CONCLUSION: THE POVERTY OF AESTHETICISM?
Die Irrthümer großer Männer sind verehrungswürdig, weil sie fruchtbarer sind als die Wahrheiten der kleinen.1
Both Die Geburt der Tragödie and the Ästhetische Briefe present coherent, if divergent, accounts of the immediate regenerative effects of aesthetic experience on the life of the individual. Yet neither text paints a detailed enough picture of its wider revitalizing impact on social and political life. For all their talk of restoring the whole man, there is little evidence that either Nietzsche or Schiller has clearly envisaged the social and political framework in which the creative activity necessary to restore and sustain man's wholeness could best flourish. Their reluctance in this regard is linked to the point made in the previous chapter concerning their anti-didactic views of art. It is not the artist's business, they argue, to indulge in social engineering. Nevertheless, aesthetic theories, especially those on the grand scale like Nietzsche's and Schiller's, neglect social and political realities at their peril. Both writers are convinced that society is so corrupt that it is in no position to cure its own ills. Only art can do this, they claim, because it lies outside the vicious circle of individual and social corruption. Art refreshes the parts other, more conventional instruments of social and political reform cannot reach, namely, human nature itself, or at least the conceptions of human nature advanced in the two texts.
Another reason for the writers' indifference to politics is that both believe political approaches to the problems they are tackling are misguided. It has to be remembered that both men were writing in conditions of perceived political failure, which may well account for their unpolitical or anti-political____________________