In his 1794 letters, Friedrich Schiller describes a culture-building process that issues in an ethical and political form of play and freedom. His last letter engulfs this so-called aesthetic state in paradoxes. How does philosophy from German idealism through the twenty-first century address these tensions, such as those between liberation and constraint, sociality and autonomy, universality and particularity? Do current constellations of aestheticized politics realize "aesthetic states" by other means? Briefly situating Schiller vis-a-vis Kant, Hegel, and conditions of the literary market and nation-formation, this course investigates his ideas about reality, temporality, semblance, the integration of rationality and materiality, freedom, pedagogy, enlightenment, and beauty through contemporary invocations of these concepts. We will read Schiller along with literature, images, and films, as well as texts by, among others, Benjamin, Adorno, de Man, Kristeva, West, Stoler, Mignolo, Ranciere, Spivak, Bhabha, Buck-Morss, Cheng, Enwezor, and Silverman. Prerequisites: Two theory or humanities courses.