K is for Kant

| April 12, 2014

Kant’s emphasis on reason within his essay on enlightenment drew a distinct parallel with his Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals. Even though we have not read that essay in this class, I thought it would be relevant to mention it in a discussion on the blog. In Kant’s essay, Kant defines enlightenment as the freedom to think and the ability to use your own understanding. Enlightenment provides a forum for people to voice their opinions; the freedom of speech, the freedom of text, and the freedom of religion are the motors that drive humanity’s enlightenment. Kant describes immaturity as the inability to use one’s own understanding without the guidance of another. Immaturity, in this sense, is the equivalent of impotence. One who is impotent has not developed the necessary skills to complete a task; Kant is claiming in the text that humanity is acting as if it is not of age. Kant goes on to say that we must have the courage to use our understanding rather than remain immature for life despite its convenience. Kant acknowledges that an individual may experience difficulty in working his way out of his immaturity as he has even grown fond of it and is really incapable for the time being of using his own understanding. This individual is bound to his immaturity due to dogmas and formulas. Kant believes that the ruler and the government should allow for the complete freedom of the people as this means that the ruler himself is enlightened; he, then, will save his people from the disease of immaturity. If this type of government is present, the clergyman could freely share his opinions and thoughts as a scholar, despite it deviating from the orthodox doctrine. Kant believes that the focus of enlightenment should be placed on religious matters as religious immaturity is the most pernicious and dishonorable variety of all. Kant explains that a ruler who promotes enlightenment and does not find danger in his subjects making public use of their reason, despite the possibility of summoning criticism to the government itself, will profit. This ruler is treating man, who is more than a machine, in a manner appropriate to his dignity. Within the essay, Kant establishes the use of reason as the cure for our immaturity. Likewise, within his Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant states that we must act according to reason. As a cosmopolitan thinker within the enlightenment, reason represented the change that was necessary for society.