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

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The character of the time must first, therefore, recover from its deep degradation; in one place it must cast off the blind force of Nature, and in another return to her simplicity, truth and fullness—a task for more than a single century. Meanwhile, I readily admit, many attempts may succeed in detail, but no improvement in the whole will thereby be achieved, and contradiction of behaviour will always demonstrate against unity of maxims. In other quarters of the globe humanity may be respected in the negro, while in Europe it is dishonoured in the thinker. The old principles will remain, but they will wear the dress of the century, and philosophy will lend its name to an oppression which was formerly authorized by the Church. Terrified of the freedom which always declares its hostility to their first attempts, men will in one place throw themselves into the arms of a comfortable servitude, and in another, driven to despair by a pedantic tutelage, they will break out into the wild libertinism of the natural State. Usurpation will plead the weakness of human nature, insurrection its dignity, until at length the great sovereign of all human affairs, blind Force, steps in to decide the sham conflict of principles like a common prize-fight.

Source of English translation: Friedrich Schiller, On the Aesthetic Education of Man, In a Series of Letters. Translated with an introduction by Reginald Snell. © Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd. [London], 1954, pp. 27-47. Reproduced by permission of Taylor & Francis Books UK.

Source of original German text: Friedrich Schiller, “Über die ästhetische Erziehung des Menschen,” in Theoretische Schriften [Theoretical Writings], edited by Rolf-Peter Janz, vol. 8 of Friedrich Schiller. Werke und Briefe [Friedrich Schiller. Works and Letters], edited by Otto Dann, Axel Gellhaus, et al. Frankfurt am Main: Deutscher Klassiker Verlag, 1992, pp. 561-80.

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