Aesthetical and Philosophical Essays

Displaying 1 - 49 of 49
Category: Philosophy
All the properties by which an object can become aesthetic, can be referred to four classes, which, as well according to their objective differences as according to their different relation with the subject, produce on our passive and active faculties pleasures unequal not only in intensity but also in worth; classes which also are of an unequal use for the end of the fine arts: they are the agreeable, the good, the sublime, and the beautiful. Of these four categories, the sublime and the beautiful only belong properly to art. The agreeable is not worthy of art, and the good ...
Category: Philosophy
When the poet opposes nature to art, and the ideal to the real, so that nature and the ideal form the principal object of his pictures, and that the pleasure we take in them is the dominant impression, I call him an elegiac poet. In this kind, as well as in satire, I distinguish two classes. Either nature and the ideal are objects of sadness, when one is represented as lost to man and the other as unattained; or both are objects of joy, being represented to us as reality. In the first case it is elegy in the narrower ...
Category: Note
I have shown in the previous letters that it is only the aesthetic disposition of the soul that gives birth to liberty, it cannot therefore be derived from liberty nor have a moral origin. It must be a gift of nature; the favor of chance alone can break the bonds of the physical state and bring the savage to duty. The germ of the beautiful will find an equal difficulty in developing itself in countries where a severe nature forbids man to enjoy himself, and in those where a prodigal nature dispenses him from all effort; where the blunted senses ...
Category: Note
But the voice of our age seems by no means favorable to art, at all events to that kind of art to which my inquiry is directed. The course of events has given a direction to the genius of the time that threatens to remove it continually further from the ideal of art. For art has to leave reality, it has to raise itself boldly above necessity and neediness; for art is the daughter of freedom, and it requires its prescriptions and rules to be furnished by the necessity of spirits and not by that of matter. But in our ...
Category: Philosophy
It remains for me to say a few words about this third kind of sentimental poetry—some few words and no more, for I propose to speak of it at another time with the developments particularly demanded by the theme. This kind of poetry generally presents the idea and description of an innocent and happy humanity. This innocence and bliss seeming remote from the artificial refinements of fashionable society, poets have removed the scene of the idyl from crowds of worldly life to the simple shepherd's cot, and have given it a place in the infancy of humanity before the beginning ...
Category: Philosophy
The special subject of the greater part of the letters and essays of Schiller contained in this volume is Aesthetics; and before passing to any remarks on his treatment of the subject it will be useful to offer a few observations on the nature of this topic, and on its treatment by the philosophical spirit of different ages. First, then, aesthetics has for its object the vast realm of the beautiful, and it may be most adequately defined as the philosophy of art or of the fine arts. To some the definition may seem arbitrary, as excluding the beautiful in ...
Category: Philosophy
By your permission I lay before you, in a series of letters, the results of my researches upon beauty and art. I am keenly sensible of the importance as well as of the charm and dignity of this undertaking. I shall treat a subject which is closely connected with the better portion of our happiness and not far removed from the moral nobility of human nature. I shall plead this cause of the beautiful before a heart by which her whole power is felt and exercised, and which will take upon itself the most difficult part of my task in ...
Category: Philosophy
But I might perhaps make a better use of the opening you afford me if I were to direct your mind to a loftier theme than that of art. It would appear to be unseasonable to go in search of a code for the aesthetic world, when the moral world offers matter of so much higher interest, and when the spirit of philosophical inquiry is so stringently challenged by the circumstances of our times to occupy itself with the most perfect of all works of art—the establishment and structure of a true political freedom. It is unsatisfactory to live out ...
Category: Philosophy
Man is not better treated by nature in his first start than her other works are; so long as he is unable to act for himself as an independent intelligence she acts for him. But the very fact that constitutes him a man is that he does not remain stationary, where nature has placed him, that he can pass with his reason, retracing the steps nature had made him anticipate, that he can convert the work of necessity into one of free solution, and elevate physical necessity into a moral law. When man is raised from his slumber in the ...
Category: Philosophy
Thus much is certain. It is only when a third character, as previously suggested, has preponderance that a revolution in a state according to moral principles can be free from injurious consequences; nor can anything else secure its endurance. In proposing or setting up a moral state, the moral law is relied upon as a real power, and free-will is drawn into the realm of causes, where all hangs together mutually with stringent necessity and rigidity. But we know that the condition of the human will always remains contingent, and that only in the Absolute Being physical coexists with moral ...
