Navigation – Plan du site

AccueilNuméros52Schiller’s Humanism

Schiller’s Humanism

L’humanisme de Schiller
Frederick C. Beiser
p. 27-39


Cet article avance l’idée selon laquelle l’humanisme schillérien doit se comprendre dans la tradition de l’anthropologie philosophique de la Karlschule. À partir d’un examen du kantisme de Schiller et en s’intéressant aux concepts d’humanisme religieux, d’autonomie, de providence, d’immanence et de transcendance, on en vient à la conclusion générale que Schiller fut un des premiers humanistes de la tradition allemande à affranchir l’éthique de la religion. À cet égard, Schiller peut être considéré comme le précurseur de penseurs radicaux venus après lui tels que David Friedrich Strauβ, Ludwig Feuerbach ou Friedrich Nietzsche.

Haut de page

Texte intégral

Humanism and the Anthropological Tradition

1It must be one of the oldest clichés about Schiller’s philosophy that it is a form of “humanism”. But what, exactly, is meant by this term? It is tempting to answer—because the term is so vague—nothing much, or indeed nothing at all. Since Schiller himself did not use the term, it is plain that we are dealing here with a term of art. It has been scholars who, for one reason or another, characterize Schiller’s philosophy as “humanism”. Among them, though, there is no consensus about what the term means.

  • 1 On the intellectual background of the Karlschule, see E. Müller, Der Herzog und das Genie: Friedric (...)

2Although the term “humanism” currently has no definite meaning in Schiller scholarship, it seems to me that it can, and should, be given one. We can give the term such a meaning if we only return to Schiller’s early intellectual context, which is the tradition of philosophical anthropology of the Karlschule.1

3The more closely we examine Schiller’s early philosophical anthropology, the more we are struck by its richness and complexity. The term “humanism” takes on different meanings depending on which facet we focus upon. It has three different meanings: methodological, ethical and metaphysical.

  • 2 A. Pope, An Essay on Man, epistle II.
  • 3 On anthropology in the Scottish Enlightenment, see A. Garret, “Anthropology: the ‘original’ of hu (...)
  • 4 Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Book X, chap. 7, 1177a-1178a.
  • 5 See C. Wolff, Philosophia prima sive Ontologia, §1 “Ontologia seu Philosophical prima est scienti (...)

4Its methodological meaning is encapsulated in Pope’s famous dictum “the proper study of mankind is man.”2 The roots of this doctrine go back to the Scottish Enlightenment,3 which was a significant influence on the philosophical anthropology of the Karlschule. Philosophical anthropology attempted to reorient philosophy so that its proper subject was human nature and how human beings should live and act in the world. This conception of philosophy goes back to the humanist tradition of the Renaissance. According to that tradition, philosophy should be ars vitae, the art of living well. It opposed the conception of philosophy prevalent in the scholastic tradition, according to which the end of philosophy is contemplation, as Aristotle defines it in Book X of the Nicomachean Ethics.4 Something analogous to the reaction against scholasticism happened in 18th century Germany. The German anthropologists were reacting against the scholasticism of Wolffian philosophy, whose philosophia prima was ontology, which made being qua being rather than humanity the primary subject and starting point of philosophy.5 Like their medieval predecessors, the Wolffians seemed to make intellectual contemplation the chief end of life because they got involved in ever more abstruse demonstrations, and ever more barren disputes, having no bearing on life.

  • 6 See F. Schiller, Philosophie der Physiologie, §1, NA XX, p. 10-11; and Philosophische Briefe, NA (...)
  • 7 Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Book X, chapters 4 and 5, 1174a-1176a.

5The ethical meaning of humanism appears in philosophical anthropology’s concern with a classical question of ethics: What is the highest good? What is the best life for a human being? Given the importance anthropology gave to the ars vitae, this was obviously a central question. If we examine Schiller’s writings around the late 1770s and early 1780s—specifically, the Philosophie der Physiologie and the Philosophische Briefe—we can see that he was especially concerned with this question. In both of these writings Schiller conceives the highest good for a human being as perfection, the realization of all its characteristic powers to their fullest.6 Perfection and happiness are essentially connected, he argues, because the more perfect we become in executing characteristic activities, the more happy we are. Here Schiller seems to think, like Aristotle before him, that the realization of our characteristic powers is a pleasant activity for us.7 This makes us happy because pleasure is the crucial ingredient of happiness.

