Friedrich Schiller.

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INTRODUCTION ........... 5




ON THE SUBLIME ......... 135

THE PATHETIC .......... 149


ON DIGNITY .......... 211


AND FORM ......... 230



ESTHETICS ......... 261



ON THE TRAGIC ART ........ 346


OBJECTS .......... 367









THE special subject of the greater part of the letters and
essays of Schiller contained in this volume is ^Esthetics ;
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 philo-
sophical 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 philosoplvy of art or of the fine arts. To some the
definition ma}- seem arbitraiy, as excluding the beautiful
in nature ; but it will cease to appear so if it is remarked
that the beaut\* which is the work of art is higher than
natural beauty, because it is the offspring of the mind.
Moreover, if, in conformity with a certain school of
modern philosophy, the mind be viewed as the true being,
including all in itself, it must be admitted that beauty is
only truly beautiful when it shares in the nature of mind,
and is mind's offspring.

Viewed in this light, the beauty of nature is only a
reflection of the beauty of the mind, only an imperfect
beauty, which as to its essence is included in that of the
mind. Nor has it ever entered into the mind of any
thinker to develop the beautiful in natural objects, so as to
convert it into a science and a system. The field of natural
beauty is too uncertain and too fluctuating for this pur-
pose. Moreover, the relation of beauty in nature and
beaut}* in art forms a part of the science of aesthetics,
and finds again its proper place.

But it may be urged that art is not worthy of a scientific
treatment. Art is no doubt an ornament of our life and
a charm to the fancv ; but has it a more serious side ?



When compared with the absorbing necessities of human
existence, it might seem a luxury, a superfluity, cal-
culated to enfeeble the heart by the assiduous worship
of beauty, and thus to be actually prejudicial to the true
interest of practical life. This view seems to be largely
countenanced by a dominant party in modern times, and
practical men, as they are styled, are only too ready to
take this superficial view of the office of art.

Manj* have indeed undertaken to defend art on this
score, and to show that, far from being a mere luxury, it
has serious and solid advantages. It has been even
apparently exaggerated in this respect, and represented
as a kind of mediator between reason and sense, between
inclination and dut} r , having as its mission the work of
reconciling the conflicting elements in the human heart.
A strong trace of this view will be found in Schiller,
especially in all that he says about the p4ay-instinct in
his " JEsthetical Letters."

Nevertheless, art is worth}- of science ; aesthetics is a
true science, and the office of art is as high as that
assigned to it in the pages of Schiller. We admit that
art viewed only as an ornament and a charm is no longer
free, but a slave. But this is a perversion of its proper
end. Science has to be considered as free in its aim and
in its means, and it is only free when liberated from all
other considerations ; it rises up to truth, which is its
only real object, and can alone fully satisfy it. Art in
like manner is alone truly art when it is free and inde-
pendent, when it solves the problem of its high destina-
tion that problem whether it has to be placed beside
religion and philosophy as being nothing else than a
particular mode or a special form of revealing God to con-
sciousness, and of expressing the deepest interests of
human nature and the widest truths of the human mind.

For it is in their works of art that the nations have
imprinted their favorite thoughts and their richest intui-
tions, and not unfrequently the fine arts are the only
means by which we can penetrate into the secrets of their
wisdom and the mysteries of their religion.

It is made a reproach to art that it produces its effects
by appearance and illusion ; but can it be established that


appearance is objectionable? The phenomena of nature
and the acts of human life are nothing more than appear-
ances, and are yet looked upon as constituting a true
reality ; for this reality must be sought for be} - ond the
objects perceived immediately b}' the sense, the substance
and speech and principle underlying all things manifesting
itself in time and space through these real existences,
but preserving its absolute existence in itself. Now, the
very special object and aim of art is to represent the
action and development of this universal force. In nature
this force or principle appears confounded with particular
interests and transitory circumstances, mixed up with
what is arbitrary in the passions and in individual wills.
Art sets the truth free from the illusory and mendacious
forms of this coarse, imperfect world, and clothes it in a
nobler, purer form created by the mind itself. Thus
the forms of art, far from being mere appearances, per-
fectly illusor}-, contain more reality and truth than the
phenomenal existences of the real world. The world of
art is truer than that of histoiy or nature.

Nor is this all : the representations of art are more ex-
pressive and transparent than the phenomena of the real
world or the events of history. The mind finds it harder
to pierce through the hard envelop of nature and common
life than to penetrate into works of art.

Two more reflections appear completely to meet the
objection that art or aesthetics is not entitled to the
name of science.

It will be generally admitted that the mind of man has
the power of considering itself, of making itself its own
object and all that issues from its activity ; for thought
constitutes the essence of the mind. Now art and its
work, as creations of the mind, are themselves of a
spiritual nature. In this respect art is much nearer to the
mind than nature. In studying the works of art the
mind has to do with itself, with what proceeds from itself,
and is itself.

