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Friedrich Schiller, Excerpts from On the Aesthetic Education of Man (1795)

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Fourth Letter

This much is certain: only the predominance of such a character among a people can complete without harm the transformation of a State according to moral principles, and only such a character too can guarantee its perpetuation. In the establishment of a moral State the ethical law is reckoned upon as an active power, and free will is drawn into the realm of causes where everything coheres with strict necessity and stability. But we know that the dispositions of the human will always remain fortuitous, and that only with absolute Being does physical coincide with moral necessity. If therefore we are to count upon the moral conduct of Man as upon natural consequences, it must be his nature, and Man must be led by his very impulses to such a mode of life as only a moral character can have for its result. But the will of Man stands completely free between duty and inclination, and no physical compulsion can or may encroach upon this sovereign right of his personality. If therefore he is to retain this capacity for choice and nevertheless be a reliable link in the causal concatenation of forces, this can only be achieved if the operations of both those motives in the realm of phenomena prove to be exactly similar, and if the subject matter of his volition remains the same through every variation of its form, so that his impulses are sufficiently consonant with his reason to have the value of a universal legislation.

Every individual man, it may be said, carries in disposition and determination a pure ideal man within himself, with whose unalterable unity it is the great task of his existence, throughout all his vicissitudes, to harmonize. This pure human being, who may be recognized more or less distinctly in every person, is represented by the State, the objective and, so to say, canonical form in which the diversity of persons endeavours to unite itself. But two different ways can be thought of, in which Man in time can be made to coincide with Man in idea, and consequently as many in which the State can affirm itself in individuals: either by the pure man suppressing the empirical—the State abrogating the individual—or by the individual becoming State—temporal Man being raised to the dignity of ideal Man.

It is true that on a partial moral estimate this distinction disappears, for Reason is satisfied when her law alone prevails unconditionally; but on a complete anthropological estimate, in which content counts as well as form, and living feeling at the same time has a voice, the distinction is all the more evident. Reason indeed demands unity, but Nature demands multiplicity, and both systems of legislation lay claim to Man’s obedience. The law of the former is impressed upon him by an incorruptible consciousness, the law of the latter by an ineradicable feeling. It will therefore always argue a still defective education if the moral character can assert itself only through the sacrifice of what is natural; and a political constitution will still be very imperfect if it is able to produce unity only by suppressing variety. The State should respect not merely the objective and generic, but also the subjective and specific character of its individuals, and in extending the invisible realm of morals it must not depopulate the realm of phenomena.

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