Category: Philosophy
But perhaps there is a vicious circle in our previous reasoning! Theoretical culture must it seems bring along with it practical culture, and yet the latter must be the condition of the former. All improvement in the political sphere must proceed from the ennobling of the character. But, subject to the influence of a social constitution still barbarous, how can character become ennobled? It would then be necessary to seek for this end an instrument that the state does not furnish, and to open sources that would have preserved themselves pure in the midst of political corruption. I have now ...
Category: Philosophy
Does the present age, do passing events, present this character? I direct my attention at once to the most prominent object in this vast structure. It is true that the consideration of opinion is fallen; caprice is unnerved, and, although still armed with power, receives no longer any respect. Man has awakened from his long lethargy and self-deception, and he demands with impressive unanimity to be restored to his imperishable rights. But he does not only demand them; he rises on all sides to seize by force what, in his opinion, has been unjustly wrested from him. The edifice of ...
Category: Philosophy
Have I gone too far in this portraiture of our times? I do not anticipate this stricture, but rather another—that I have proved too much by it. You will tell me that the picture I have presented resembles the humanity of our day, but it also bodies forth all nations engaged in the same degree of culture, because all, without exception, have fallen off from nature by the abuse of reason, before they can return to it through reason. But if we bestow some serious attention to the character of our times, we shall be astonished at the contrast between ...
Category: Philosophy
Can this effect of harmony be attained by the state? That is not possible, for the state, as at present constituted, has given occasion to evil, and the state as conceived in the idea, instead of being able to establish this more perfect humanity, ought to be based upon it. Thus the researches in which I have indulged would have brought me back to the same point from which they had called me off for a time. The present age, far from offering us this form of humanity, which we have acknowledged as a necessary condition of an improvement of ...
Category: Philosophy
Must philosophy therefore retire from this field, disappointed in its hopes? Whilst in all other directions the dominion of forms is extended, must this the most precious of all gifts be abandoned to a formless chance? Must the contest of blind forces last eternally in the political world, and is social law never to triumph over a hating egotism? Not in the least. It is true that reason herself will never attempt directly a struggle with this brutal force which resists her arms, and she will be as far as the son of Saturn in the "Iliad" from descending into ...
Category: Philosophy
Convinced by my preceding letters, you agree with me on this point, that man can depart from his destination by two opposite roads, that our epoch is actually moving on these two false roads, and that it has become the prey, in one case, of coarseness, and elsewhere of exhaustion and depravity. It is the beautiful that must bring it back from this twofold departure. But how can the cultivation of the fine arts remedy, at the same time, these opposite defects, and unite in itself two contradictory qualities? Can it bind nature in the savage, and set it free ...
Category: Philosophy
If abstraction rises to as great an elevation as possible, it arrives at two primary ideas, before which it is obliged to stop and to recognize its limits. It distinguishes in man something that continues, and something that changes incessantly. That which continues it names his person; that which changes his position, his condition. The person and the condition, I and my determinations, which we represent as one and the same thing in the necessary being, are eternally distinct in the finite being. Notwithstanding all continuance in the person, the condition changes; in spite of all change of condition the ...
Category: Philosophy
This twofold labor or task, which consists in making the necessary pass into reality in us and in making out of us reality subject to the law of necessity, is urged upon us as a duty by two opposing forces, which are justly styled impulsions or instincts, because they impel us to realize their object. The first of these impulsions, which I shall call the sensuous instinct, issues from the physical existence of man, or from sensuous nature; and it is this instinct which tends to enclose him in the limits of time, and to make of him a material ...
Category: Philosophy
On a first survey, nothing appears more opposed than these two impulsions; one having for its object change, the other immutability, and yet it is these two notions that exhaust the notion of humanity, and a third fundamental impulsion, holding a medium between them, is quite inconceivable. How then shall we re-establish the unity of human nature, a unity that appears completely destroyed by this primitive and radical opposition? I admit these two tendencies are contradictory, but it should be noticed that they are not so in the same objects. But things that do not meet cannot come into collision. ...
Category: Philosophy
We have been brought to the idea of such a correlation between the two impulsions that the action of the one establishes and limits at the same time the action of the other, and that each of them, taken in isolation, does arrive at its highest manifestation just because the other is active. No doubt this correlation of the two impulsions is simply a problem advanced by reason, and which man will only be able to solve in the perfection of his being. It is in the strictest signification of the term: the idea of his humanity; accordingly, it is ...
