Thursday, May 15, 2014

What I've Been Reading

The mind, then, passes from sensation to thought through a middle disposition in which sensuousness and reason are active at the same time, but just because of this they are mutually destroying their determining power and through their opposition producing negation. This middle disposition, in which our nature is constrained neither physically nor morally and yet is active in both ways, preeminently deserves to be called a free disposition; and if we call the condition of sensuous determination the physical, and that of rational determination the logical and moral, we must call this condition of real and active determinacy the aesthetic.

On the Aesthetic Education of Man by Friedrich Schiller. Schiller portrayal of beauty as the roots of morality to politics to everything is a timeless wisdom. This is one of those books which needs to re-read every few years to preserve that aesthetic fire.
  • Man can be at odds with himself in a double fashion: either as savage if his feelings rule his principles, or as barbarian if his principles destroy his feelings. The savage despises Art and recognizes Nature as his sovereign mistress; the barbarian derides and dishonours Nature, but—more contemptible than the savage—he continues frequently enough to become the slave of his slave. The cultured man makes a friend of Nature and respects her freedom while merely curbing her caprice.
  • 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!
  • It is, therefore, not enough to say that all intellectual enlightenment deserves our respect only insofar as it reacts upon the character; to a certain extent it proceeds from the character, since the way to the head must lie through the heart. Training of the sensibility is then the more pressing need of our age, not merely because it will be a means of making the improved understanding effective for living, but for the very reason that it awakens this improvement.
  • But why call it a mere game, when we consider that in every condition of humanity it is precisely play, and play alone, that makes man complete and displays at once his twofold nature? What you call limitation, according to your conception of the matter, I call extension according to mine, which I have justified by proofs. I should therefore prefer to put it in exactly the opposite way: Man is only serious with the agreeable, the good, the perfect; but with Beauty he plays. Certainly we must not here call to mind those games which are in vogue in actual life, and which are commonly concerned only with very material objects; but in actual life we should also seek in vain for the Beauty of which we are now speaking.
  • But now Reason says: the Beautiful is not to be mere life, nor mere shape, but living shape—that is, Beauty—as it dictates to mankind the twofold law of absolute formality and absolute reality. Consequently it also pronounces the sentence: Man shall only play with Beauty, and he shall play only with Beauty. For, to declare it once and for all, Man plays only when he is in the full sense of the word a man, and he is only wholly Man when he is playing. This proposition, which at the moment perhaps seems paradoxical, will assume great and deep significance when we have once reached the point of applying it to the twofold seriousness of duty and of destiny; it will, I promise you, support the whole fabric of aesthetic art, and the still more difficult art of living. But it is only in science that this statement is unexpected; it has long since been alive and operative in Art, and in the feeling of the Greeks, its most distinguished exponents; only they transferred to Olympus what should have been realized on earth.
  • So melting Beauty is essential for a man under the constraint either of matter or of form; since he has been moved by greatness and strength long before he began to become sensitive to harmony and grace. The need of a man swayed by the indulgence of taste is for energizing Beauty; since in the state of refinement he fritters away only too lightly a strength which he brought over from the state of savagery.
  • Melting Beauty, we maintained, was for a taut nature, and energizing Beauty for a relaxed one. But I call a man taut as much when he is under the constraint of sensations as when he is under that of ideas. Every exclusive domination of either of his two fundamental impulses is for him a condition of constraint and of force, and freedom consists solely in the co-operation of both his natures. The man who is one-sidedly swayed by feelings, or sensuously straitened, is therefore relaxed and set free by form; the man who is one-sidedly swayed by laws, or spiritually straitened, is relaxed and set free by matter. In order to do justice to this twofold task, therefore, melting Beauty will reveal herself in two distinct shapes.
  • But if both are real, and if Man has had by means of sensation the experience of a definite existence, and through apperception the experience of his own absolute existence, both his fundamental impulses will be aroused directly their objects are present. The sensuous impulse awakens with the experience of life (with the beginning of the individual), the rational with the experience of law (with the beginning of the personality), and only at this point, after both of them have come into existence, is his humanity established. Until this has happened, everything in him has proceeded according to the law of necessity; but now Nature’s hand abandons him, and it is his own business to assert the humanity which she planned and disclosed in him. As soon, that is to say, as both the opposite fundamental impulses are active in him, they both lose their sanction, and the opposition of two necessities gives rise to freedom.

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