What Is ENLIGHTENMENT? Immanuel Kant

In his article "What is Enlightenment?", Kant tries to find out the real answer to the same question by questioning the established rules in society and how can individuals free themselves from the borders of all kinds of limitations that are imposed on them by the authorities. These authorities could be religious, governmental, administrative, and the like. He posits that enlightenment begins within the individual when he decides to stand up for his rights, questions the norms, criticizes the authority, and frees himself from the rules set by the status quo.

However, he also admits that such thinking individuals might put themselves in danger, as those who benefit from the status quo and have the supreme authority will not feel comfortable about their privileged positions to be challenged. Hence, they will try to get rid of individuals who have free minds and question the established rules.

Moreover, Kant, in a way, blames the masses for their lack of will to change and of course for their laziness and cowardice. He thinks that majorities should support those public figures who call for change and enlightenment can be achieved only through the intellectual freedom of these people. However, sudden changes come with heavy prices, and almost certainly those who lead the change end up being the first victims of this change. Therefore, Kant highlights, the importance of the change that happens slowly but surely. 

Kant also claims that leaders who promote free thought, freedom of expression, and support man's emergence from his self-imposed nonage can establish enlightenment among individuals. However, every individual should be ready to set themselves free from their comfort zone and start taking action for their own good.

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Muhammed Özgür YAŞAR

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