Thus art finds its highest confirmation in science.

Nor does art refuse a philosophical treatment because
it is dependent on caprice, and subject to no law. If its
highest aim be to reveal to the human consciousness the


highest interest of the mind, it is evident that the sub-
stance or contents of the representations are not given up
to the control of a wild and irregular imagination. It
is strictly determined by the ideas that concern our intelli-
gence and by the laws of their development, whatever may
be the inexhaustible variety of forms in which they are
produced. Nor are these forms arbitrary, for every form
is not fitted to express every idea. The form is deter-
mined by the substance which it has to suit.

A further consideration of the true nature of beaut}',
and therefore of the vocation of the artist, will aid us still
more in our endeavor to show the high dignity of art and
of aesthetics. The history of philosophy presents us with
man}' theories on the nature of the beautiful ; but as it
would lead us too far to examine them all, we shall only
consider the most important among them. The coarsest of
these theories defines the beautiful as that which pleases
the senses. This theory, issuing from the philosophy of
sensation of the school of Locke and Condillac, only
explains the idea and the feeling of the beautiful by dis-
figuring it. It is entirely contradicted by facts. For it
converts it into desire, but desire is egotistical and insati-
able, while admiration is respectful, and is its own
satisfaction without seeking possession.

Others have thought the beautiful consists in proportion,
and no doubt this is one of the conditions of beauty, but
only one. An ill-proportioned object cannot be beautiful,
but the exact correspondence of parts, as in geometrical
figures, does not constitute beauty.

A noted ancient theory makes beauty consist in the per-
fect suitableness of means to their end. In this case the
beautiful is not the useful, it is the suitable ; and the latter
idea is more akin to that of beauty. But it has not the
true character of the beautiful. Again, order is a less
mathematical idea than proportion, but it does not explain
what is free and flowing in certain beauties.

The most plausible theory of beauty is that which makes
it consist in two contrary and equally necessary elements
unity and variety. A beautiful flower has all the
elements we have named ; it has unity, symmetry, and
variety of shades of color. There is no beauty without


life, and life is movement, diversity. These elements are
found in beautiful and also in sublime objects. A
beautiful object is complete, finished, limited with symmet-
rical parts. A sublime object whose forms, though not
out of proportion, are less determined, ever awakens in
us the feeling of the infinite. In objects of sense all
qualities that can produce the feeling of the beautiful come
under one class called physical beaut)'. But above and
beyond this in the region of mind we have first intellectual
beauty, including the laws that govern intelligence and
the creative genius of the artist, the poet, and the
philosopher. Again, the moral world has beauty in its
ideas of liberty, of virtue, of devotion, the justice of
Aristides, the heroism of Leonidas.

We have now ascertained that there is beauty and
sublimity in nature, in ideas, in feelings, and in actions.
After all this it might be supposed that a unity could be
found amidst these different kinds of beauty. The
sight of a statue, as the Apollo of Belvedere, of a man, of
Socrates expiring, are adduced as producing impressions
of the beautiful ; but the form cannot be a form by
itself, it must be the form of something. Physical beauty
is the sign of an interior beauty, a spiritual and moral
beauty which is the basis, the principle, and the unity of
the beautiful.

Physical beauty is an envelop to intellectual and to
moral beauty.

Intellectual beauty, the splendor of the true, can only
have for principle that of all truth.

Moral beauty comprehends two distinct elements, equall}'
beautiful, justice and charity. Thus God is the principle
of the three orders of beauty, physical, intellectual, and
moral. He also construes the two great powers distrib-
uted over the three orders, the beautiful ancl the sublime.
God is beauty par excellence ; He is therefore perfectly
beautiful ; He is equally sublime. He is to us the type
and sense of the two great forms of beauty. In short, the
Absolute Being as absolute unity and absolute variety is
necessarily the ultimate principle, the extreme basis, the
finished ideal of all beauty. This was the marvellous
beauty which Diotimus had seen, and which is described
in the Banquet of Socrates.


It is our purpose after the previous discussion to
attempt to elucidate still further the idea of art by follow-
ing its historic development.

Many questions bearing on art and relating to the
beautiful had been propounded before, even as far back
as Plotinus, Plato, and Socrates, but recent times have
been the real cradle of aesthetics as a science. Modern
philosophy was the first to recognize that beauty in art is
one of the means by which the contradictions can be
removed between mind considered in its abstract and
absolute existence and nature constituting the world of
sense, bringing back these two factors to unity.

