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What Is Enlightenment According To Immanuel Kant

645 words - 3 pages

Immanuel Kant defines enlightenment as "the human being's emergence from his self incurred minority." In order to attain enlightenment, individuals and society must educate their reasoning, and free themselves from immaturity. This freedom is the "public use of one's reason in all matters, " which can independently initiate the freedom of the press and of individual speech as instruments of enlightenment.

I disagree with Kant's idea that the freedom of speech would help humanity leave their auto-marginalised groups. The tendency in society is to crush any supposedly enlightened 'tall poppy,' and Kant's use of the word "minority," implies that any progressive individual would be coerced into returning to a state of conformity. This indicates that enlightenment is a state of mind, against the practical conventions of society, and that it is not a realistic proposition. Kant sees freedom as a step toward enlightenment and also as an outcome afterward. The process of enlightenment is not static; Kant states it is the maturity of society through "free activity of rational thought and scholarly critique." Enlightenment is an ongoing process sustained by the rebirth of new ideas of freedom, and the public use of that freedom.

Enlightenment produces immense benefit for the 'enlightened,' and those they come into contact with. Kant illustrates the example of the "few independent thinkers, (who) ...will disseminate the spirit of a rational valuing of one's own worth and of the calling of each individual to think for himself." These people would eliminate tyranny and repression in society, although not achieving any major reforms in thinking. Enlightenment also leads to freedom in acting and thinking, eventually benefiting the principles of government.

American President Thomas Jefferson, and Kant had a similarity of ideas. Jefferson swore hostility against tyranny over the mind of man, in the hope of enlightenment. He stated that true wisdom would "enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppression of body and mind will...

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