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

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Thus, however much may be gained for the world as a whole by this fragmentary cultivation of human powers, it is undeniable that the individuals whom it affects suffer under the curse of this universal aim. Athletic bodies are certainly developed by means of gymnastic exercises, but only through the free and equable play of the limbs is beauty formed. In the same way the exertion of individual talents certainly produces extraordinary men, but only their even tempering makes full and happy men. And in what relation should we stand to past and future ages if the cultivation of human nature made such a sacrifice necessary? We should have been the bondslaves of humanity, we should have drudged for it for centuries on end, and branded upon our mutilated nature the shameful traces of this servitude—in order that a later generation might devote itself in blissful indolence to the care of its moral health, and develop the free growth of its humanity!

But can Man really be destined to neglect himself for any end whatever? Should Nature be able, by her designs, to rob us of a completeness which Reason prescribes to us by hers? It must be false that the cultivation of individual powers necessitates the sacrifice of their totality; or however much the law of Nature did have that tendency, we must be at liberty to restore by means of a higher Art this wholeness in our nature which Art has destroyed.

Seventh Letter

Ought we perhaps to look for this action from the State? That is not possible; for the State, as it is now constituted, has brought about the evil, and the State as Reason conceives it in idea, instead of being able to establish this better humanity, must first be itself established by it. And so the foregoing enquiries have brought me back again to the point from which they drew me for a time. The present age, so far from exhibiting to us that form of humanity which we have recognized to be the necessary condition of the moral reform of the State, shews us rather the precise opposite. If, therefore, the principles I have laid down are correct, and experience confirms my description of the present time, we must continue to regard every attempt at reform as inopportune, and every hope based upon it as chimerical, until the division of the inner Man has been done away with, and his nature has developed with sufficient completeness to be itself the artificer, and to guarantee reality to the political creation of Reason.

Nature in her physical creation indicates to us the way we should pursue in moral creation. Not until the struggle of elementary powers in the lower organizations has been assuaged, does she rise to the noble formation of the physical Man. In the same way the strife of elements in the ethical Man, the conflict of blind impulses, must first be allayed, and the crude antagonism within him must have ceased, before we may dare to promote his diversity. On the other hand, the independence of his character must be assured, and subjection to alien despotic forms have given place to a decent freedom, before we can submit the multiplicity in him to the unity of the ideal. Where primitive Man still misuses his caprice so lawlessly, we can hardly disclose to him his freedom; where civilized Man makes so little use of his freedom, we cannot deprive him of his caprice. The gift of liberal principles becomes a piece of treachery to the whole, when it is associated with a still effervescing power and reinforces an already overweening nature; the law of conformity becomes tyranny towards the individual when it is combined with an already prevailing weakness and physical limitation, and so extinguishes the last glimmering sparks of spontaneity and individuality.

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