Chapter 12. "Art as Living Form" by Frederich Schiller

Table of Contents
Ideas of Interest: Ęsthetical Education of Man
The Reading Selection from Ęsthetical Education of Man
Related Ideas
Topics Worth Investigating

Frederich Schiller Duyckinick, Portrait Gallery, 1873

About the author …

Frederich Schiller (1759-1805), whose father was an officer under Duke Karl Eugen, studied law and medicine at the Duke's military academy. He would have preferred to study theology. When Schiller disappeared from his Stuttgart regiment in order to see his first play performed in a nearby city, the Duke forbade him from literature altogether. After a brief imprisionment, Schiller fled his regiment. Best known for dramatic plays, he and Goethe were at the center of the Sturm and Drang period of German literature. Schiller's poem "The Ode to Joy" formed the textual basis of the finale of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.

About the work …

In his Letters on the Ęsthetical Education of Man[1] Frederich Schiller develops a neoKantian theory of art and beauty whereby individuals become fully human in a free social order. He characterizes two basic instincts in man: (1) the natural sensuous and (2) the formal or rational. Schiller terms the synthesis of these two impluses "the play instinct" whose object is the "living form" of beauty in the world. In other words, the play instinct is an imaginative understanding of the ęsthetic qualities of phenomena—the beautiful. This impulse as cultivated through ęsthetic education makes humanity and rational social order possible.

Ideas of Interest: Ęsthetical Education of Man

  1. Describe the difference between the faculties of sensibility and understanding. How are these related to the opposite impulses of sensuousness and rationality? How are they related to matter and form?

  2. According to Schiller, what are the two fundamental laws of sensuous-rational nature?

  3. Explain to which instinct or impulse the moral sense belongs. Why is this so?

  4. What is the play instinct and how is it related to sensibility and rationality?

  5. According to Schiller, what is a "living form"? What is the source of ęsthetics or beauty?

  6. According to Schiller, why is art necessary for culture and free social order? How is it that beauty alone, and not absolute good, "confers happiness on all"?



Frederich Schiller. "Letter VXI." Letters on the Ęsthetical Education of Man. 1794. Translated by Tapio Riikonen and David Widger. In Literary and Philosophical Essays: French, German and Italian. New York: Collier. 1910.