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What Is Enlightenment? Emmanuel Kant Essay

1317 words - 5 pages

In his essay writing “What is Enlightenment?” Immanuel Kant defines enlightenment as “man’s emergence from his self-imposed immaturity” (Kant, 1). In order for us to completely understand this definition, we must first understand what Kant meant by “Immaturity”. In the writing Kant defines immaturity as “the inability to use one’s understanding without the guidance from another”(Kant, 1). Furthermore, Kant believes that this immaturity is self-imposed, and that it is the individual’s fault for lacking the courage and resolve to think for themselves, but instead pay others to think and understand for them. I substantially agree with this idea, however, his remarks on immaturity in relation to the government, the way people should live, and religion is quite impetuous and irrational. Likewise, I do agree that people should be able to live freely, and think for themselves, however I do not agree that they have to live without rules, regulations or a government. In his essay Kant says “. If I have 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, I need not exert myself at all. I need not think, if only I can pay: others will readily undertake the irksome work for me.”(Kant, 1). Kant believes that these guardians restrain our minds and have us lack the capabilities to think for ourselves. However, I believe that these same guardians are those entities that help nurture our mind and enable us to think for ourselves. How could books, the source of wisdom, knowledge, and new things be bad for us? There is nothing wrong with gaining new knowledge.

In the context of enlightenment Kant believes that freedom is the best way to achieve enlightenment. Freedom according to Kant is different than our usual definition. Freedom in terms of enlightenment means the ability to publicly use ones reason in all matters. Furthermore, in the text he mentions “Nothing is required for this enlightenment, however, except freedom; and the freedom in question is the least harmful of all, namely, the freedom to use reason publicly in all matters”(Kant, 2). What Kant tries to explain in this writing is that people need to exercise their reason in public stages/arena’s such as public debating without the “guardians” interference. They should be able to debate with each other in complete freedom, without censorship. I agree with Kant that to achieve enlightenment we have to first achieve freedom. But to achieve enlightenment to me is to be able to think freely, be healthy, and to be wise. Just thinking freely can get you to enlightenment Kant claims. However, without health how can one think when something troubles him, or he is ill. Without wisdom how can one expect to speak knowledgeable about a topic?

Kant believes that the public use of ones reason “must always be free” and that public reason is reason that “anyone as a scholar” makes before the “literate world” (Kant, 2). Private reason he...

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