Last updated: May 17, 2019
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Kant is recognized for invoking a central concept to enlightenment, “Sapere aude!”. This phrase incants the idea of “Have courage to use your own reason!”. It is fundamental in any analysis of history and philosophy to comprehend that understanding human reason and human direction is often considered a complex task. Kant’s enlightenment ideas indicate that one day this such awareness will spread across societies (starting from an individual stance) and that those individuals will one day be ready to accept a supernatural structure or entity which can provide leadership to all nations.

Overall my paper shall analyze who Kant was to insist such a resolution to troubled leadership shall occur, why this emergence is important, where should a philosophy arose from, how such change in governorship shall come about,  and when such a change is most likely or possible to occur. Most people would start by questioning the origin of such a philosophy and I believe it vital to comprehend Kant’s own origins. Kant, an 18th Century philosopher, was considered a late blooming philosopher whose works were not truly acknowledged until his early 50s. Among other philosophers, Kant was influenced by Wolff, Locke, and Descartes.  These influences instilled within Kant to resolution to understand why and how opposition to authoritarianism is relevant to individuals making their own intellectual choices. In addition, Kant was a strong proponent of advancing scientific studies, and understanding how they were in turn beneficial to society. By understanding these advancements, people would begin to comprehend where and why philosophy impacted their daily lives.

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At the heart of this enlightenment age of the 18th century was criticism. The philosophies of the time praised this intellectual stimulation to question everything as means to clearing away mindless superstitions, and ignorance. Those philosophers who were part of this great age considered themselves the bearers of light as if metaphorically this light could clean away the prior blindness and dirt of individuals who had failed or were to lazy to question society. Also at this time, many accomplishments had been made in science, mathematics, and new forward thinking movements. Kant himself considered this time period to be progressive. He, as Diderot, steadfastly insisted that if it did not “stand the test of reason was unreasonable. Or, as Diderot put it, ‘Everything must be examined, everything must be shaken up, without exception and without circumspection.’” It became common practice at the time to systematically inquire about the origins of all prior concepts or believes. These philosophers were interested interconnecting criticism with philosophy. In general, they found that their citizens needed to become aware of the full scope of societal operations and how the current state and church structures were undermining their right to question matters. These philosophies criticized all aspects of current government and individuals who were ill at ease with comprehending that enlightenment was inevitable.

In an effort to inspire people to grasp for the truth at all costs, Kant felt that if individuals sought to oppose despotic power and throw off despotic shackles they would have the opportunity to logically consider their own life’s direction. This direction would entice individuals to question the legitimacy and legality of political powers and religious directional doctrines. Fundamental to Kant is the idea that individuals have the right to make key decisions about their lifestyles by consulting with their own intellectual selves first. This concept liberates individuals from pursing decisions based upon the whim or direction of an authority source. Furthermore, by ridding individuals from the obligation of following the regulations or orders, whether they be of political or religious means, it opens people up to the opportunity of truly having a say in their own conduct and mental astuteness. In no means, does this philosophy rid individuals of interpersonal responsibilities, but it does lead to the emergence of self dependence and self maturity.

For all intents and purposes, Kant opens up this argument in this well recognized essay, “

Answering the Question: What is Enlightenment?”.  In his very opening paragraph, Kant took the opportunity to address what the causes of a lack of enlightenment were and his interpretation of what preconditions were required in order to enable or make it possible for people to fully enlighten themselves. This first paragraph is popular because Kant believed that individuals had literally signed over their own dependence and maturity to political and religious institutions. Kant believed that it was high time, that individuals become responsible for this immaturity and dependence, as long as its true cause is not intellectual inaptitude or educational lacking.  Kant believed that the origin of this dismal situation was an individual’s lack of determination to question and therefore his or her lack of courage to think without the direction of another. He proclaims that a ‘Dare to Know’ personality type is a means towards correcting the overall situation. In this general ‘daring’, individuals would be able to overcome their habitually following orders, and instead question, compare, criticize, contrast, and iterate their own ideas. This would allow individuals to reveal their own personalities, describe why a situation affects them, and act upon their own analysis or comprehension of situations. Kant elaborated on the justness of people becoming enlightened by their own new-found autonomy.

Based upon his Lectures on Ethics, presented in the early 1780’s, Kant declares that the value of freedom lies in:

“The inherent value of the world . . . is freedom in accordance with a will which is not necessitated to action. Freedom is thus the inner value of the world. [30]”

Nevertheless, freedom must be regulated by rules which possess an understanding of the value of freedom:

“Man alone is free; his actions are not regulated by any . . . subjectively necessitating principle; if they were, he would not be free . . . Therefore the proper use of freedom is the supreme rule. What then is the condition under which freedom is restricted? It is the law . . . He who subjects his person to his inclinations, acts contrary to the essential end of humanity; for as a free being he must not be subjected to inclinations, but ought to determine them in the exercise of his freedom; and being a free agent he must have a rule, which is the essential end of humanity. [31]”  (http://www.historyguide.org/intellect/lecture9a.html)

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Furthermore, in his essay, “Answering the Question: What is Enlightenment?”, he steadfastly insisted that if all church and state paternalism were abolished people would be forced or given the opportunity to seek out the freedom necessary to use their own intellect. As state and church governorship tended to authorize individual conduct or actions, people tended to follow such guidelines in their own lives without the due process of considering if they desired to pursue such actions. Furthermore, Kant felt that state and church leaderships tended to have less interest in telling people what to think in regards to artistic and scientific issues simply because it did not suit their ‘autonomy’ as leaders to do so. This was due to the fact that leadership entities did not wish to instill within people the character of questioning or apparent regard to learning. Promiscuously, state and church leadership had a thematic focus on not prompting their citizens to have opinions about events or make decisions based upon research.

