Enlightenment

Enlightenment is man’s release from his self-incurred tutelage.” In Kant’s understanding of enlightenment, tutelage is utilized as a kind of instruction or authority imposed on man. This tutelage then becomes the primary enforcer of man’s thoughts and actions with respect to the world around him. Kant uses the term self-incurred to illustrate the ways in which men voluntarily succumb to tutelage and therefore surrender their individuality out of mere laziness, for it is far easier and secure to leave decisions and actions to others. Enlightenment, according to Kant, is the opposite of this self-inflicted tutelage. To Kant, to free oneself from the chains of society and collective thinking, to emerge into a world of individual thought and free-thinking is to enter a world of enlightenment. Although Kant indulges in the idea of enlightenment for mankind, he acknowledges that such a change is somewhat dangerous and threatening. It becomes difficult and strenuous to think for oneself, and because man follows direction from others, a step toward enlightenment is perceived as that much more perilous. As Kant states, “This danger is not so great, for by falling a few times they would finally learn to walk alone. But an example of this failure makes them timid and ordinarily frightens them away from all further trials.” It is difficult for an individual to separate himself from the collective group of which his knowledge and experiences are derived. Kant notes that only few men are capable of achieving enlightenment.

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