Dialectic of Love: Platonism in Schiller's Aesthetics

Dialectic of Love: Platonism in Schiller's Aesthetics

Dialectic of Love: Platonism in Schiller's Aesthetics

Dialectic of Love: Platonism in Schiller's Aesthetics

Synopsis

Unravelling the contradictions and complexities of Friedrich Schiller's aesthetic thought, David Pugh illuminates the inner dynamics of these writings and places them within a wider philosophical and cultural context.

Excerpt

In her recent survey of the critical history of Schiller’s aesthetic writings, a miniature masterpiece that will soon establish itself as indispensable to all students of this material, Lesley Sharpe describes a 1930s study of Schiller’s relation to Greek culture as “an example of the wrong question generating an inadequate answer.” It is hard to dissent from her judgment. Whatever the merits of the various investigations of Schiller’s attitude to the Greeks, the reader invariably feels that the question has addressed only a peripheral issue and that Schiller’s extraordinary treatises, reflecting as they do the ambivalent movements of their author’s mercurial mind, have not given up any of their most important secrets.

But what kind of question is likely to be more fruitful? in recent years, a number of topics have come into favour, each generating a large quantity of scholarly publication and then giving way to the next. One thinks, to name only the most prominent “Stichwörter,” of rhetoric, autonomy, the public sphere, utopia, and anthropology. As with Schiller’s relation to Greek culture, each approach has its relative justification, in that each addresses an element that is unquestionably present in the writings and does so from a topical point of view. But it seems to me that the question of the inner structure of Schiller’s three great treatises remains as obscure as ever. It is this structure that supplies the context for his statements that are relevant to the five topics I have just listed, and that context has to be understood before the individual statements can be properly evaluated. To be more specific, Schiller has an extraordinary propensity to contradict his own statements and to depart from apparently firm convictions. For example, his invocation of a “complete anthropological mode of evaluation” early in the Ästhetische Briefe, frequently invoked by scholars who favour die anthropological line of . . .

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