
mistaking it for a mere artificial creation of the mind. As it follows, the
governed citizen receives coldly the laws that ignore his own personality.
Furthermore, positive society, disgusted and weary of maintaining a
connection of this kind to the state, decades into a state of moral nature, in
which public power is nothing but one more party, ignored and cheated
on by those who think it necessary and respected solely by those who
cannot do without it.
A state constitution nears perfection the more it manages to create unity
without suppressing diversity. The political artist has to treat his material
with respect not only subjectively as a deceptive effect on the senses, but
also objectively, having to spare man’s peculiarity and personality. Thus,
the mechanical artist manipulates the formless mass to give it a form
according to his intention without any scruples in doing violence to it –
for the nature he works on does not deserve respect in itself; the artist of
fine arts sets his hand on the same mass with as little scruple in doing
violence to it, but avoiding to show that violence, because, even though
he does not respect the matter on which he works any more than the
mechanical artist, his eye takes the matter under its protection and wants
it free. The political artist, however, Friedrich Schiller concludes, has to
respect his object, since man is at once his material and his end, where
the end meets in the material and the parts subject themselves to the end
only because the whole serves the parts.
The state serves the purpose of a representative of the pure and
objective type of humanity that the citizens carry in their hearts and has
to observe the same relation to its citizens that the citizens cultivate

4   Ibidem, Letter VI, p. 265;
76                      J. C. Friedrich von Schiller. Aesthetics and Politics

toward themselves. Moreover, in the character of the people there must
not be a contradiction between the subjective man and the objective man
in that only the oppression of the former could give victory to the latter;
the state must observe the law and repress without compromise any
individuality hostile to the interest of his citizens.
The ideal state that Friedrich Schiller proposes is what he calls the
aesthetic state. In the aesthetic state, man must appear to man only as form,
as an object of free play based on the fundamental law To give freedom
through freedom5. Three defining features are identified by the philosopher
when it comes to the aesthetic state: particular receptivity, particular
activity and aesthetic communication. When considering particular
receptivity, Friedrich Schiller identifies the role of the state as making
society possible, pure and simple, by “taming nature through nature”6.
The state’s particular activity aims to subject the will of the individual to
the general will in order to make society morally necessary; it is aesthetic
communication alone that can carry out the general will through the
nature of the individual and thus accomplish true society, given that the
two natures of man, the sensuous and the spiritual, coexist.
To arrive at a practical solution in the political problem, one must take
the road of aesthetics because, in Schiller’s opinion, it is only through
beauty that we arrive at freedom. This can only be demonstrated if we
first know the principles by which reason is guided in political legislation; for,
although in its aesthetic state human action is truly free and it is free to
the highest degree from any constrictions, it is not, nevertheless, beyond
laws. Experience, however, only shows us individuals in their particular
states and not humanity in its whole, therefore we have to search and
find the absolute and the permanent in this variety of individual ways of
being and appearing, we have to perceive the necessary conditions of
individual existence by suppressing all casual limits. How humanity is
possible or how beauty can be, neither reason nor experience can teach
us, says the philosopher; because beauty is the common object of the
two impulses or instincts and is best expressed through the concept of
play; in playing, man finds himself between law and necessity. Through
play the philosopher designates all that which is neither subjectively nor
objectively accidental and yet does not impose necessity either externally

5   Ibidem, Letter XXVII, p. 350;
6   Ibidem, p. 350;
                                    Cristina GELAN                                       77

or internally. It is only play that renders man complete and develops his
double nature. Making the beautiful a mere play does not involve a
degradation of beauty; restricting the beautiful, which is regarded as an
element of culture, to mere play is not in contradiction with the dignity
of beauty, if we look at the idea of play as it was expressed by Johan
Huizinga7 also, and if we see man as the homo ludens providing the art of
life.
Relating to the aesthetic state by means of the concept of play does not
entail a limitation but an enlargement: for no error is incurred if, in
wanting to discover the ideal of beauty in man, one follows the same
road on which man satisfies his play-impulse. For instance, the Olympic
games of the Greeks are bloodless contests of strength, speed and
swiftness, an expression of the noble battle of talents, while the Roman
contests are a gloating expression of the gladiator’s bloody agony.
The play impulse unites the impulse of nature, of life, and of form and
through this union beauty is achieved. In the play lies the basis of aesthetic
art and, implicitly, of the art of life, as man is only completely a man
when he plays. Both the material impulse, and the formal impulse have
their role in knowledge as one is related to the reality of things, while the
other, to their necessity; in action, the former aims to the preservation of
life, while the latter aims to the preservation of dignity, and both are
oriented towards truth and perfection. The two dominating impulses
which govern human life may set man in contradiction with himself in
two ways: either as a savage, when his feelings rule over his principles; or
as a barbarian, when his principles corrupt his feelings. In the first case,
the individual despises art and acknowledges nature as his absolute ruler;
in the second case, the individual laughs at nature and, with more
contempt than the savage, often proceeds “to be the slave of his
senses”8. The two extremes of human degeneracy, Friedrich Schiller
believes, are reunited in the present age: on the one hand, a return to
savagery, on the other hand, a sweet lethargy.
The solution the philosopher proposes to surpass this state, this drama of
the present time as he himself calls it, is to teach the individual to conduct
himself according to aesthetic principles. For, through beauty, the

