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The Liberty of the Ancients? Friedrich Schiller and Aesthetic Republicanism

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Schiller's political thought has been subject to conflicting interpretations. Taking Schiller's historical essay The Legislation of Lycurgus and Solon as a point of departure, this article locates him more precisely within the context of eighteenth-century debates on republicanism and moral philosophy. One of Schiller's central criteria in the evaluation of different republics is the question of how they comply with man's sensual and passionate nature. By attacking Sparta's constitution as despotic and unfit to meet human self-realization, he dissociated himself from Rousseau and repudiated classical republican models. Instead, Schiller sided with modest proponents of luxury and progress by defending Athens' abundant and polite lifestyle. In response to the French revolution, Schiller developed his own aesthetic model of cultivating senses and passions to achieve a free society. Despite significant liberal elements, he thereby remained true to the republican principle that freedom and self- realization can only be achieved in the political community.
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Keywords: Athens; French Revolution; Friedrich Schiller; Rousseau; Sparta; aesthetic education; classicism; eighteenth century German political thought; enlightenment; liberalism; passions; patriotism; republic; republicanism; sociability; virtue

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Historisches Institut, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena, F├╝rstengraben 13, 07743 Jena, Germany, Email: [email protected]

Publication date: 01 January 2009

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