Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 17: Nos 1-2) >> Philosophical Aesthetics and Simms's Poetry and the Practical >> Page 68

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Secondary Scholarship | 2009
Transcription 68 THE SIMMS REVIEW

freedom made possible by such self-consciousness. As Schiller sees it,
in art we are permitted to observe that man is both a spiritual being and
an animal with instincts and passions, or, in other words, that man has a
spiritual dimension and a physical dimension, which can be coordinated
but which are frequently in collision. Each side wishes to be absolutely
dominant and seeks its own satisfactions without regard to the interests
of the other side. This results in a spectacle, the various permutations of
which comprise the subject-matter of literature. In actual life, however,
it is not given to us to enjoy the tensions of our dual nature as though
it were a spectacle. Rather we find ourselves painfully buffeted back
and forth between the claims of our spiritual nature and the facts of our
animal nature, or alternatively we find ourselves trying to resolve the ten-
sion within us by embracing one part of ourselves and by attempting to
deny the other part altogether. The sensualist seeks to accommodate the
instincts, to maximize physical pleasures, and to follow all inclinations.
The moralist seeks to invent a political structure that will facilitate justice
and enable all citizens to realize themselves as ethical beings by means
of an interlocking network of reciprocal duties and obligations. One
impulse is to go with the flow of things; another impulse is to impose an
order on things.
Without an adequate means of reflection, without a literary edu-
cation, we live our lives on the basis of unexamined impulses or with
partial sympathies that cannot know their own partiality. In political life,
for example, Schiller finds that the masses who are governed cannot
understand the point of view of the governing class that seeks to impose
upon them its own idea of law and order, and vice versa, the leaders can-
not understand the undisciplined spontaneity of those whom they would
govern. Neither side can feel the validity of the other side's outlook on
things. The solution, according to Schiller, is to raise everybody's con-
sciousness of both sides through the study of literature. The expectation
is that all parties will be chastened and awed by the artistic representa-
tion of man's dual nature, and that, as a consequence, the moralists will
become more sympathetic to the requirements of our animal nature and
be less inclined to impose their own designs upon it, while the sensualists
will become more inclined to recognize the virtues of self-discipline. The
hoped-for result is that society will eventually become capable of self-
government, thereby eluding the twin evils of dictatorship imposed from
above and anarchy emanating from below. By becoming more conscious