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Can People Ever Reach an Enlightened Age?

March 31, 2011

Kant describes enlightenment as ,”Man’s emergence from his self imposed immaturity. He then defines immaturity as the inability to use one’s understanding without guidance from another.  This is where we run into a problem.  We always will be using other people’s guidance.  From the time people are born to when they grow old they use other people’s guidance. Children, for example, look up to their parents for guidance in almost everything they do during their younger years. Examples of this could be riding a bike or learning how to play an instrument that the parent knows how to play. As children age from their pre-teen years to, teenage years they may not seek guidance in their parents as much as they use to. Instead now they look for guidance from friends or role models. So at this point in age they still have yet to break free from what Kant describes as enlightenment.

The next stage in a person’s life would be adult hood. This is where people become most close to being “enlightened” but I argue that they still don’t reach enlightenment, or at least the kind that Kant is purposing. So while it does seem that as adults, people make their own decisions. These decisions are based off of what they have learned from other people.  This is where what Mill has to say comes into play. In lecture the Professor talked about experiencing life. One example that he used was with rock climbers and their mistakes. So from this example one can see how by seeing an experience of another a person, one could be guided from not making the same mistakes that the ones in the videos did; or possibly not even want to try rock climbing. Whatever choice a person makes, they were in a way guided by some other person.

Another topic that mill expresses that is related to this is what his thought on opinions.  Mill says that no matter what an opinion might be, that it is important; even the wrong opinions because we can learn from those opinions that are wrong. How I see these ideas that Mill expresses is that we are guiding each other based on what we think.  People are constantly learning from each other, and then making decisions (being guided) based on what the other people are saying.  So back to my question: “Can people can ever truly reach an enlightened age?” No they can’t because as we progress through time and society we will constantly be using each other’s help and guidance to make decisions that will progress society. If we were ever to actually reach an enlightened age, society would stop progressing and nothing would happen. People need to always help each other out and guide each other if we want to live in a productive society. What do you think? Can we ever actually reach and enlightened age?


All my information on Kant’s and Mill’s ideas are from this source:

-Wootton, David, ed. Modern Political Thought: Readings from Machiavelli to

Nietzsche. Second ed. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company Inc., 2008. 292-99. Print.


  1. sulphuroxide permalink
    April 1, 2011 4:02 AM

    According to what you’ve written, it seems that Kant is defining enlightenment negatively. You seem to be defining enlightenment as some kind of perfection, if I am reading this right. So no, not perfection… as nothing really is ‘perfect’ because we don’t know that that is. but if you say it’s according to a specific principle — then that would seem much more achievable. So I think it depends on how you would define ‘enlightenment’…

  2. mllamendola1 permalink
    April 1, 2011 7:29 PM

    I would agree with you that perhaps an “enlightened age” is an unachievable feat, however, I would argue that Kant does not disagree. In fact, Kant makes it clear in his piece that we are not, and may never be, in an enlightened age. Rather, he writes, we exist in an “age of enlightenment” in which the obstacles to our full “emergence” are “gradually diminishing.” If we did ever reach an enlightened age, however, society would not cease operating, but rather flourish. Innovation is the brainchild of reason; to say that Albert Einstein would have been better off recycling his peers ideas than coming up with his own is fallacious. Further, I would argue that “guidance” from anyone other than oneself is irrelevant, since man’s immaturity, as defined by Kant, is “self-imposed.”

  3. chrisshu permalink
    April 2, 2011 4:53 PM

    I’m not sure if you read my blog post or not. It was a bit earlier, around the time when we had just read Kant. Our ideas are pretty similar although I go into more theoretics and you focus on the concrete examples. Like you however, I don’t think Enlightenment is ever possible, let alone an idea we can every actually comprehend. Here’s my link in case you wanted to read it if you didn’t.

    • Shane Malone permalink
      April 4, 2011 4:02 PM

      Hey yeah I don’t believe I did read yours. Thanks for the link!

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