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Hannah Arendt and Friedrich Schiller on Kant’s Aesthetics

The Public Character of the Beautiful

Mihály Szilágyi-Gál

This book analyzes how the public character of judgments of taste makes implicit statements in moral and political philosophy. The framework that relates aesthetic, moral, and political aspects into such a triadic relationship is an implicit conception of freedom. In «The Critique of Judgment» Kant elaborates the idea that judgments of taste can only exist where society exists. The author regards Friedrich Schiller’s and Hannah Arendt’s approaches on the normative resources of Kant’s aesthetics for moral and political thought. He evaluates the discovery of the presence of a constant feature of Kant’s conception of freedom in both his aesthetic and moral theory: freedom as autonomy.

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III. Two Followers: Arendt and Schiller


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III.   Two Followers: Arendt and Schiller

The puzzle shared in Kant’s, Arendt’s and Schiller’s approaches is the matter of publicly shared judging. The common outcome of their enquiry on the topic is that they find the normative resources of Kant’s aesthetics for moral and political thought in the presence of a particular feature in Kant’s conception of freedom – both in his aesthetic and moral theory: freedom as autonomy.72

1.   The Moral Burden of Cognition: Arendt’s Political Reasoning

“Judging” was meant to be the third chapter of Hannah Arendt’s volume The Life of the Mind, which due to her sudden death remained unfinished.73 Therefore regarding her fundamental ideas on the relationship between the aesthetics and politics in Kant’s third Critique, posterity can only rely on her unfinished book as well as on her lectures on Kant’s political philosophy, which were supposed to be part of the completed book. Arendt highlights that the main topic of the third Critique is reflective judgment. This idea is crucial for her argument on the third Critique as Kant’s political philosophy.

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