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Oh you lazy coward!!!!

March 27, 2011
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After reading Kant’s Enlightenment I have to plainly state that I agree with him.  Although enlightenment is often thought of in spiritual terms, such as establishing a closer connection to God and understanding the full meaning of life, Kant states that he views enlightenment as a person’s “emergence from his self-imposed immaturity”.  The key words that jumped out at me when I read this sentence were “self-imposed” and “immaturity”.  In order to dissect exactly what Kant means, we need to define what he means by immaturity and how it’s self-imposed.  So in Kant’s terms, immaturity basically means that a person can’t make decisions for himself/herself.  For example, my friends and I always have a problem of choosing where to sit in the dining hall.  After some time of indecision, someone usually takes charge and we follow them.  So, does this mean that we are immature?  Well, yes, but only to a certain extent.  According to Kant, our inability to make a decision means that we are immature, and the person that does make the decision is mature and we actually depend upon that person.  This leads us to what Kant means by “self-imposed”, the fact that our immaturity is our own fault because we are lazy and we’re also cowards.  In this dining hall situation, I doubt that any of us are lazy, but relating it to cowardice doesn’t seem so abstract.  I mean whoever chooses the place we sit at is technically taking responsibility, specifically responsibility for our experience.  This includes whether the people who are sitting around us are nice or not, whether we laugh a lot or not, and so on.  I mean sure this probably has almost nothing to do with where we sit, but people are often quick to blame others for experiences, especially negative ones.  When thinking about being mature as taking responsibility, it’s definitely easier to see why Kant says people remain immature and why people choose to remain immature in that sense.  I mean responsibility is not fun, we’re told that from an early age.  Ever since I was little, I remember wanting to be older and having freedom, but I also remember being told by everyone who was older that I should enjoy being young and that I shouldn’t want to grow up so fast.  At the time I totally disagreed, I mean I was so ready to be able to drive a car and go the mall on my own!  Well, if only life was actually that easy.  I didn’t realize that growing up meant not only having so much more to do but also taking responsibility for all of my actions.  I loved being younger and doing things that may have been “bad” but not being blamed for them because I was only a child and I didn’t know any better.  Now it seems like no matter how small of a mistake I make, it’s a big deal and I have to fix it all by myself!  Not only that, but it seems like whenever you do do something bad everyone focuses to make it seem ten times worse than it actually is, but when you do something nice it’s barely noticed.  Oh world, why do you have to be so cruel sometimes?  Just thinking about it now, I do agree with Kant that people are immature due to their own laziness and cowardice.  However, just focusing on the cowardice that’s mostly caused by being afraid of taking responsibility, it’s no wonder that so many people choose to stay immature, aka impose it on themselves.  After all, it is easier to be a follower than a leader!

7 Comments
  1. Shane Malone permalink
    March 27, 2011 8:27 PM

    I agree with your post on where you say that when you were a child you wanted to grow up. I and I’m sure every other person did too. You then went on to say that when growing up you have to be responsible for your actions where as a kid you never did. While I was reading that I couldn’t help but to think of the quote for the Spiderman movie that the Uncle Ben character says, “With great power comes great responsibility.” With the freedom that you talk about in your post it’s this freedom that gives one power. (i.e. the power to vote, make own choices, etc.)I have always liked this quote, even though its from a movie, and after reading your post it gives me yet another reason to like it.

  2. Nick Majie permalink
    March 27, 2011 8:36 PM

    As you stated in your post, I also agree with the statements presented by Kant. He takes a different approach toward “Enlightenment” and focuses more on the internal development of a human being. As you have already stated, laziness and immaturity are what drive man to stay “un-Enlightened.” These traits are considered to be self-imposed implying that man has control over his or her own enlightenment. In this sense, the self-imposed immaturity of man is controllable. I find it difficult to decide, however, whether laziness or cowardice is the main cause of immaturity. In your poll, you suggest that there could be a more dominant trait that contributes to the immaturity of man, but in my opinion, both laziness and cowardice are internal bondages that man needs to break in order to be on the path to enlightenment. Your poll question is extremely difficult to answer because Kant does not focus on one idea over the other—he presents them as equals.

    Furthermore, I thought I would elaborate on your post and attempt to incorporate Kant’s solution for “self-imposed immaturity.” He writes, “Consequently, only a few have succeeded, by cultivating their own minds, in freeing themselves from immaturity and pursuing a secure course” (Kant 522). The factors of laziness and cowardice lead to the immaturity and “the un-Enlightenment” of man, but how can man actually change his nature? Kant clearly states that laziness and cowardice become part of man’s nature and just not his character. Therefore, applying the theories of other philosophers we have read and Kant’s ideas, is it possible for the nature of man to be transformed? It seems as though Locke, Hobbes, and Rousseau all present ideas about the state of nature and man as static philosophies with little room for adjustment. Therefore, is Kant’s solution of utilizing public and private reason to solve the self-imposed immaturity of man necessarily going alter man’s nature..?

    Works Cited
    Kant, Immanuel. “An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment?” Modern Political Thought: Readings from Machiavelli to Nietzshe. Ed. David Wooton. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company, 2008. Print.

