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Friedrich Schiller on the aesthetic state of mind

September 22, 2008

This is an extract from Letter XXII of Friedrich Schiller’s On the Aesthetic Education of Man.

If an aesthetic state of mind is a mere cipher so far as isolated and determinate results are concerned, it is on the other hand a state of the highest reality so far as the absence of all limits is concerned, and the sum of powers which a state of aesthetic culture calls into play. Those, therefore, who consider such a state as the most fruitful for the development of positive intelligence and morality, are likewise right. Indeed they are perfectly right; for a state of mind which embraces the whole of humanity within its range, must necessarily include the capacity for every single manifestation of human power; a state of mind which views human nature as a boundless whole, must necessarily consider every special manifestation of this nature as capable of infinite expansion. For the very reason that such a state of mind does not patronize exclusively any special function of humanity, it favours indiscriminately any one of them as the common source from which all may derive the possibility and power of development. All other practices impart some special fitness to the mind, but circumscribe it at the same time within corresponding limits; the aesthetic practice alone leads to the infinite. Every other state into which we enter, may be traced to a previous one, and may require a subsequent state for its own solution; the aesthetic state alone is a whole within itself, since it unites within itself all the conditions of its origin and its perpetuation. In the aesthetic state alone we feel as if placed beyond the limits of time, and our humanity manifests itself with a purity and an integrity as though the action of external forces had not imposed any limits to its power of expansion.

Schiller, Friedrich, On the Aesthetic Education of Man, In a Series of Letters, Letter XXII. A nineteenth-century translation.

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