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What Is Enlightenment According to Kant? Essay

For hundreds of years questions such as what is enlightenment and how can we be enlightened were asked, and many different answers were given. Some tell that it is all about being educated, knowing few languages or being a great mathematician or a writer; others, on contrary, say that is not about academic education, but about education of our souls, that brings harmony and serenity. But every witness has its own truth. So in 1784, philosopher Immanuel Kant wrote “What is Enlightenment? ” and told that “Enlightenment is man’s release from his self-incurred tutelage”.

In other words Kant means that being enlightened means to be self-sufficient and industrious by means of being free, honest and responsible. Independence is a state of being free from one’s constant care and support. As Kant said freedom is the possible way to enlightenment; “But that the public should enlighten itself is more possible; indeed if only freedom is granted enlightenment is almost sure to follow”. But being independent is not something that is put in us from the start; from the very beginning people always tend to look up for help and support.

Starting from our childhood, we always depend on people that are around us. For example, parents are always there to help us no matter what and protect us every time there is a need. Of course, it is obvious that without parents we simply wouldn’t survive in this world. But as we grow up we get used to this state, when we’re taken care of. Later on, used to this constant care, we start to abuse it. Kant said “For any single individual to work himself out of the life under tutelage, which has become almost his nature, is very difficult.

He has come to be fond of his state, and he is for the present really incapable of making use of his reason”. Hence, when there is something unknown on our way and there is no one to tell us what to do or do it for us, we just try to avoid our own problems. Thus, we never learn to be independent, because we have neither knowledge, nor courage to face our problems and try to solve them ourselves. As an example, I have a younger sister, who is not much younger than me, so she’s able to take care of herself; she does her chores such as ironing her own clothes or washing them and etc.

Unfortunately she never cooks for herself; because, always having our mother or me by her side, she never tried cooking even once. And when I scold her, saying that she must learn how to cook, she always answers me with: “Why do I need to know how to cook if you are always going to be by my side? ” Also Kant said “Laziness and cowardice are the reasons why so great a portion of mankind, after nature has long since discharged them from external direction, nevertheless remains under lifelong tutelage”. As an example, I have a cousin, who never even thinks to do things himself.

All his life he had parents, siblings and even maids to carry out his duties and take care of him. In other words, “if he can only pay – others will easily undertake the irksome work for him”. But once he will be left alone, without any funds, he won’t be able to do anything. Further, Kant tells us that, although we’re free to do, think and say what we want, we still can’t do this, because we have boundaries and limits; we have laws and rules to follow, if not then we’ll be judged and punished. Kant said: “Argue as much as you will, and about what you will, but obey”.

So we can doubt and question the rules and laws set for us by others but have no choice but to follow them. Following this further, Kant gives us a lot of examples. First of all, he points out that an officer on duty can’t question an order he was given, he must obey. But, the right to make remarks on mistakes in the military service and bring them out to public for judgment can’t justly be refused him as a scholar. Second, a citizen, who can’t refuse to pay his taxes, because if he does, he will be punished.

At the same time, if he acts as a scholar and not as a citizen, his actions won’t be judged. Because as a scholar he has a right to say out loud what he thinks is unjust and inappropriate. To sum up, I want to say that I agree with Kant. We can be free and honest to ourselves and the ones that are around us, but we must be responsible for our actions and obey the rules and laws; for, only freedom, honesty and responsibility can grant us the enlightenment that we are all striving for. Though we can never be fully enlightened, we can at least try to reach the highest point possible.


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