Use of Kant's Definition of Enlightenment to Discuss Rousseau as an Enlightenment Figure

Pages: 3 (825 words) Published: August 22, 2013
Immanuel Kant and Jean-Jacques Rousseau were philosophers who lived in the 18th century, the century of the Enlightenment. Both have strong positions in their definitions of the Enlightenment. Kant's journalistic article “An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment?” makes direct statements about the nature of Enlightenment, while Rousseau expresses his thoughts in his “Discourse on the Sciences and Arts”. They held differing views on the influence of the Enlightenment and whether it promoted positive or negative results for society.

Kant defines Enlightenment as “man's emergence from his self-incurred immaturity.” For Kant, “Immaturity is the inability to use one's own understanding without the guidance of another,” which he blames on “laziness and cowardice.” Kant's motto for the Enlightenment is “Sapere aude! Have courage to use you own understanding!” For Kant, Enlightenment for the individual is achieved when men gain courage to use their own perceptions and overcome their guardians.

This philosopher describes a difference between Individual Enlightenment and Enlightenment of the general public. “Thus it is difficult for each separate individual to work his way out of the immaturity which has become almost second nature for him ...There is more chance of an entire public Enlightenment itself.” All that the Public Enlightenment needs is freedom - “freedom to make public use of one's reason in all matters.”

In his discourse, Rousseau first traces the events leading to this age. People who call themselves “enlightened today, lived a few centuries ago in a state worse than ignorance”. Enlightenment started with a revolution, “to bring men back into common sense.” With Enlightenment “people began to feel the main advantage of busying themselves with the Muses”.

For both writers, Enlightenment's foundation lies in the ability of a man to think, to express his thoughts and share them.

Kant and Rousseau evaluate man's pre- Enlightenment...
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