Monday, 21 May 2018

Immanuel Kant’s Letter to Frederich Schiller

Kant's statue in Belo Horizonte, Brazil
The letters that Immanuel Kant wrote to many of the leading thinkers of his day is rich in philosophical content. But his correspondence with Frederich Schiller is businesslike.

On June 13, 1794, Schiller wrote from Jena, requesting Kant to contribute an essay in his new literary magazine Die Horen. Johann Gottlieb Fichte too wrote to Kant supporting Schiller’s request. Schiller wrote again on June 17, 1794 and again on October 6, 1794. In his letters, Schiller assured Kant that he was devoted to the Kantian moral system and he thanked Kant for illuminating his spirit.

On March 1, 1795, Schiller once again requested Kant to contribute an essay to Die Horen, and he also sent two issue of the magazine. In his letter he informed Kant that he was the author of the book Letters on the Aesthetic Education of the Human Race and that he hoped that Kant would like his book which he believed was an application of Kantian philosophy.

On March 30, 1795, Kant responded to the multiple letters from Schiller. Here’s Kant’s entire letter:

Esteemed Sir,

I am always delighted to know and engage in literary discussions with such a talented and learned man as you, my dearest friend. I received the plan for a periodical that you sent me last summer and also the two first monthly issues. I found your Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Mankind splendid, and I shall study them so as to be able to give you my thoughts about them. The paper on sexual differences in organic nature, in the second issue, is impossible for me to decipher, even though the author seems to be an intelligent fellow. There was once a severely critical discussion in the Allgemeine Literaturzeitung about the ideas expressed in the letters of Herr Hube of Thorn concerning a similar relationship extending throughout nature. The ideas were attacked as romantic twaddle. To be sure, we sometimes find something like that running through our heads, without knowing what to make of it. The organization of nature has always struck me as amazing and as a sort of chasm of thought; I mean, the idea that fertilization, in both realms of nature, always needs two sexes in order for the species to be propagated. After all, we don't want to believe that providence has chosen this arrangement, almost playfully, for the sake of variety. On the contrary, we have reason to believe that propagation is not possible in any other way. This opens a prospect on what lies beyond the field of vision, out of which, however, we can unfortunately make nothing, as little as out of what Milton's angel told Adam about the creation: "Male light of distant suns mixes itself with female, for purposes unknown." I feel that it may harm your magazine not to have the authors sign their names, to make themselves thus responsible for their considered opinions; the reading public is very eager to know who they are.

For your gift, then, I offer my most respectful thanks; with regard to my small contribution to this journal, your present to the public, I must however beg a somewhat lengthy postponement. Since discussions of political and religious topics are currently subject to certain restrictions and there are hardly any other matters, at least at this time, that interest the general reading public, one must keep one's eye on this change of the weather, so as to conform prudently to the times.

Please greet Professor Fichte and give him my thanks for sending me his various works. I would have done this myself but for the discomfort of aging that oppresses me, with all the manifold tasks I still have before me, which, however, excuses nothing but my postponement. Please give my regards also to Messrs. Schütz and Hufeland.

And so, dearest sir, I wish your talents and your worthy objectives the strength, health, and long life they deserve, and also the friendship, with which you wish to honor one who is ever.

Your most devoted, loyal servant

I. Kant

1 comment:

Moesy Pittounikos said...

Kant's Transcendental Aesthetic shows logically how Time is in us. Schiller writes that when he understood Kant it was though he had walked out of the darkness into a lighted room!

Alas, the Kantians today have forgotten this somewhat Buddhistic area of Kant and romanticism.