Kant’s Requirements For Enlightenment
The question of Enlightenment has been a century long topic that really has no answer. It has forever been ambiguous with many individuals poking at the subject to determine, their, interpretation on what it means to be “Enlightened.” This open ended question is not specific to one way of thinking, a particular religion, or any certain lifestyle. It has been a question spaced throughout time and has not been specific to any religion or culture. Instead, theories of enlightenment have come from all areas of study and all kind of different backgrounds. Kant tackled this question of enlightenment by defining it as, “man’s emergence from his self-imposed immaturity” (pg 522), and says the only thing needed to obtain enlightenment is freedom.
“Nothing is required for this enlightenment, however, except freedom; and the freedom in question is the least harmful of all, namely, the freedom to use reason publicly in all matters” (pg 523).
Through Kant’s stance that freedom is the only necessity for enlightenment he maintains that one ought to think autonomously. Kant believes people must be free of the dictation of people around them. There should be no external dictation upon an individual if they seek enlightenment. Kant explains the outside forces and how they dictate enlightenment by taking away the freedom of a person. Kant says, “But on all sides I hear: Do not argue! … Do not argue, believe!” (pg 523). Kant explores the possibilities that people always have everyone around them in their ears trying to tell them how to behave or what to feel and how to act. The only way a person can search for enlightenment is without such pressures to conform or feel how others think they should.
The main message I get from Kant’s argument for the requirements to obtain enlightenment is autonomy. A person must be able to think on their own and go about seeking enlightenment through their own struggles to be able to come out with any sense of enlightenment. No person can be told what to do, how to act, or what to believe in and fully sense enlightenment, for they have been dependent on others to do this work for them. This all ties into Kant’s motto for enlightenment: “Have courage to use your own understanding!” (Pg 522). Kant would want all to think for themselves and have the courage to embark on their own journey to enlightenment.