  3. March 27, 2011 8:53 PM

    In your pole, I agreed with you in saying that cowardice is a greater contribution to immaturity than laziness. Sure were lazy, because we don’t want to think too hard over a simple subject. We wish to just follow someone else and take the easy way out. But I feel like that could hardly be a main contribution to immaturity. When we are cowardice we are getting out of alot more than just deciding where to sit. Some of us may be getting out of responsiblities such as parenting or taking care of ourselves. Our moms are still making us cereal in the mornings, and we just sit there to continue to yell at them. Thats definately immaturity. Even though cowardice and laziness seem to be very close in definition, cowardice seems to be a much greater contribution to immaturity. Laziness is just the act of just not wanting to because were lame. Cowardice is being scared and choosing not too, because we fear consequences.

  4. chelseahoedl permalink
    March 28, 2011 12:30 PM

    While I agree that in simple situations such as deciding where to sit, the reason for immaturity is most often cowardice, I would venture to say that in the political world lack of decision making is often due to laziness. In a situation that is simple and the task is clearly understood, it is not laziness that hinders action but instead cowardice, fear of making a poor decision, fear of, as you said disappointing others.

    But what about the government and its inner workings? Why do many citizens still not participate in elections? Personally I believe that lack of activity and lack of taking action in the government is due to laziness. To vote would require knowledge of candidates and their platforms, this requires effort, which many find too daunting.

    So when no effort is required, immaturity can be attributed to cowardice, but when research must be done, money must be spent, or time must be expended, it seems that laziness is the cause.

  5. Anthony Sinishtaj permalink
    March 28, 2011 1:56 PM

    To play devil’s advocate, I’m going to say agreeing with the Enlightenment of Kant is immaturity in itself. Being raised in America, we are taught the important values of liberty and freedom and self-rule. However, is this because we ourselves make this decision, or because we are raised in a nation that propagates these beliefs? Many Americans advocate the want of liberty and the dangers of tyranny of the majority; yet, these same people fall trap to a very interesting paradox. They value the belief that people should be able to do whatever they want in their private lives, and in turn, shun and abhor those who have a different opinion. Though these people argue for self-rule and thought as Kant does, they seem to be immature, as they don’t believe in the importance of liberties as much as they were raised to believe in such values.

  6. Robert Tepper permalink
    March 28, 2011 4:30 PM

    Your post is very interesting, and I agree that both laziness and cowardice play roles in our immaturity. However, I’d like to offer an alternate view — many people stay immature, but not necessarily by choice. To reiterate your point, Kant believes that a person’s inability to make a decision stems from laziness and cowardice. However, I believe that in certain cases neither laziness nor cowardice is to blame. I tend to believe that in this day in age our power to make our own decisions is very limited. Obviously, when we are very young our parents make all of our important decisions for us because we don’t know any better, not because we are lazy or cowards. Even as we get older, many decisions are still made for us. For example, myself and many of my friends had absolutely no say about where we went to middle school and high school. Our parents decided that “School A” was better for us than “School B” and that is where we would be going. Although this is just one example, you can see how this inability to make a decision had very little to do with laziness or cowardice. Another example is when someone can’t make a decision because he/she is not qualified. This happens often in business as well as in other professions. Cowardice is certainly not the cause of this indecisiveness. Maybe one can make an argument that because a person was lazy previously in life he/she couldn’t become qualified to make a certain decision, but that’s a bit of a stretch. Kant certainly hits the nail on the head when identifying laziness and cowardice as root causes for indecisiveness, but I believe he left out the possibility that some decisions are beyond our control.

  7. Jeff DeClaire permalink
    March 28, 2011 5:40 PM

    As I read Kant’s “Enlightenment,” I thought that he brought up intriguing points in regards to “immaturity” and decision making. For one, it made me think about all the times we make decision in our everyday lives, such as the dining hall example you provided. It is amazing to think about how much other people, especially people “above” us in power, affect the things we do, say, etc. From the work we do, to the things we wear, to what we say, one or more people in some way or another affect almost everything we do. Kant’s distinction between “private” and “public” use of reason made think how often other people restricted my decisions. He states that the public “must always be free,” and the private is “narrowly restricted” (Kant 523). Ask yourself this: Why do I do any of the work assigned to me? Because one, my professor will hurt my grade if I do not complete the assignment, and two, my parents will most likely remove me from school if I do absolutely no work. I think this would fall into the private use of reason, since there is really no other choice. Most of our decisions seem to fall under private, rather than public.

    As for your poll, I think the biggest cause for immaturity is cowardice. When people are indecisive, it is most likely because they are afraid to make the wrong decision. A million different options and outcomes run through mind, causing you to doubt yourself. Most of us probably rely on others many times to make decisions for us. For instance, I let my roommate decide how to arrange our dorm room when we moved in. Was this because of cowardice or laziness? Most likely cowardice, because I did not want to make a mistake, and have to rearrange it all over again, but I was willing to help set up the room anyway. Now, laziness does come into play in making decisions, as well, but I think that cowardice has a much bigger effect. I think that, in Kant’s terms, we all contain some sort of “immaturity.” Since the people around us are constantly affecting our decisions and actions, it is almost impossible to “release from their self-imposed immaturity” (Kant 524). It is our job to try to limit how much people affect us.

    Kant, Immanuel. “An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment?” Modern Political Thought: Readings from Machiavelli to Nietzshe. Ed. David Wooton. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company, 2008. Print.

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