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Idealistic Studies

Volume 46, Issue 3, Fall 2016

Antón Barba-Kay
Pages 259-275

The Aesthetics of Agency in Kant and Schiller

One of the lasting influences of German Idealism has been the transformation of aesthetics into a central philosophical concern. My aim here is to show how and why Kant’s and Schiller’s formulations of the problems of moral agency, in particular, constitute an important episode of this development. I argue, first, that it is in the context of Kant’s view of moral agency that aesthetics gains larger purchase than it formerly had (as a response to the problem of the identification of an agent with his external action); second, that Schiller expands the role of aesthetics (in response to Kant’s formulation of it) by intensifying a demand for aesthetic abandon in the agent as a bulwark against the threat of its possible “theatricalization.” It is these heightened demands on the first-personal content of agency that thus began the process of transforming the question of moral agency into an aesthetic one.

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