Immanuel Kant on the Enlightenment The Enlightenment took place during the seventh and eighteenth century in Europe. It was an intellectual revolution that encouraged people to step away from an ancient way of thinking. It first began in Paris but quickly spread over much of Europe. Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher who believed in a “Dare to Know” principle. He argued that people should learn things on their own and think for themselves. Even though Kant believed in thinking for oneself, he thought that men should never upset the public order.
Kant defined enlightenment as a break away from nonage, as only being possible through intellectual freedom, and as a right of mankind. Kant thought of enlightenment as a way to break away from nonage. According to Kant, “Nonage is the inability to use one’s own understanding without another’s guidance”. It is the lack of motivation to reason for oneself. People should use their own thought to reach their own conclusion. He urged people to stop being minors, and to break away from letting others or more specifically the church from telling them what and how to think. Kant argued that people should not be afraid to use their own minds.
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If people are always guided they will never get the courage to cultivate their own intellect. Men could never reach maturity unless they step away from their guardians, which is to say to cease being minors. Kant believed enlightenment could only be achieved through freedom. “I reply: the public use of one’s reason must be free at all times, and this alone can bring enlightenment mankind”. According to this quote, Kant argued that freedom of thought was necessary for man’s enlightenment. If people are afraid to think for themselves because of the consequences associated with it; they may be more inclined to stay ignorant.
Although Kant wanted people to find the expression of thought, he urged people to do so privately. Regular citizens should never let their enlightenment disrupt public order and cause problems for the state. “But as a scholar he has full freedom, indeed the obligation, to communicate to his public all his carefully examined and constructive thoughts concerning errors in that doctrine and his proposals concerning improvement of religious dogma and church institutions”. In this quote Kant explains that only scholars should have the freedom to criticize the religious institutions and express their ideas publicly.
Kant believed of enlightenment as a right of mankind. He argued that people owed it to themselves to cultivate their minds. “And to give up enlightenment all together, either for oneself or for one’s descendants is to violate and to trample, upon the sacred rights of man”. Here Kant explains that giving up enlightenment is like committing a crime against mankind. He urged the sovereigns of countries to let their subjects think freely. Most of the times, Kant venerated the sovereign of his time Frederick the Great of Prussia for his enlighten way of thinking and his tolerance for philosophes.
Immanuel Kant thought of enlightenment as way of maturity, as freedom and a right of mankind. He believed that enlightenment could improve human life. Even though he did not speak against the government in Prussia, his idea of’ Dare to Know” was still useful because it urged people to find enlightenment and better themselves. People should not always believe what they are told ;they should investigate for themselves first. Kant was indeed a key figure in the enlightenment era. ——————————————– [ 1 ]. 1 Immanuel Kant, “What is Enlightenment? ” Trans .
Peter Gray ,Introduction to Contemporary Civilization in the West (New York: Columbia University Press ,1954)pp203 [ 2 ]. Immanuel Kant, “What is Enlightenment? ” Trans . Peter Gray ,Introduction to Contemporary Civilization in the West (New York: Columbia University Press ,1954)pp204 [ 3 ]. Immanuel Kant, “What is Enlightenment? ” Trans . Peter Gray ,Introduction to Contemporary Civilization in the West (New York: Columbia University Press ,1954)pp205 [ 4 ]. Immanuel Kant, “What is Enlightenment? ” Trans . Peter Gray ,Introduction to Contemporary Civilization in the West (New York: Columbia University Press ,1954)pp206