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What is Enlightenment?

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1/19/2016 1:44:14 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
According to Immanuel Kant, enlightenment is when a person grows out of his self-imposed immaturity. He defines immaturity as one's inability to use his own understanding without the guidance of another. He says that people impose immaturity on themselves because they fear the use of their own understanding without someone else's help. Furthermore he adds that laziness and cowardice cause people to gladly remain immature for life. Because of these qualities, he says that others may easily establish themselves as the guardians or authorities on certain subjects. He gives the following examples of guardians, "a book to serve as my understanding, a pastor to serve as my conscience, a physician to determine my diet for me, and so on."1 He says that guardians will often warn you of dangers you could encounter should you attempt not to use their aid. They tell the people whom they guard that the step to maturity is very dangerous and difficult. He says that this frightens people from making attempts towards maturity.

Kant states that it is often difficult for people to emerge from immaturity. He says that people would often remain content in a state of immaturity. According to him, rules and formulas bind people to a state of immaturity. A person, he says, who would dare to defy the rules and formulas would only be taking a small step towards maturity because he is unaccustomed to this kind of free movement. Only a few people, according to Kant, have succeeded in emerging from immaturity. He says that such people have done so by cultivating their minds.

Kant says that the only thing required for enlightenment is freedom, namely the freedom to publicly use reason. By public use of reason he means, a scholar's use of reason before the entire literate world. He says that this public use of reason alone can bring about enlightenment among people. Private reason, he points out, may be narrowly restricted as long as it does not hinder the enlightening process.

Thus, freedom is essential for enlightenment. People must be able to express their thoughts. By spreading ideas and information, people will be able to be their own guardians because they will have all the things necessary to do so. By allowing freedom of thought, people will spread ideas which will urge others to think for themselves.

What do you think?
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1/19/2016 6:24:31 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
I gotta like a philosopher who advocates for independent thought, and who encourages people to not blindly follow the Church or the social authority. His endorsement of free expression and open discussion also gets a big thumbs up.

However, I think Kant sometimes goes a bit too far. He seems to frown on external rules and external guidance in general, whereas I tend to think wisdom can come from both within and without. A good idea is not necessarily one that comes from you; a bad idea is not necessarily one that comes from others.

While I agree we should question our government, our religions, our military, and more, I don't necessarily think these institutions are wrong in aspiring to stewardship of mankind -- or in other words, I don't think they're the bad guy just because they're trying to impose rules over you. It isn't necessarily wrong to attempt to guide the minds or the behaviors of others, but it is wrong to attempt to suppress their individualism, their reason, their freedom of thought, or to coerce them to conform.

So would Kant and I have disagreed about this? Honestly, I don't know. I was always kind of vague on just how much Kant opposed external authority. Sometimes it sounds like he's saying it has its place, sometimes he seems to be against it in general. Honestly, I'm probably not smart enough to grasp the complexities of his philosophy, so I probably shouldn't even be posting. Heh. But the thread wasn't getting any hits and Kant is a worthy subject of discussion, so I felt it was my duty to bump it.

I also feel his definition of enlightenment is a bit narrow, but my post is long enough.