Kant was the first who felt the want of this union and
expressed it, but without determining its conditions or
expressing it scientifically. He was impeded in his efforts
to effect this union b}- the opposition between the subjec-
tive and the objective, b} - his placing practical reason
above theoretical reason, and he set up the opposition
found in the moral sphere as the highest principle of
morality. Reduced to this difficult}', all that Kant could
do was to express the union under the form of the sub-
jective ideas of reason, or as postulates to be deduced
from the practical reason, without their essential character
being known, and representing their realization as nothing
more than a simple you ought, or imperative " Du

In his teleological judgment applied to living beings,
Kant comes, on the contrary, to consider the living organ-
ism in such wise that, the general including the particular,
and determining it as an end, consequently the idea also
determines the external, the compound of the organs, not
by an act springing from without but issuing from within.
In this way the end and the means, the interior and ex-
terior, the general and particular, are confounded in
unity. But this judgment only expresses a subjective
act of reflection, and does not throw any light on the
object in itself. Kant has the same view of the aesthetic
judgment. According to him the judgment does not pro-
ceed either from reason, as the faculty of general ideas, or
from sensuous perception, but from the free play of the
reason and of the imagination. In this analysis of the


cognitive faculty, the object only exists relatively to
the subject and to the feeling of pleasure or the enjoy-
ment that it experiences.

The characteristics of the beautiful are, according to
Kant :

1. The pleasure it procures is free from interest.

2. Beauty appears to us as an object of general enjoy-
ment, without awakening in us the consciousness of an
abstract idea and of a category of reason to which we
might refer our judgment.

3. Beauty ought to embrace in itself the relation of
conformity to its end, but in such a way that this conform-
ity may be grasped without the idea of the end being
offered to our mind.

4. Though it be not accompanied by an abstract idea,
beauty ought be to acknowledged as the object of a neces-
sary enjoyment.

A special feature of all this system is the indissoluble
unity of what is supposed to be separated in consciousness.
This distinction disappears in the beautiful, because in it
the general and the particular, the end and the means, the
idea and the object, mentally penetrate each other com-
pletely. The particular in itself, whether it be opposed
to itself or to what is general, is something accidental.
But here what may be considered as an accidental form
is so intimately connected with the general that it is con-
founded and identified with it. By this means the beauti-
ful in art presents thought to us as incarnate. On the
other hand, matter, nature, the sensuous as themselves
possessing measure, end, and harmony, are raised to the
dignity of spirit and share in its general character.
Thought not only abandons its hostility against nature,
but smiles in her. Sensation and enjoyment are justified
and sanctified, so that nature and liberty, sense and ideas,
find their justification and their sanctification in this
union. Nevertheless this reconciliation, though seem-
ingly perfect, is stricken with the character of subjective-
ness. It cannot constitute the absolutely true and real.

Such is an outline of the principal results of Kant's
criticism, and Hegel passes high praise on the profoundly
philosophic mind of Schiller, who demanded the union


and reconciliation of the two principles, and who tried to
give a scientific explanation of it before the problem had
been solved by philosophy. In his " Letters on -/Esthetic
Education," Schiller admits that man carries in himself
the germ of the ideal man which is realized and repre-
sented by the state. There are two ways for the individual
man to approach the ideal man ; first, when the state,
considered as morality, justice, and general reason, absorbs
the individualities in its unit}' ; secondly, when the indi-
vidual rises to the ideal of his species by the perfecting
of himself. Reason demands unity, conformity to the
species ; nature, on the other hand, demands plurality
and individuality ; and man is at once solicited by two
contrary laws. In this conflict, aesthetic education must
come in to effect the reconciliation of the two principles ;
for, according to Schiller, it has as its end to fashion and
polish the inclinations and passions so that they may
become reasonable, and that, on the other hand, reason
and freedom may issue from their abstract character, may
unite with nature, may spiritualize it, become incarnate,
and take a body in it. Beauty is thus given as the simul-
taneous development of the rational and of the sensuous,
fused together, and interpenetrated one by the other, an
union that constitutes in fact true reality.

This unit}' of the general and of the particular, of liberty
and necessity of the spiritual and material, which Schiller,
understood scientifically as the spirit of art, and which he
tried to make appear in real life by aesthetic art and edu-
cation, was afterwards put forward under the name of
idea as the principle of all knowledge and existence. In
this way, through the agency of Schelling, science raised
itself to an absolute point of view. It was thus that art
began to claim its proper nature and dignity. From that
time its proper place was finally marked out for it in
science, though the mode of viewing it still labored under
certain defects. Its high and true distinction were at
length understood.

In viewing the higher position to which recent philo-
sophical systems have raised the theory of art in Germany,
we must not overlook the advantages contributed by the
study of the ideal of the ancients by such men as Winckel-


mann, who, by a kind of inspiration, raised art criticism
from a carping about pett} 1 details to seek the true spirit
of great works of art, and their true ideas, by a study of
the spirit of the originals.

