Kant and Rousseau

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The Influence of Kant and Rousseau on the Enlightenment

The eighteenth century was a time of rapid change and development in the way people viewed humans and their interaction with others in society. Many countries experience revolution and monarchies were overthrow. People began to question the values that were ingrained in society and governments that ruled them. Two of the biggest philosophers of that time were Immanuel Kant and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who both ignite the overthrow of tradition and whose philosophies were the basis of many future governments.
In order to truly understand how each of their philosophies shaped the intellectual and political landscape of the time, we need to examine their definitions of enlightenment. Kant answers in his 1784 essay “What is Enlightenment?” as follows:
Enlightenment is man 's emergence from his self-imposed nonage. Nonage is the inability to use one 's own understanding without another 's guidance. This nonage is self-imposed if its cause lies not in lack of understanding but in indecision and lack of courage to use one 's own mind without another 's guidance. (Kant 1)
This definition articulates the chief principle of Kant’s philosophy, that we are to accept only those beliefs found acceptable to reason, and we can’t rely on religion, custom, or authority to determine actions that are beneficial to us. According to Kant, people need to lead lives in pursuit of freedom, which he defines as making use of public reason. The enlightened person is rational and autonomous, accepting nothing without a reason, never acting without a reason, always pursuing his or her freedom and the freedom of others. This is doesn’t mean that a person stops obeying the authority but rather functions in society while simultaneously questioning to questioning the rules and norms that it follows. For example he says a citizen cannot refuse to pay the taxes levied upon him, but he does not violate the duties of a citizen if, as a



Cited: Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. Basic Political Writings. 1st. I

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