Instead, this such leadership typically focused on restricting freedoms and rights. For instance, in Kant’s essays he insists that people have become used to and comfortable with taking orders because little thought or action is required of them should they do so (http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/kant/kant1.htm). Kant believes that if the public can only slowly attain enlightenment after people begin to taste freedom. Independent thinkers will begin to show the general public that it is every individuals right to think for himself or herself. Nevertheless, because the leadership components are in turn governed by this ‘yoke’ (as Kant calls it) they will remain bound to these thought-less actions or rules and fail to contain individual thought emergences. One clear allusion that Kant makes it that from all points a harness is placed on free though, and he hears “on all sides,  Do not argue!” The Officer says: “Do not argue but drill!” The tax collector: “Do not argue but pay!” The cleric: “Do not argue but believe!” Only one prince in the world says, “Argue as much as you will, and about what you will, but obey!” Everywhere there is restriction on freedom.” (http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/kant-whatis.html)

From these points, Kant developed his moral philosophy in  his works, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals (1785), Critique of Practical Reason (1788), and Metaphysics of Morals (1797). Within these works, Kant laid out the groundwork for later philosophers who were influenced by his own works and presented to people the importance of self morals and self practical reason. These works essentially state the essence of everything happens to be free will. This means that no one needs be bound by laws. As a categorical imperative, this act to free one’s will is considered a duty to oneself. In addition, these works methodically iterate that using “practical reason” is dependent upon comprehending that “ is based only upon things about which reason can tell us, and not deriving any principles from experience, to reach conclusions which are able to be applied to the world of experience.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immanuel_Kant#The_young_scholar) This philosophy in turn leads further to the enlightened perspective of bringing all the nations under the umbrella of a supernational structure.

In modern day, these moral philosophies can be determined to be rule by ‘normal law.’  This line of reasoning states that moral law can be applied to all nations equally and can be validated on a universal or national level. These laws state that morally laws can be applied to individuals equally across the board without opportunity for discrimination. For Kant, once each individual accepts reason there lies the opportunity for categorical imperative and hence rule by a supernational structure based upon moral laws will be achieved. (http://depts.washington.edu/reecas/dwt/excerpt.htm). This emergence of a supernational structure is so important to Kant because his dominant theme is that personal freedom does not hinder one’s intellectual growth as does a political or religious structure which dominates and controls its citizens. Kant explain that this Enlightenment will spread around the world as individuals accept that a development of a system of human freedom and equality, both in theoretical and practical matters is required (Bowman), treaties of peace are in order, no longer will small or large independent nations wind up controlled by other nations (Kant 1795), no nation will attempt to inflict its own constitution or rule of order on another nation, and one rule based upon autocratic sovereignty is imperative to keeping these new found freedoms secure.

Kant exclaims in his writings that by promoting the ideas of change, tolerance, advancement, intellectual growth, independence, free will, and above all freedom from despotic powers individuals, there would be enlightenment across the globe. Individuals would become in of themselves agencies for progress and change. These individuals would promote such ideals to their individuals nations and this in turn would grow to be accepted as natural law in all nations. Kant, like Locke, reflects that he sees humankind as above all being rational and born equal to one another. This equality serves to motivate people to behave in an equal manner and presents education as the means to better educate people so that all humankind acts in an ‘equal’ manner. This molding of behavior, which is dependent upon rational perspective, further evolves the idea of personal freedom to intellectual question all situations and morally act in a manner beneficial to society. Kant’s general theory of government, like his influence by Locke, sees that humankind’s natural state is one of harmony and equality one another.

Based upon this perspective, he acknowledges that without a set government there is no law or judges which can uphold consistency and organization. He indicates that individuals make contracts with a set government in order for rights to be protected. Upon this line of reason, lies the concept of rationality once again. Because the various governments and churches of his time, do not uphold this contract they are thus violating this important value system. In addition, as there are various entities of leadership they are conflicts between them and disharmony (http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/history/virtual/core4-5.htm). In general, Kant has indicated that should a supernational structure be put into place equality and harmony will be upheld and rational decisions in the best interests of all individuals will be maintained.

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Works Cited

Bowman, Curtis. Kant and the Project of Enlightenment. 2001.
http://www.phil.upenn.edu/~cubowman/kant.html
Kant, Immanuel. “Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch”. 1795
http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/kant/kant1.htm

Kreis, Steven. The History Guide and Lectures on Modern European Intellectual History. 2000.
http://www.historyguide.org/intellect/lecture9a.html
John Locke First published Sun Sep 2, 2001; substantive revision Wed Sep 26, 2001
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/locke/

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Modern History Sourcebook: Immanuel Kant: What is Enlightenment?, 1784
http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/kant-whatis.html
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: Immanuel Kant
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immanuel_Kant#The_young_scholar
Young, Glennys. Treadgold Papers Excerpts: No.27: Eastern Europe and the Natural Law Tradition

by Sabrina P. Ramet. http://depts.washington.edu/reecas/dwt/excerpt.htm

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