We continue (from part one) working through letters 1-15 of On the Aesthetic Education of Man (1795), helped by Markus Reuter. By the end of this, we get a clearer picture of what Schiller means by the experience of Beauty. We have a sensuous drive on the one hand to fill our experience with material stuff, and a form drive on the other that raises us up (a la Plato) to wonder at abstractions. These two human drives somehow combine, according to Schiller, into a “play drive,” which helps us escape from the necessity of the previous kinds of drives: they in effect cancel each other out.
Whereas someone stuck in the material would just obey the causation of their desires, and someone stuck in abstractions would just obey the rules that they think Reason dictates to them, having these two realms stuck together via the experience of Beauty gives the imagination free play. We can do seemingly useless things like make art, yet the art itself is not random, but it rule-like in the way the inner logic of an artwork help guide the artist’s choices.
In educational terms: Teach kids art, and they’ll be less selfish, more civilized, yet they won’t become some awful kind of dead-inside robots through too-strict socialization.
In the course of this argument, Schiller idolizes the ancient Greeks, whom he saw as civilized, reasonable, yet still very much alive. (Keep in mind this was half a century before Nietzsche made a similar argument.)
Ep. 319 (where Dylan is back, but Seth and Markus are not) will cover the rest of this book. The supporter-only part three to this discussion involves Mark and Wes looking more closely at the text of the first several letters, which means you won’t be lost next episode if you don’t hear that.