  • 8 On the importance of this question for Schiller and the Karlschule, see L. A. Macor, Der morastig (...)

6The metaphysical dimension of humanism surfaces in another question crucial for philosophical anthropology: the vocation of man (die Bestimmung des Menschen).8 To ask what is the vocation of man is to ask for someone’s place in God’s creation, what role he or she plays in divine providence. The guiding assumption behind this concept is that God has so created the universe that everyone has a specific role to play in it; the good of each individual, and the good of everyone as a whole, depends on each person playing the role that God assigns them. Life is like a play where the quality of the production depends on each actor playing his part as best he or she can; God is like the cosmic playwright, who has written a play in which everyone plays a specific role.

7The vocation of man was closely connected with the concept of the highest good. Someone could achieve the highest good, it was assumed, only if he acted according to his vocation. This is because God created the universe for the best of his creatures. God was benevolent and we could receive his goodness by acting according to providence.

  • 9 J.J. Spalding, Betrachtung über die Bestimmung des Menschen (1748). This book went through many e (...)
  • 10 The controversy partly took place in the correspondence between Herder and Mendelssohn. For Herde (...)
  • 11 F. Schiller, Philosophie der Physiologie, NA XX, p. 10.

8The question of the vocation of man had become famous in the 18th century by J.J. Spalding in his famous little book Die Bestimmung des Menschen.9 The book gave rise in the 1760s to a celebrated controversy between Moses Mendelssohn, Thomas Abbt and the young Herder,10 a dispute which was well-known in the Karlschule. The young Schiller seems to have been familiar with the dispute because he discusses, in very explicit terms in the very first paragraph of his Philosophie der Physiologie, the whole issue of the vocation of man.11

  • 12 Ibid.

9Humanism is often taken to mean a non-religious or even anti-religious ethics. It is supposed to be first and foremost an ethics without God. But the concept of the vocation of man shows that the ethics of philosophical anthropology had a deep religious meaning; it made no sense to talk about the highest good, or the vocation of a human being, apart from the plan of providence and God’s creation. The religious dimension of Schiller’s early humanism emerges very explicitly in the first paragraph of his Philosophie der Physiologie, where we are bluntly told: “Gottgleichheit ist die Bestimmung des Menschen.12 In reading this line, one hears faint echoes of the Christian tradition; it is as if one were reading Thomas a Kempis’ De imitatio Christi, according to which the best life of man is the imitation of Christ.

Religious Humanism and Kantianism

10Schiller’s early religious humanism, it would seem, could not survive his encounter with Kant. Its religious dimension appears especially vulnerable to Kant’s teaching about the limits of knowledge. Famously, Kant restricted knowledge to possible experience; but then there could be no legitimate speculation about the vocation of man or the plan of providence, which were matters beyond possible experience.

11There are, however, two faulty premises behind this reasoning. First, it assumes that Schiller abandoned his religious humanism because of his conversion to Kant in the early 1790s. But this assumption is false: before that conversion, Schiller already had his doubts about the religious aspects of his humanism. Second, it assumes that the Kantian philosophy proscribed religious humanism; yet Kant himself, in the Kritik der Urteilskraft, had developed his own form of religious humanism. If Schiller wanted to retain his religious humanism, he only had to follow the Kantian example. Yet, for reasons of his own, Schiller rejected the Kantian strategy.

  • 13 F. Schiller, “Spaziergang unter den Linden,” NA XXII, p. 78.

12Schiller began to have his doubts about the doctrine of providence in the 1780s before his close study of Kant in the 1790s. In the “Spaziergang unter den Linden,”13 which was written in 1782, the cynical character Wollmar, who is a materialist, claims that nature is a scene of constant destruction, despair and death, which has no redeeming purpose. Nature just follows a cycle of creation and destruction, “like a dirty monster who feeds off its own excrement.”