It has appeared expedient to conclude this introduction
with a summary of the latest and highest theory of art
and aesthetics issuing from Kant and Schiller, and devel-
oped in the later philosophy of Hegel.

Our space only allows us to give a glance, first, at the
metaphysics of the beautiful as developed by Hegel in
the first part of his ' Aesthetik,' and then at the later
development of the same system in recent writers issuing
from his school.

Hegel considers, first, the abstract idea of the beautiful ;
secondly, beaut}* in nature ; thirdly, beaut}' in art or the
ideal ; and he winds up with an examination of the qualities
of the artist.

His preliminary remarks are directed to show the rela-
tions of art to religion and philosophy, and he shows that
man's destination is an infinite development. In real life
he only satisfies his longing partially and imperfectly by
limited enjo} - ments. In science he finds a nobler pleasure,
and civil life opens a career for his activity ; but he only
finds an imperfect pleasure in these pursuits. He cannot
then find the ideal after which he sighs. Then he rises to
a higher sphere, where all contradictions are effaced and
the ideas of good and happiness are realized in perfect
accord and in constant harmony. This deep want of the
soul is satisfied in three ways : in art, in religion, and in

Art is intended to make us contemplate the true and
the infinite in forms of sense. Yet even art does not fully
satisfy the deepest need of the soul. The soul wants to
contemplate truth in its inmost consciousness. Religion
is placed above the dominion of art.

First, as to idea of the beautiful, Hegel begins by
giving its characteristics. It is infinite, and it is free ;
the contemplation of the beautiful suffices to itself, it
awakens no desire. The soul experiences something like
a godlike felicity and is transported into a sphere remote
from the miseries of life. This theory of the beautiful
comes very near that of Plato.


Secondly, as to beauty in nature. Physical beauty,
considered externally, presents itself successively under
the aspects of regularity and of symmetry, of conformity
with a law, and of harmony, also of purity and simplicity
of matter.

Thirdly, beauty in art or the ideal is beauty in a higher
degree of perfection than real beauty. The ideal in art
is not contrary to the real, but the real idealized, purified,
and perfectly expressed. The ideal is also the soul arrived
at the consciousness of itself, free and fully enjoying its
faculties ; it is life, but spiritual life and spirit. Nor is
the ideal a cold abstraction, it is the spiritual principle
under the form of a living individuality freed from the laws
of the finite. The ideal in its highest form is the divine, as
expressed in the Greek divinities ; the Christian ideal, as
expressed in all its highest purity in God the Father, the
Christ, the Virgin. Its essential features are calm,
majesty, serenit}-.

At a lower degree the ideal is in man the victory of the
eternal principles that fill the human heart, the triumph of
the nobler part of the soul, the moral and divine principle.

But the ideal manifested in the world becomes action,
and action implies a form of society, a determinate situa-
tion with collision, and an action properly so called. The
heroic age is the best society for the ideal in action ; in
its determinate situation the ideal in action must appear
as the manifestation of moral power, and in action, properly
so called, it must contain three points in the ideal : first,
general principles ; secondly, personages ; thirdly, their
character and their passions. Hegel winds up by con-
sidering the qualities necessary in an artist: imagination,
genius, inspiration, originalit}% etc.

A recent exponent of Hegel's aesthetical ideas further
developed expresses himself thus on the nature of
beaut}' :

" After the bitterness of the world, the sweetness of art
soothes and refreshes us. This is the high value of the
beautiful that it solves the contradiction of mind and
matter, of the moral and sensuous world, in harmony.
Thus the beautiful and its representation in art procures
for intuition what philosophy gives to the cognitive insight


and religion to the believing frame of mind. Hence the
delight with which Schiller's wonderful poem on the Bell
celebrates the accord of the inner and outer life, the fulfil-
ment of the longing and demands of the soul by the events
in nature. The externality of phenomena is removed in
the beautiful ; it is raised into the circle of ideal existence ;
for it is recognized as the revelation of the ideal, and thus
transfigured it gives to the latter additional splendor.

" Thus the beautiful is active, living unity, full existence
without defect, as Plato and Schelling have said, or as
recent writers describe it ; the idea that is quite present
in the appearance, the appearance which is quite formed
and penetrated by the idea."

" Beaut}- is the world secret that invites us in image
arid word," is the poetical expression of Plato ; and we
may add, because it is revealed in both. We feel in it the
harmony of the world ; it breaks forth in a' beauty, in a
lovely accord, in a radiant point, and starting thence we
penetrate further and yet further, and find as the ground

Online LibraryFriedrich SchillerThe works of Frederick Schiller (Volume 8) → online text (page 1 of 41)