Category: Philosophy
Two principal and different states of passive and active capacity of being determined [Bestimmbarkeit] can be distinguished in man; in like manner two states of passive and active determination [Bestimmung]. The explanation of this proposition leads us most readily to our end. The condition of the state of man before destination or direction is given him by the impression of the senses is an unlimited capacity of being determined. The infinite of time and space is given to his imagination for its free use; and, because nothing is settled in this kingdom of the possible, and therefore nothing is excluded ...
Category: Philosophy
I approach continually nearer to the end to which I lead you, by a path offering few attractions. Be pleased to follow me a few steps further, and a large horizon will open up to you, and a delightful prospect will reward you for the labor of the way. The object of the sensuous instinct, expressed in a universal conception, is named Life in the widest acceptation; a conception that expresses all material existence and all that is immediately present in the senses. The object of the formal instinct, expressed in a universal conception, is called shape or form, as ...
Category: Philosophy
From the antagonism of the two impulsions, and from the association of two opposite principles, we have seen beauty to result, of which the highest ideal must therefore be sought in the most perfect union and equilibrium possible of the reality and of the form. But this equilibrium remains always an idea that reality can never completely reach. In reality, there will always remain a preponderance of one of these elements over the other, and the highest point to which experience can reach will consist in an oscillation between two principles, when sometimes reality and at others form will have ...
Category: Philosophy
While we were only engaged in deducing the universal idea of beauty from the conception of human nature in general, we had only to consider in the latter the limits established essentially in itself, and inseparable from the notion of the finite. Without attending to the contingent restrictions that human nature may undergo in the real world of phenomena, we have drawn the conception of this nature directly from reason, as a source of every necessity, and the ideal of beauty has been given us at the same time with the ideal of humanity. But now we are coming down ...
Category: Philosophy
By beauty the sensuous man is led to form and to thought; by beauty the spiritual man is brought back to matter and restored to the world of sense. From this statement it would appear to follow that between matter and form, between passivity and activity, there must be a middle state, and that beauty plants us in this state. It actually happens that the greater part of mankind really form this conception of beauty as soon as they begin to reflect on its operations, and all experience seems to point to this conclusion. But, on the other hand, nothing ...
Category: Philosophy
That freedom is an active and not a passive principle results from its very conception; but that liberty itself should be an effect of nature (taking this word in its widest sense), and not the work of man, and therefore that it can be favored or thwarted by natural means, is the necessary consequence of that which precedes. It begins only when man is complete, and when these two fundamental impulsions have been developed. It will then be wanting whilst he is incomplete, and while one of these impulsions is excluded, and it will be re-established by all that gives ...
Category: Philosophy
I have remarked in the beginning of the foregoing letter that there is a twofold condition of determinableness and a twofold condition of determination. And now I can clear up this proposition. The mind can be determined—is determinable—only in as far as it is not determined; it is, however, determinable also, in as far as it is not exclusively determined; that is, if it is not confined in its determination. The former is only a want of determination—it is without limits, because it is without reality; but the latter, the aesthetic determinableness, has no limits, because it unites all reality. ...
Category: Philosophy
Accordingly, if the aesthetic disposition of the mind must be looked upon in one respect as nothing—that is, when we confine our view to separate and determined operations—it must be looked upon in another respect as a state of the highest reality, in as far as we attend to the absence of all limits and the sum of powers which are commonly active in it. Accordingly we cannot pronounce them, again, to be wrong who describe the aesthetic state to be the most productive in relation to knowledge and morality. They are perfectly right, for a state of mind which ...
Category: Philosophy
I take up the thread of my researches, which I broke off only to apply the principles I laid down to practical art and the appreciation of its works. The transition from the passivity of sensuousness to the activity of thought and of will can be effected only by the intermediary state of aesthetic liberty; and though in itself this state decides nothing respecting our opinions and our sentiments, and therefore it leaves our intellectual and moral value entirely problematical, it is, however, the necessary condition without which we should never attain to an opinion or a sentiment. In a ...
Category: Philosophy
Accordingly three different moments or stages of development can be distinguished, which the individual man, as well as the whole race, must of necessity traverse in a determinate order if they are to fulfil the circle of their determination. No doubt, the separate periods can be lengthened or shortened, through accidental causes which are inherent either in the influence of external things or under the free caprice of men: but neither of them can be overstepped, and the order of their sequence cannot be inverted either by nature or by the will. Man, in his physical condition, suffers only the ...