  • 14 F. Schiller, Philosophische Briefe, NA XX, p. 109-111.
  • 15 Idem, p. 78.

13Nowhere in this piece does Schiller indicate a plausible reply to Wollmar’s doubts. Then, in the Philosophische Briefe, which was first published in 1786, the character Julius falls into despair because he has lost his earlier faith in God and providence.14 He has been advised by his teacher Raphael to hold only those beliefs that withstand the critical exercise of reason; but he cannot find sufficient evidence for his older religious system. “A bold attack of materialism would bring down the whole creation,” he admits to Raphael.15 Here again Schiller does not give a convincing answer to Julius’ doubts; the reader is left in suspense. Schiller promised a sequel to the Briefe—though it never came.

14All Schiller’s doubts about the idea of providence would seem to have been confirmed by Kant’s philosophy. For it was a central doctrine of the Kritik der Urteilskraft that reason has no theoretical justification for making teleological judgments about nature. Kant teaches that we cannot have sufficient evidence for the thesis that nature is governed by purposes, and so a fortiori we have no right to assume that nature is created according to a plan designed by God.

15But this is to focus only on the negative side of Kant’s teaching; there was also a positive side. In sections §86-87 of the Kritik der Urteilskraft Kant argued that, though the concept of providence could not have any theoretical or metaphysical justification, it could have a practical or moral one. Kant then expounded an anthropocentric concept of providence just like that involved in Schiller’s religious humanism. He explained that we could assume 1) all of nature exists for a purpose, and that 2) this purpose is nothing less than the realization of the moral powers of man. In other words, Kant argued that we are justified in assuming, if only on practical and moral grounds, that the final purpose of creation is the realization of the moral capacities of human beings.

16Here, then, Kant was offering Schiller a way out, a strategy to rescue the religious aspects of his humanism. He could keep the concept of providence, and indeed the idea that man is the crown of creation, if he only adopted a justification through practical rather than theoretical reason. Schiller could still keep his religious humanism and be an advocate of the critical philosophy, a way of having his faith and his critical reason at the same time.

17As tempting as this offer might have been, Schiller rejected it, firmly and even brusquely. He took strong exception to Kant’s doctrine of practical faith, of any attempt to save the old religious dogmas through an appeal to morality. This is very clear from Schiller’s February 28, 1793, letter to Körner:

  • 16 F. Schiller, letter to Körner, 28 January 1793, NA XXVI, p. 219.

“Whether Kant has done well to support the Christian religion on philosophical grounds I very much doubt. All that one can expect from the known characteristics of the defenders of religion is that they accept the support they receive but throw away the philosophical grounds—and so Kant has done nothing more than repair the rotten edifice of stupidity.”16

18Schiller says nothing here specifically about Kant’s moral or practical defense of Christianity; but it is clear he is rejecting any philosophical defense of Christianity, which he regards as “the rotten edifice of stupidity” (das morsche Gebäude der Dummheit). Any attempt to repair that edifice, Schiller implies, is doomed.

Autonomy and Providence

19The question remains why Schiller so sharply repudiated the Kantian strategy of rescuing the concept of providence through practical or moral means. And here the answer is clear but also paradoxical: Schiller rejected the Kantian strategy for all too Kantian reasons. The most important reason for Schiller’s conversion to Kant in the 1790s is the Kantian principle of autonomy: that a person is obligated to obey only those laws that he or she would make as a rational being. We know that Schiller affirmed, and indeed celebrated this principle. Just ten days before his February 28 letter to Körner, Schiller wrote him on February 18-19, 1793:

  • 17 Idem, p. 191.

“Certainly, no greater worlds have ever been spoken by a mortal human being than these Kantian ones, which are the content of his entire philosophy: determine yourself…”17

20Determine yourself was simply another formulation for the idea of autonomy, for self-governance, for guiding your life by the rules of your own making. Schiller’s entire career, literary and philosophical, was devoted to the ideal of freedom; and now Kant had given it its precise philosophical expression.

