Schiller on Freedom and Aesthetic Value Part 2

Nick Riggle
University of San Diego
Samantha Matherne
Harvard University
In his Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man (1795), Friedrich Schiller draws a striking connection between aesthetic value and individual and political freedom, claiming that, “it is only through beauty that man makes his way to freedom.” However, contemporary ways of thinking about freedom and aesthetic value make it difficult to see what the connection could be. Through a careful reconstruction of the Letters, we argue that Schiller’s theory of aesthetic value serves as the key to understanding not only his view of aesthetic engagement, but also his distinctive account of individual and political freedom. More specifically, we show that Schiller defends a non-hedonic, action-oriented, communitarian theory of aesthetic value and a theory of freedom that makes the aesthetic not just supererogatory but fundamental for any fully autonomous life. Although we have lost touch with this way of thinking about aesthetic value and freedom, we submit that it is illuminating for contemporary thinking about both.
Keywords Friedrich Schiller  Aesthetic Value  Freedom  Beauty  Autonomy
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