Schiller on Freedom and Aesthetic Value: Part I

British Journal of Aesthetics 60 (4):375-402 (2020)
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In his Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man, 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. In Part I, we develop a reconstruction of Schiller's view that aesthetic value is the only path to individual freedom and in Part II we analyze how Schiller connects aesthetic value to political freedom. In the end, 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.



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Author Profiles

Samantha Matherne
Harvard University
Nick Riggle
University of San Diego

Citations of this work

Toward a Communitarian Theory of Aesthetic Value.Nick Riggle - 2022 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 80 (1):16-30.
Freedom, Harmony & Moral Beauty.Ryan P. Doran - forthcoming - Philosophers' Imprint.
Playfulness versus epistemic traps.C. Thi Nguyen - 2022 - In Mark Alfano, Jeroen De Ridder & Colin Klein (eds.), Social Virtue Epistemology. Routledge.
Agency and aesthetic identity.Kenneth Walden - 2023 - Philosophical Studies 180 (12):3253-3277.
Reasons, normativity, and value in aesthetics.Alex King - 2021 - Philosophy Compass 17 (1):1-17.

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References found in this work

The Pleasure of Art.Mohan Matthen - 2017 - Australasian Philosophical Review 1 (1):6-28.
How marvelous! Toward a theory of aesthetic value.Kendall L. Walton - 1993 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 51 (3):499-510.
Aesthetic experience and aesthetic value.Robert Stecker - 2006 - Philosophy Compass 1 (1):1–10.
Freedom and Autonomy in Schiller.Sabine Roehr - 2003 - Journal of the History of Ideas 64 (1):119-134.

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