21If we accept the principle of autonomy, then we could still have the concept of providence. We could just say that there is a happy harmony between the principles by which we govern ourselves and the principles that govern nature. This harmony exists because both principles are governed by reason, which exists in the self-conscious activity of the subject as well as in nature. This was the solution of this problem in classical stoicism, which had its own version of both principles. The stoic sage struggled to have everything in life conform to his will, which never yielded to the accidents of fate or fortune; but he was also commanded to follow the law of nature, to conform to the plans of providence. The solution to this apparent tension lay in the stoic’s concept of reason, which governs nature and the will according to the same laws.

22Although Schiller, like the stoics, could still have kept the concept of providence, he also chose not to retain it; it was only so much excess baggage. The principle of autonomy alone is sufficient for the justification of morality; and there is no need to adopt the concept of providence as its underlying support. In other words, the concept of providence had become superfluous. The basis of moral authority lay in the rational will alone, regardless of its place in creation, regardless of the existence or non-existence of God. It is not surprising to see, therefore, that after Schiller’s conversion to Kant, the metaphysics of his earlier writings disappears. Without fully announcing or realizing it, Schiller abandoned ethico-theology as the basis for his humanism.

Immanence and Transcendence

  • 18 The first to use this phrase, as far as I have been able to determine, was Schopenhauer. See A. S (...)

23In the late 1780s and early 1790s Schiller’s thinking was moving in an increasingly less religious, indeed anti-religious, direction. Exactly why is a difficult and long story, which I cannot possibly tell here. Suffice it to indicate here the principle behind this thinking. It was later called “the principle of immanence,”18 to give it a name that it would later acquire in German philosophy. This principle states that the purpose of life, the highest good, has to be sought in this life alone, and that it cannot be found in some heaven beyond earth. What is of value in this life has no meaning or purpose beyond it, so that it is pointless to orient life around what transcends it. This principle had a venerable history, going back to the Epicurean and materialist traditions. But the principle was still extremely controversial in Schiller’s age because of the prevalence and predominance of Christianity. Those poems where Schiller indicates his paganism and preference for this principle—“Resignation,” “Die Götter Griechenlands”—got him into much trouble and controversy.

24The principle of immanence was a fundamental antithesis to the whole Christian tradition. Central to, and characteristic of, that tradition was its position on the highest good as stated by Augustine in Book xix of De Civitate Dei. Taking up the problem of the highest good as it had been debated by the pagan philosophers, Augustine argued that this problem could have only a Christian solution. The highest good could not exist in this life, in the earthly city, he maintained, because of its constant and inescapable suffering; instead, it could exist only in the life hereafter, in the heavenly city, because there alone was there eternal peace and freedom from all suffering. Augustine did not contest the stoic and Epicurean claim that the highest good consisted in tranquility, ataraxia, but he located that tranquility in the heavenly rather than the earthly realm. In an age of political turmoil—the collapse of the Roman Empire—Augustine’s argument about the prospects for peace and tranquility seemed compelling. But it prevailed right throughout the Middle Ages and until the onset of the modern era. Augustine’s doctrine was fundamental to the two great reformers, Luther and Calvin, who continued to preach that eternal peace and tranquility are to be found only in heaven. Their theology, though in a watered-down form, prevailed even in late 18th century Germany.

25This should make it clear that the principle of immanence was still, in Schiller’s age, profoundly controversial. The growing popularity of this principle raises an important question: namely, what is the reply to Augustine’s argument? If life on earth is the scene of constant suffering and tragedy, which is undeniable, how can we dare to presume that the highest good can be found here? Schiller, like all thinkers of the Aufklärung, faced this question. His answer to it was like that of many Aufklärer of his age: that human beings, through their own efforts, and through the use of their natural faculties, could improve life on earth, so that it is no longer a scene of constant suffering. If they only used their natural reason, and if they only resolved to achieve its ends, they could gradually approach, even if they could not attain, the ideal of the highest good. Redemption could then be had here on earth.

