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Enlightenment Essay

712 words - 3 pages


Do we at present live in enlightened age?
What is enlightenment? Immanuel Kant attempts to clarify the meaning of enlightenment while composing the essay, "What is Enlightenment?". The goal of Kant's essay was to discuss what the nature of enlightenment was. It also taught one how enlightenment can be brought about in the general public.
Kant explains that, "enlightenment is man's release from his self-incurred immaturity". Immaturity is man's incompetence to have direction for oneself. In other words, enlightenment is the progress of a society through the free activity of rational thought and scholarly critique. Kant feels that if we are going to liberate ourselves from immaturity then we must be able to use our freedom whenever we want. One can try to revolt but it's most definitely going to fail. One can try to over-throw and then become the tutor himself or herself. This revolution will not lead to enlightenment, but rather lead to ongoing immaturity.
According to Kant, there are two types of reasoning: public and private. If one can produce an argument and present it to the public with the intentions of making progress, they are using public use of reasoning. Kant uses many examples of the difference between the public and private use of reasoning. If soldiers refused to follow commands then there would be no military. So, one solider may follow commands in which he disagrees with, but will later critique what he believes. This means that he will follow the commands as his private use of reasoning and then will speak out his complaints as his public use of reasoning.
In his essay Kant clearly explains the difference between and enlightened age and an age of enlightenment. In an enlightened age we would all be religious without clergymen because we would know to which things we should be obedient or disobedient. In this age there would be elimination of self-incurred immaturity. During the age of enlightenment we are making the progress towards using both kinds of reasoning. Incompetence is not using pubic and private use of reason in balance with one another....

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