Schiller and the Birth of German Idealism

In Antonino Falduto & Tim Mehigan (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook on the Philosophy of Friedrich Schiller. Springer Verlag. pp. 527-540 (2023)
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Abstract

Friedrich Schiller’s significance for philosophy was established in an irrefutable way by the Neo-Kantians. Following Kuno Fischer’s brilliant lectures in Jena in 1858 under the title of “Schiller as Philosopher” and Friedrich Albert Lange’s development of the “standpoint of the ideal” from Schiller’s philosophic poetry in the last part of his Geschichte des Materialismus (1866, 2nd edition 1873/75), many thinkers including Karl Vorländer (1894), Eugen Kühnemann (1895), Bruno Bauch (1905), Wilhelm Windelband (1905) and Ernst Cassirer (1916, 1924) underscored the value of Schiller’s philosophy and also made clear that his philosophy cannot be approached independently of his poetry and his dramatic work. While Rüdiger Safranski’s biography (2004) finds the vital impulse for the emergence of German idealism from this melding of Schiller’s philosophy and poetry, the seminal studies of Dieter Henrich (Grundlegung aus dem Ich, 2004) and Manfred Frank (“Unendliche Annäherung”. Die Anfänge der philosophischen Frühromantik, 1997) on the origins of German idealism did not indicate that Schiller had contributed in an essential way to German idealism. This contrast in the evaluation of Schiller’s credentials in this regard can be drawn back to the fact that the relationship between idealism and realism in Schiller is not determined, as with Kant, in relation to the concept of knowledge, but from the viewpoint of beauty and the sublime, which combine reason and nature in such a way that idealizes reality. The centrepiece of Schiller’s philosophy is the poetic imagination. To this extent, Schiller anticipates in a basic way the later movement of philosophical Romanticism.

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Hans Feger
Freie Universität Berlin

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