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Noller, Jörg (2020): Heautonomy: Schiller on freedom of the will. In: European Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 29, No. 2: pp. 339-353 [PDF, 1MB]


In his book "Schiller as Philosopher", Frederick Beiser laments that "contemporary Kant scholars have been intent on ignoring him. If they know anything at all about Schiller, it is only as the author of an epigram satirizing Kant". Therefore, Beiser calls us "to consider Schiller as a philosopher, to reconstruct and appraise the arguments of his philosophical writings" (Beiser, 2005, p. vii). In this paper, I shall argue that it is Schiller's conception of freedom of the will as "heautonomy" that stands behind his critique and modification of Kant's ethics. However, the systematic significance of Schiller's theory of freedom is not obvious. Its argumentative structure must first be reconstructed-as Beiser has demanded-because it is concealed by an esthetic discourse. A reconstruction of Schiller's theory of freedom shows that he contrasts his concept of heautonomy as individual self-determination with the Kantian concept of an autonomy or autocracy of reason by the universal moral law. Schiller's own philosophical contribution to the debate on freedom after Kant must therefore not be understood as a mere esthetic balancing and softening of Kant's ethical rigorism. Rather, it shows serious transformations of Kant's approach, which justifies understanding it as a critical step beyond Kant's theory of the autonomy of reason.

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