26Behind this optimism there lay a belief which the Bishop of Hippo utterly deplored and officially condemned: Pelagianism. This was the doctrine, first espoused by Pelagius, a Welsh cleric of the 5th century, that mankind can attain salvation through its own efforts and natural faculties, and that it therefore does not stand in need of divine grace. Augustine had the doctrine declared heretical in 416. It is easy to understand the source of his opposition: if we can attain salvation through our own efforts, what need is there for divine grace? What need is there for even a heavenly realm?

  • 19 Cf. F. Schiller, “Etwas über die erste Menschengesellschaft,” NA XVII, p. 398-413.

27Schiller’s neo-Pelagianism appears explicitly in his essay “Etwas über die erste Menschengesellschaft,” which was first published in the Thalia in 1790.19 Here Schiller puts forward the argument that mankind can regain, through its own natural powers and self-conscious efforts, the happiness and perfection that was once given to it in the state of nature. What was once given to us by nature—peace and harmony—we can recreate through the use of our reason. In saying this, Schiller is appropriating the old Christian concept of the fall—his state of nature represents the garden of Eden—but he is also postulating the possibility of redemption in this life. The drama of innocence—fall—redemption is placed entirely on the stage of this life with no need for any future world or heaven. The best way to read Schiller’s essay, I would suggest, is as a reply to Augustine’s pessimism. Schiller is saying that the highest good can still be found on earth because it can be transformed—if only slowly and gradually—through our own efforts; it therefore need not be forever the scenario of distress, disease and death that Augustine portrayed.

28It is important to see that the principle of immanence requires neo-Pelagianism—if the highest good is attainable in this life, then our natural faculties must be sufficient for the task—but the converse does not hold: it is possible to be neo-Pelagian and still to affirm the highest good is attainable only in heaven; it’s just that we can use our natural faculties to earn our salvation, though salvation still takes place in heaven. Schiller needed, then, some independent reason for affirming the principle of immanence. This leaves us with the question: Why did he affirm this principle in the first place?

  • 20 F. Schiller, Ueber die ästhetische Erziehung des Menschen in einer Reihe von Briefen, NA XX, p. 3 (...)

29The answer lies in Schiller’s conception of the highest good, which was evolving in a this-worldly direction in the 1790s. According to this conception, the highest good consists in the complete and all-sided development of human potentiality, which involves not only the intellectual but also the sensible powers of human beings. This thesis is especially emphasized in Ueber die ästhetische Erziehung des Menschen where Schiller expounds his “complete anthropological standpoint,” according to which human perfection consists in the development of the sensible as well as rational faculties of a person.20 In stressing the development of our sensible as well as rational sides, Schiller was taking issue with Kant and Fichte, who saw self-realization in two narrow rationalistic terms. But this emphasis on the sensible side of man placed the realization of Schiller’s highest good firmly in the terrestrial sphere, for the sensible side of a human being involves its physical side, which exists only here on earth. In other words, Schiller’s conception of human perfection or self-realization means that it must take place on earth. If a human being is to attain the highest good, he or she can do this nowhere else than in this life, in the presently existing physical world.

30Now we can see more clearly why Schiller’s humanism became anti-religious. There was no room in his philosophy anymore for the old doctrine of the imitation of God. If the highest good consists in the development of my sensibility, then it is no longer possible to say that in perfecting myself I am also approaching the divine nature. Cultivating my physical and sensible side does not take me toward but away from the pure spirituality of the divine nature. Schiller’s concept of humanity here points forward to the rediscovery of sensibility that will take place in the Junges Deutschland movement of the 1830s.

  • 21 For a development of some of these themes in Schiller, see my earlier monograph: F. C. Beiser, Sc (...)

