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Forming HumanityRedeeming the German Bildung Tradition$
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Jennifer A. Herdt

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780226618487

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226618517.001.0001

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Ethical Formation and the Invention of the Religion of Art

Ethical Formation and the Invention of the Religion of Art

(p.112) 4 Ethical Formation and the Invention of the Religion of Art
Forming Humanity

Jennifer A. Herdt

University of Chicago Press

Chapter 4 shows how Kunstreligion, the Religion of Art, came to be seen as a critical resource for the self-formation of mature humanity (Menschheit). Schiller, Goethe, and Wilhelm von Humboldt regarded art as having displaced Christianity’s role in ethical formation. Aesthetic education, they believed, would generate harmony among the opposing forces of the human spirit, effectively resist the instrumentalizing reduction of human persons, fit them for stable self-government, and preclude the revolutionary excesses of the French Revolution. The chapter argues that it was Humboldt’s understanding of Bildung, rather than Herder’s, that became institutionalized within the pedagogical and cultural institutions of later 19th-century bourgeois culture (the Bildungsbürgertum). Within this later context, Bildung came to be equated with a classical liberal education, regarded as a badge of bourgeois nobility and taken an excuse for political passivity. In the tumultuous atmosphere surrounding the French Revolution, however, it was not yet evident how easily liberal individualist Bildung could be politically domesticated.

Keywords:   Friedrich Schiller, Wilhelm von Humboldt, Goethe, Kunstreligion, art, aesthetic education, Bildungsbürgertum, Menschheit

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