Abstract

The general conceit of Schiller’s aesthetic education is that our experiences with art and beauty set us free from internal and external constraints and allow us to embrace our full humanity as rational and sensuous beings. Experiencing the aesthetic, or the play impulse, puts one in a state of aesthetic determinacy—or rather indeterminacy—that Schiller calls the highest sense of freedom, aesthetic freedom. Gail K. Hart examines Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange as an example of what Schillerian aesthetic education might look like in practice. Though it represents a distortion of Schiller’s aesthetic education, Hart argues that it also reveals an ineradicable element of coercion in aesthetic education. I argue that Burgess’s Ludovico Technique leaves out a key element of Schiller’s conception of aesthetic cultivation—play—and that Hart’s analysis of Schiller’s work likewise lacks a robust analysis of his notion of play. I argue that, when Schiller’s account of the play impulse is taken seriously as a necessary condition for aesthetic cultivation to take place, coercion is by definition made impossible. Aesthetic play is accomplished by the mutual destruction of physical and moral determinations, and this mutual erasure leads to a higher and more expansive freedom. External constraints and coercion cannot induce the aesthetic state, so aesthetic education as Schiller presents it in On the Aesthetic Education of Man cannot contain the element of coercion Hart suspects.

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