Free Will Between Inclination and Duty

So I started reading Schillers letters on aesthetic education.

But it is not what I would call an easy read. If I was not determined to understand what he has to say, I would have already quit.

But before I started reading from the beginning, I had a quick overview. And in that overview I got the impression that what he wrote in those letters is very important, something I just have to know more about.

After that, I searched for some reviews to see what others had to say about it. And those reviews also gave the impression that he had something essential to say.

So I now really want to read all the letters myself, to get a better understanding of his views. Which, as I wrote in my previous post, seems that creativity and beauty are an essential step between our instinctive nature and our moral behavior.

In this post, I want to quote some, in my opinion, important parts of his first few letters. And I want to start with a quote that made me think of a very powerful piece of music.

Man is not better treated by nature in his first start than her other works are; so long as he is unable to act for himself as an independent intelligence, she acts for him.

It made me think of the music of Carl Orff, O Foruna. Which gives an expression of the inevitable. The victims of our circumstances.

Fate that rules our lives…


O Fortune
like the moon
constantly changing
ever waxing
or waning
hateful life
now oppresses
and then soothes
as fancy takes it
and power
it melts them like ice.

and empty
you whirling wheel
you are malevolent
well-being is vain
and always fades to nothing
and veiled
you plague me too
now through the game
I bring my bare back
to your villainy.

Fate in health
and virtue
is against me
driven on
and weighted down
always enslaved.
So at this hour
without delay
pluck the vibrating strings
since fate
strikes down the strong man
everyone weep with me.

Another important quote is about art.

For art has to leave reality, it has to raise itself bodily above necessity and neediness.

It is so easy to let life take over. Just act upon your neediness and just do what is necessary. Which takes so much of our time and effort that nothing else is left.

But the will of man is perfectly free between inclination and duty.

This freedom of will, that is between inclination and duty, is what it is all about. This is our individual essence that has to decide what to do, to know how to act. It has to be consciously kept free, because else it falls victim to the circumstances.

These circumstances that can be seen as fate. As having no choice, things just happen with no control. We follow the rules, we do our best, and even that does not seem good enough.  Bad things happen to good people.

But that spark of freedom between inclination and duty, the art between necessity and neediness, the beauty in the patterns between the patterns of the ordinary, seems to be our way out.

Free will between inclination and duty

Image: source


  1. I look forward to your contributions – thereby evading hard-going reading because you are doing for me instead : )

    Love that excerpt of Orff too.

    It is an interesting inquiry – the relationship between necessity and beauty. Is beauty necessary? I think so. But just because I THINK so does not mean it IS so.

  2. By the way. Are you aware of Suzanne Sklar and her paper “Beauty Will Save the World”. If you have not read it I think you will enjoy it. I heard about it on a CBC Radio program called Ideas. The episode shared the same name as her paper. In an interview, she shares how “beauty” turned her from the brink of suicide and saved her life.

    The links for the CBC Program and Podcast are:

    CBCs “Beauty Will Save the World”

    Podcast Link:

    Sklar, Susanne.
    Beauty Will Save the World: William Blake’s Prophetic Vision

    ‘Dostoyevsky and Solzhenitsyn proclaimed that beauty will save the world and this essay explores how Blake’s prophetic writings (especially “Jerusalem”) reveal how beauty transforms individuals and societies. Beauty need not be a commodity, a thing to be craved. Beauty can be about perceiving the divine in every thing, and such spiritual materialism can engender social justice. As beauty can transfigure individuals, forgiveness can structure societies. Blake’s heroine (Jerusalem) embodies an aesthetic theology which changes assumptions about territory, inclusion, and wealth. The beauty of peace can reveal the interconnectedness of all things.’

    Here is a link to Sklar’s pdf file:

  3. Well, the reading was much easier because I listened to your amazing piano improvisations :-) Everyone their task, I wish I could play like that!

    About the relationship between necessity and beauty, I personally think that it is not necessary in an absolute way. But somehow I have the feeling it is necessary in finding an individual and independent path. How else do we know if we are still on track :-)

    Thanks a lot for the links about ‘Beauty will save the world’. Sounds familiar, I think I read something about that before but I am not sure. Maybe on your blog?

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