31So, summa summarum, the development of Schiller’s humanism from the late 1770s to the early 1790s shows the progressive immanentization or secularization of his thought. The transcendent and metaphysical dimension disappears as Schiller eliminates the ethics of the imitation of the divine and removes the need to appeal to providence. The source of moral principles lies in the human will alone, according to the principle of autonomy; and the locus of human perfection resides in this world alone, according to the principle of immanence. If we focus on these points, then we come to an interesting general conclusion: that Schiller was among the first humanists in the German tradition to remove the religious dimension of ethics. In this respect, Schiller was the father of the radicals who came after him, of David Friedrich Strauß, Ludwig Feuerbach, and Friedrich Nietzsche.21

Haut de page


Abbt Thomas, “Zweifel über die Bestimmung des Menschen,” Literaturbrief, June 21, 1764, in: Mendelssohn Moses, Gesammelte Schriften. Jubiläums-ausgabe, V/1, 619-29.

Alt Peter-André, Schiller: Leben – Werk – Zeit. Eine Biographie, München:
Beck, 2000.

Altmann Alexander, Moses Mendelssohn: A Biographical Study, London : Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1973.

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011.

Augustine, De Civitate Dei, The City of God, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Buchwald Reinhard, Schiller. Leben und Werk, Wiesbaden: Insel, 1953.

Beiser Frederick C., Schiller as Philosopher: A Re-Examination, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Beiser Frederick C., David Friedrich Strauß, Father of Unbelief: An Intellectual Biography, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020.

Dühring Eugen Karl, Der Wert des Lebens: Eine philosophische Betrachtung, Breslau: Verlag von Eduard Trewendt, 1865.

Garret Aaron, “Anthropology: the ‘original’ of Human Nature,” in: Broadie Alexander (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to the Scottish Enlightenment, Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 2003, p. 79-93.

Herder Johann Gottlieb, Briefe, Gesamtausgabe: 1763-1803, edited by Wilhelm Dobbek and Günter Arnold, Weimar: Hermann Böhlaus Nachfolger, 1977ff.

Liebmann Otto, Kant und die Epigonen: eine kritische Abhandlung, Stuttgart : Carl Schober, 1865.

Macor Laura Anna, Der morastige Zirkel der menschlichen Bestimmung: Friedrich Schillers Weg von der Aufklärung zu Kant, Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, 2010.

Mendelssohn Moses, Gesammelte Schriften. Jubiläumsausgabe, Berlin : Akademie Verlag, 1929ff.

Mendelssohn Moses, “Anmerkungen zu Abbts freundschaftlicher Correspondence,” Jubiläumsausgabe, VI/1, p. 148-150.

Mendelssohn Moses, “Orakel, die Bestimmung des Menschen betreffend,” Jubiläumsausgabe, V/1, p. 630-37.

Müller Ernst, Der Herzog und das Genie: Friedrich Schillers Jugendjahre, Stuttgart : Kohlhammer, 1955.

Pope Alexander, An Essay on Man, in: The Poems of Alexander Pope, vol. 2, edited by John Butt, New Haven: Yale University Press, p. 501-547.

Riedel Wolfgang, Die Anthropologie des jungen Schiller: zur Ideengeschichte der medizinischen Schriften und der „Philosophischen Briefe“, Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, 1985.

Schopenhauer Arthur, Über das metaphysische Bedürfnis, Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung, in: Sämtliche Werke (SW), hg. v. Wolfgang Freiherr von Löhneysen, Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1989, II, p. 234-237.

Spalding Johann Joachim, Betrachtung über die Bestimmung des Menschen, Greifswald: Johann Jacob Weitbrecht, 1748.

Wolff Christian, Philosophia prima sive Ontologia, Frankfurt: Renger, 1736.

Haut de page


1 On the intellectual background of the Karlschule, see E. Müller, Der Herzog und das Genie: Friedrich Schillers Jugendjahre, p. 25-128; R. Buchwald, Schiller I, p. 181-198; W. Riedel, Die Anthropologie des jungen Schiller; and P.-A. Alt, Schiller I, p. 113-134, p. 141-150.

2 A. Pope, An Essay on Man, epistle II.

3 On anthropology in the Scottish Enlightenment, see A. Garret, “Anthropology: the ‘original’ of human nature”.

4 Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Book X, chap. 7, 1177a-1178a.

