FRIEDRICH SCHILLER (1759-1805)
In “Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man” (1794/5), Schiller examines the relationship between natural necessity and practical freedom and addresses two problems raised by Kant: How can a creature governed by natural necessity and desire ever become aware of its own freedom and thus capable of autonomous moral action? And how can these two sides of human nature—the natural, sensuous side and the rational, super-sensuous one—be reconciled? In contradistinction both to those who subordinate principles to feelings (“savages”) and to those who insist that one should strive to subordinate feelings to principles (“barbarians”), Schiller posited an intermediary realm between the sphere of nature and that of freedom, as well as a third basic human drive capable of mediating between sensuous and rational impulses. This third impulse is dubbed the “play impulse,” and the intermediary sphere to which it pertains is that of art and beauty. By cultivating the play impulse (i.e., via “aesthetic education”) one is not only freed from bondage to sensuality and granted a first glimpse of one’s practical freedom, but one also becomes capable of reconciling the rational and sensuous sides of one’s own nature. This idea of a condition in which opposites are simultaneously cancelled and preserved, as well as the specific project of reconciling freedom and necessity, profoundly influenced subsequent thinker such as Schelling and Hegel and contributed to the development of German idealism.
Robert Audi, THE CAMBRIGE DICTIONARY OF PHILOSOPHY