Essay on Tartuffe and the Enlightenment

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“We live in a fantasy world, a world of illusion. The great task in life is to find reality.” -- Iris Murdoch

We are immature people. Immanuel Kant defines immaturity as the inability to use one’s own understanding without the guidance of another (Kant, 1). This is exactly what we do day in and day out. Day in and day out we live our lives like passive little robots that follow the rules and follow a routine. When questions or situations come up that we do not feel comfortable with we are quick to avoid them as we look at the ground and walk away. We want others to tell us what to do because it means we don’t have to think about it. Not thinking makes life easy and an easy life means comfort. This means not asking questions, accepting whatever you are told, and ultimately living in the dark while someone else guides you. Once again, you are immature. The idea of someone else controlling your life is sickening and hard to swallow, but for some reason millions of people continue to let someone else control them. The question that must now be asked is why people would want to live in mental slavery. This is the question provides an answer that Enlightenment thinkers have waged a war against. People want to live lives of comfort and any struggle will cause them to sink back into their submissive state. However, the question that really needs to be asked is not why people want to live in mental slavery, but rather why people choose to stay immature? Everyone understands the concepts of the Enlightenment and the social norms of the time, but almost no one questions the actual process of Enlightenment and overcoming our innate biological tendency to stick with the familiar and comfortable rather than the strange and difficult. In this regard, the ultimate question is again, “Why do we remain immature and what can be done about it?” To introduce the topic, I am drawing from the German Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and his essay titled “The Challenge of Every Great Philosophy.” “A traveler who had seen many countries and peoples and several continents was asked what human traits he had found everywhere; and he answered: men are inclined to laziness. Some will feel that he might have said with greater justice: they are all timorous. They hide behind customs and opinions. At bottom, every human being knows very well that he is in this world just once, as something unique, and that no accident, however strange, will throw together a second time into a unity such a curious and diffuse plurality: he knows it, but hides it like a bad conscience why? From fear of his neighbor who insists on convention and veils himself with it. But what is it that compels the individual human being to fear his neighbor, to think and act herd-fashion, and not to be glad of himself? A sense of shame, perhaps, in a few rare cases. In the vast majority it is the desire for comfort, inertia – in short, that inclination to laziness of which the traveler spoke. He is right: men are even lazier than they are timorous, and what they fear most is the troubles with which any unconditional honesty and nudity would burden them. Only artists hate this slovenly life in borrowed manners and loosely fitting opinions and unveil the secret, everybody’s bad conscience, the principle that every human being is a unique wonder; they dare to show us the human being as he is, down to the last muscle, himself and himself alone even more, that in this rigorous consistency of his uniqueness he is beautiful and worth contemplating, as novel and incredible as every work of nature, and by no means dull. When a great thinker despises men, it is their laziness that he despises: for it is an account of this that they have the appearance of factory products and seem indifferent and unworthy of companionship or instruction. The human being who does not wish to belong to the mass must merely cease being comfortable with himself; let him follow his conscience which shouts at him: “Be...
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