5 See C. Wolff, Philosophia prima sive Ontologia, §1 “Ontologia seu Philosophical prima est scientia entis in genere, seu quatenus ens est.”

6 See F. Schiller, Philosophie der Physiologie, §1, NA XX, p. 10-11; and Philosophische Briefe, NA XX, p. 119.

7 Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Book X, chapters 4 and 5, 1174a-1176a.

8 On the importance of this question for Schiller and the Karlschule, see L. A. Macor, Der morastige Zirkel der menschlichen Bestimmung: Friedrich Schillers Weg von der Aufklärung zu Kant, p. 25-71.

9 J.J. Spalding, Betrachtung über die Bestimmung des Menschen (1748). This book went through many editions, the last of which appeared in 1794.

10 The controversy partly took place in the correspondence between Herder and Mendelssohn. For Herder’s letters, see J. G. Herder, Briefe, Gesamtausgabe: 1763-1803, I, p. 137-143, 177-181; for Mendelssohn’s letter to Herder, see M. Mendelssohn, Gesammelte Schriften. Jubiläumsausgabe, 12/1, p. 182-87; and M. Mendelssohn, “Anmerkungen zu Abbts freundschaftlicher Correspondence’. See also the original exchange between Moses Mendelssohn and Thomas Abbt, T. Abbt,Zweifel über die Bestimmung des Menschen”; and M. Mendelssohn, “Orakel, die Bestimmung des Menschen betreffend”. For a clear account of the whole dispute, see A. Altmann, Moses Mendelssohn: A Biographical Study, p. 130-140, p. 167-179.

11 F. Schiller, Philosophie der Physiologie, NA XX, p. 10.

12 Ibid.

13 F. Schiller, “Spaziergang unter den Linden,” NA XXII, p. 78.

14 F. Schiller, Philosophische Briefe, NA XX, p. 109-111.

15 Idem, p. 78.

16 F. Schiller, letter to Körner, 28 January 1793, NA XXVI, p. 219.

17 Idem, p. 191.

18 The first to use this phrase, as far as I have been able to determine, was Schopenhauer. See A. Schopenhauer, ‘Über das metaphysische Bedürfnis’, Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung, SW II, p. 234, 237. Cf. SW I, p. 377. In 1865 two works appeared that argue for this principle, even if they do not name it as such. The first is O. Liebmann’s, Kant und die Epigonen, p. 208-209; the second is E. K. Dühring’s, Der Wert des Lebens, 4-5. Both authors argue that the question of the value of life can be determined only within life itself.

19 Cf. F. Schiller, “Etwas über die erste Menschengesellschaft,” NA XVII, p. 398-413.

20 F. Schiller, Ueber die ästhetische Erziehung des Menschen in einer Reihe von Briefen, NA XX, p. 316-317, 375-376n.

21 For a development of some of these themes in Schiller, see my earlier monograph: F. C. Beiser, Schiller as Philosopher: A Re-Examination; and in relation to the philosophy of Strauß, see F. C. Beiser, David Friedrich Strauß, Father of Unbelief: An Intellectual Biography.

Haut de page

Pour citer cet article

Référence papier

Frederick C. Beiser, « Schiller’s Humanism »Les Cahiers philosophiques de Strasbourg, 52 | 2022, 27-39.

Référence électronique

Frederick C. Beiser, « Schiller’s Humanism »Les Cahiers philosophiques de Strasbourg [En ligne], 52 | 2022, mis en ligne le 12 décembre 2022, consulté le 11 décembre 2023. URL : ; DOI :

Haut de page


Frederick C. Beiser

Professor of philosophy, Syracuse University, New York State, USA.

Haut de page

Droits d’auteur


Le texte seul est utilisable sous licence CC BY-NC-SA 4.0. Les autres éléments (illustrations, fichiers annexes importés) sont « Tous droits réservés », sauf mention contraire.

Haut de page
Rechercher dans OpenEdition Search

Vous allez être redirigé vers OpenEdition Search