Category: Philosophy
Whilst man, in his first physical condition, is only passively affected by the world of sense, he is still entirely identified with it; and for this reason the external world, as yet, has no objective existence for him. When he begins in his aesthetic state of mind to regard the world objectively, then only is his personality severed from it, and the world appears to him an objective reality, for the simple reason that he has ceased to form an identical portion of it. That which first connects man with the surrounding universe is the power of reflective contemplation. Whereas ...
Category: Philosophy
I have shown in the previous letters that it is only the aesthetic disposition of the soul that gives birth to liberty, it cannot therefore be derived from liberty nor have a moral origin. It must be a gift of nature; the favor of chance alone can break the bonds of the physical state and bring the savage to duty. The germ of the beautiful will find an equal difficulty in developing itself in countries where a severe nature forbids man to enjoy himself, and in those where a prodigal nature dispenses him from all effort; where the blunted senses ...
Category: Philosophy
Do not fear for reality and truth. Even if the elevated idea of aesthetic appearance become general, it would not become so, as long as man remains so little cultivated as to abuse it; and if it became general, this would result from a culture that would prevent all abuse of it. The pursuit of independent appearance requires more power of abstraction, freedom of heart, and energy of will than man requires to shut himself up in reality; and he must have left the latter behind him if he wishes to attain to aesthetic appearance. Therefore, a man would calculate ...
Category: Philosophy
Whatever pains some modern aesthetics give themselves to establish, contrary to general belief, that the arts of imagination and of feeling have not pleasure for their object, and to defend them against this degrading accusation, this belief will not cease: it reposes upon a solid foundation, and the fine arts would renounce with a bad grace the beneficent mission which has in all times been assigned to them, to accept the new employment to which it is generously proposed to raise them. Without troubling themselves whether they lower themselves in proposing our pleasure as object, they become rather proud of ...
Category: Philosophy
As grace is the expression of a noble soul, so is dignity the expression of elevated feeling. It has been prescribed to man, it is true, to establish between his two natures a unison, to form always an harmonious whole, and to act as in union with his entire humanity. But this beauty of character, this last fruit of human maturity, is but an ideal to which he ought to force his conformity with a constant vigilance, but to which, with all his efforts, he can never attain. He cannot attain to it because his nature is thus made and ...
Category: Philosophy
The Greek fable attributes to the goddess of beauty a wonderful girdle which has the quality of lending grace and of gaining hearts in all who wear it. This same divinity is accompanied by the Graces, or goddesses of grace. From this we see that the Greeks distinguished from beauty grace and the divinities styled the Graces, as they expressed the ideas by proper attributes, separable from the goddess of beauty. All that is graceful is beautiful, for the girdle of love winning attractions is the property of the goddess of Cnidus; but all beauty is not of necessity grace, ...
Category: Philosophy
There are moments in life when nature inspires us with a sort of love and respectful emotion, not because she is pleasing to our senses, or because she satisfies our mind or our taste (it is often the very opposite that happens), but merely because she is nature. This feeling is often elicited when nature is considered in her plants, in her mineral kingdom, in rural districts; also in the case of human nature, in the case of children, and in the manners of country people and of the primitive races. Every man of refined feeling, provided he has a ...
Category: Philosophy
The abuse of the beautiful and the encroachments of imagination, when, having only the casting vote, it seeks to grasp the law-giving sceptre, has done great injury alike in life and in science. It is therefore highly expedient to examine very closely the bounds that have been assigned to the use of beautiful forms. These limits are embodied in the very nature of the beautiful, and we have only to call to mind how taste expresses its influence to be able to determine how far it ought to extend it. The following are the principal operations of taste; to bring ...
Category: Philosophy
"Man is never obliged to say, I must—must," says the Jew Nathan [Lessing's play, "Nathan the Wise," act i. scene 3.] to the dervish; and this expression is true in a wider sense than man might be tempted to suppose. The will is the specific character of man, and reason itself is only the eternal rule of his will. All nature acts reasonably; all our prerogative is to act reasonably, with consciousness and with will. All other objects obey necessity; man is the being who wills. It is exactly for this reason that there is nothing more inconsistent with the ...
