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Age Brings Enlightenment

November 16, 2010
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Kant presents the idea that “immaturity is the inability to use one’s understanding without guidance from another,” and also that only by leaving immaturity behind can one truly find enlightenment in An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment? Blaming “laziness and cowardice” as reasons why some remain immature throughout their lives, Kant makes it clear that people need to shake the “self-imposed” immaturity.

As Locke states in his Second Treatise of Government, I think Kant would agree that a father should govern his children until they “come to the use of reason, or a state of knowledge, wherein they may be supposed capable to understand the rule…” In other words, a father should govern his children until they have reached a level of maturity in which they can use their understanding and apply it without guidance.

In modern society, maturity is associated with age. For the most part, a person who is in their thirties is considered to be more mature than a 15 year old. The founding fathers clearly thought that there was an age where a person was better able to be a part of the government, an age where a person could use reason and understanding independently to make beneficial decisions.  In Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution it is specified that one must be at least 25 years old before he or she is eligible be a Representative. Similarly, there is an requirement for the president.

“No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.”

Outside of government positions, there are age requirements for drinking, smoking, and voting among other things. These requirements exist because by the notable ages of 21 and 18, people are considered to have reached a level of maturity and enlightenment to make wise decisions about in regards to the actions and substances that become available to them.  This maturity stems from paternal power that governed children.

My personal view on the idea of enlightenment and maturity varies from that of Kant’s. I think that with age there are new situations and experiences that leave room for new immaturities. For example, at 18 a person has the maturity to make independent decisions, but I don’t think that immaturity can be shed from a single situation. A 25 year old may be considered mature in broad terms, but still could use his or her understanding or lack of understanding of marriage in a poor way without guidance. The same goes with every age. New situations that accompany age such as the possibility of children, job choices, and retirement leave room for new immaturities in unfamiliar topics.

Does mean that one is still considered mature and enlightened if they make an immature choice somewhere along the line?

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