Kant's Theory of Enlightenment

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Kant's Theory of Enlightenment

By | April 2013
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Notes on Kant’s What is Enlightenment?
Posted on March 16, 2012
‘Enlightenment is the human being’s emergence from his self-incurred minority. Kant means emergence from a form of slavery, in which one is not free to think for oneself, but instead is told what to think. In a sense, I think it relates to religious and state imposed rules. This is reinforced when Kant suggests to ‘have the courage to make use of your own understanding’, making that the motto of the Enlightenment. He, perhaps ironically, writes about the comfort of being a minor, or a slave to these rules. To have someone think for them, to have someone to understand instead of the self. There is no trouble then. The step towards the enlightenment is dangerous. It is difficult to think for oneself. However, those who currently serve to tell others what to think and how to act make that step seem worse. According to Kant “the danger is not in fact so great, for by a few falls they would eventually learn to walk; but an example of this kind [negative kind] makes them [those making the step towards enlightenment] timid and usually frightens them away from any further attempt”. Therefore, it is difficult for any individual to separate himself from the minority which has become natural to him. Only a few are capable of making this leap (possible relation to Nietzsche and the will to power?) The public can only achieve enlightenment slowly. A revolution may well bring about a falling off of personal despotism and of avaricious or tyranical oppression, but never a true reform in one’s way of thinking; instead new prejudices will serve just as well as old ones to harness the great unthinking masses. Here Kant means that by eliminating the masters, the rest of the society may well substitute old prejudices for new ones. By eliminating control, they, unable to grasp at the freedom they now possess will force themselves back into slavery but by different hand. Next Kant asks on what restrictions on freedom...
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