Category: Philosophy
The state of passion in itself, independently of the good or bad influence of its object on our morality, has something in it that charms us. We aspire to transport ourselves into that state, even if it costs us some sacrifices. You will find this instinct at the bottom of all our most habitual pleasures. As to the nature itself of the affection, whether it be one of aversion or desire, agreeable or painful, this is what we take little into consideration. Experience teaches us that painful affections are those which have the most attraction for us, and thus that ...
Category: Note
Thus, when arrived at maturity, he recovers his childhood by an artificial process, he founds a state of nature in his ideas, not given him by any experience, but established by the necessary laws and conditions of his reason, and he attributes to this ideal condition an object, an aim, of which he was not cognizant in the actual reality of nature. He gives himself a choice of which he was not capable before, and sets to work just as if he were beginning anew, and were exchanging his original state of bondage for one of complete independence, doing this ...
Category: Philosophy
I call vulgar (common) all that does not speak to the mind, of which all the interest is addressed only to the senses. There are, no doubt, an infinite number of things vulgar in themselves from their material and subject. But as the vulgarity of the material can always be ennobled by the treatment, in respect of art the only question is that relating to the vulgarity in form. A vulgar mind will dishonor the most noble matter by treating it in a common manner. A great and noble mind, on the contrary, will ennoble even a common matter, and ...
Category: Philosophy
The poet is a satirist when he takes as subject the distance at which things are from nature, and the contrast between reality and the ideal: as regards the impression received by the soul, these two subjects blend into the same. In the execution, he may place earnestness and passion, or jests and levity, according as he takes pleasure in the domain of the will or in that of the understanding. In the former case it is avenging and pathetic satire; in the second case it is sportive, humorous, and mirthful satire. Properly speaking, the object of poetry is not ...
Category: Philosophy
I have previously remarked that the poet is nature, or he seeks nature. In the former case, he is a simple poet, in the second case, a sentimental poet. The poetic spirit is immortal, nor can it disappear from humanity; it can only disappear with humanity itself, or with the aptitude to be a man, a human being. And actually, though man by the freedom of his imagination and of his understanding departs from simplicity, from truth, from the necessity of nature, not only a road always remains open to him to return to it, but, moreover, a powerful and ...
Category: Note
The agreeable is not worthy of art, and the good is at least not its end; for the aim of art is to please, and the good, whether we consider it in theory or in practice, neither can nor ought to serve as a means of satisfying the wants of sensuousness. The agreeable only satisfies the senses, and is distinguished thereby from the good, which only pleases the reason. The agreeable only pleases by its matter, for it is only matter that can affect the senses, and all that is form can only please the reason. It is true that ...
Category: Philosophy
The author of the article which appeared in the eleventh number of "The Hours," of 1795, upon "The Danger of Aesthetic Manners," was right to hold as doubtful a morality founded only on a feeling for the beautiful, and which has no other warrant than taste; but it is evident that a strong and pure feeling for the beautiful ought to exercise a salutary influence upon the moral life; and this is the question of which I am about to treat. When I attribute to taste the merit of contributing to moral progress, it is not in the least my ...
Category: Philosophy
The depicting of suffering, in the shape of simple suffering, is never the end of art, but it is of the greatest importance as a means of attaining its end. The highest aim of art is to represent the super-sensuous, and this is effected in particular by tragic art, because it represents by sensible marks the moral man, maintaining himself in a state of passion, independently of the laws of nature. The principle of freedom in man becomes conscious of itself only by the resistance it offers to the violence of the feelings. Now the resistance can only be measured ...
Category: Philosophy
Sulzer has remarked that the stage has arisen from an irresistible longing for the new and extraordinary. Man, oppressed by divided cares, and satiated with sensual pleasure, felt an emptiness or want. Man, neither altogether satisfied with the senses, nor forever capable of thought, wanted a middle state, a bridge between the two states, bringing them into harmony. Beauty and aesthetics supplied that for him. But a good lawgiver is not satisfied with discovering the bent of his people— he turns it to account as an instrument for higher use; and hence he chose the stage, as giving nourishment to ...
Category: Philosophy
Absolute , A conception, or, more strictly, in Kantian language, an idea of the pure reason, embracing the fundamental and necessary yet free ground of all things. Antinomy . The conflict of the laws of pure reason; as in the question of free will and necessity. Autonomy (autonomous). Governing itself by the spontaneous action of free will. Aesthetics . The science of beauty; as ethics of duty. Cognition (knowledge; Germanice, "Erkenntniss") is either an intuition or a conception. The former has an immediate relation to the object, and is singular and individual; the latter has but a mediate relation, by ...