7 Huizinga, Johan, Homo ludens.A Study of the Play Element in Culture, Humanitas, Bucureşti,
1998, pp. 99-155;
8 Idem 6, Letter V, p. 259;
78                 J. C. Friedrich von Schiller. Aesthetics and Politics

subjective man shall be led to form and thought, and the spiritual man
shall be brought back to matter and restored to the world of the senses.
Beauty shall quench life’s turmoil for the child of nature and shall
smooth his transition from feeling to ideas; as for the child of
civilization, it will arm the abstract form with a sensuous force and it will
bring back concept to intuition and law to feeling.
The aesthetic disposition of the soul first gives birth to freedom.
Understanding freedom means understanding the so-called free
disposition of man, an intermediate disposition in which the soul is no
longer constrained, physically or morally. According Friedrich Schiller, all
things that can appear in phenomena can be thought of in different
relations: they can be related directly to our sensuous state, thus having
access to the logic constitution of the thing; or they can be related to
will, being considered objects of our free choice, in which case we speak
of a moral constitution of things; or they can be related to the ensemble
of our various faculties, without being a determined object for any of
them taken separately, in which case we speak of the aesthetic
constitution of things.
Given the four different relations in which things appearing in
phenomena can be thought of, man should permanently aim at the
aesthetic stage, for only beauty brings with itself the oblivion of
limitations by passing beyond daily determiners, as the good and the
truth are solely conditions and renunciations, the former attaining
happiness only with certain conditions, and the latter being acquired only
at the cost of renunciation. To reach the aesthetic state or to perceive the
aesthetic constitution of things, man has to pass through a moment free
of any determination, to go back to the negative stage of pure
indetermination, a stage in which he was found before his senses were
affected or impressed by something. This implies a labour difficult to
render, since, with the passing to the stage of thought, a logical or moral
necessity must replace the physical, and, ultimately, these too must be
surpassed in order to reach a state of pure indetermination, expressed in
what the philosopher calls the aesthetic stage. What we are speaking of is
basically a free disposition, seen as an intermediary disposition in which
the soul is not constrained either physically or morally, yet is active in
both ways, a disposition identified with the beauty which Friedrich
Schiller describes as follows in one of his Letters: Beauty is indeed “the
sphere of unfettered contemplation and reflection; beauty conducts us
                                  Cristina GELAN                            79

into the world of ideas, without however taking us from the world of
sense…It is at once form and life, state and act…It demonstrates that
the physical determination of man does not suppress the moral one and
proves the compatibility of the two natures, the possible realization of
the infinite in the finite, and consequently also the possibility of the most
sublime humanity”9.
A clarification that the philosopher considers necessary is that of
regarding beauty as a rational concept, leaving aside the experimental
conception of beauty, which may lead into error. The rational concept of
beauty, which can still be deduced from pure humanity, may fulfil itself
in an aesthetic state, underlines Friedrich Schiller, which is the only state
where the ideal of equality can be achieved. This aesthetic state, as the
philosopher describes it, is actually a stage which humanity still has to
reach: “Does such a state of beauty in appearance exist, and where? It
must be in every finely harmonized soul; but as a fact, only in select
circles, like the pure ideal of the church and state - in circles where
manners are not formed by the empty imitations of the foreign, but by
the very beauty of nature; where man passes through all sorts of
complications in all simplicity and innocence, neither forced to trench on
another’s freedom to preserve his own, nor to show grace at the cost of
dignity”10.
The evolution of the political should be understood in close connection
with the disposition of each individual to rise above the arbitrary,
physical or moral, constraints; it should be understood as the attempt of
the individual to reach an ideal, which would raise him to the heights of
his claims as a rational being. This is the philosopher’s creed: “Humanity
has lost its dignity, but art has saved it, and preserves it in marbles full of
meaning; truth continues to live in illusion, and the copy will serve to re-
establish the model”11; and here is his appeal: “Live with your age, but be
not its creation; labour for your contemporaries, but do for them what
they need, and not what they praise”12.




9 Idem, Letter XXV, p. 334;
10 Idem, Letter XXVII, pp. 351-352;
11 Idem, Letter IX, p. 275;
12 Idem, p. 277.

				
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