November 06, 2005

Goethe, Schiller, Schelling

Goethe and Schiller differed in temperament and intellectual attitudes, approaching common issues from quite distant poles. As the older poet later recalled, "Schiller preached the gospel of freedom; I wanted to preserve the rights of nature." This simple, but trenchant, characterization crystallized several facets of their intellectual differences:
Schiller displayed a kind of religious fervor, Goethe a cooler, almost legal demeanor; Schiller emphasized the creative freedom of the artist, Goethe the constraints imposed by nature; Schiller looked inward, Goethe outward; Schiller was a Kantian idealist, Goethe—initially at least—a Spinozistic realist. But as their friendship matured, their ideas and attitudes began to migrate toward more common ground.
Goethe explained to Schiller why he was so engaged with Schelling's ideas: "since one cannot escape considerations of nature and art, it is of the greatest urgency that I come to know this dominant and powerful mode of thought." This "dominant and powerful mode of thought" solved for Goethe several deep problems concerning nature and art about which he constantly worried.
Robert J. Richards
The University of Chicago

No comments:

Post a comment