What is Enlightenment?

According to Kant, enlightenment can be attained when man releases his “self-incurred tutelage”. Kant defines tutelage as laziness and cowardice, which man must free himself of. He also believes that tutelage is “almost [man’s] nature”, so man must break away from his natural instincts. He thinks that man must have the courage to use his own reason, and be able to abandon his cowardice. There are some principles that are imposed by government that prevent enlightenment. Principles such as these include things such as laws and formulas. In order to encourage enlightenment, a government must be able to treat men with dignity. Society and the public also plays a part in the enlightenment of a man. Society facilitates prejudices that may inhibit a man’s ability to become an enlightened individual, but public acceptance of a man’s right to reason can contribute to enlightenment. Many factors play a part in a man’s route to enlightenment, including society, government, and most importantly, a man himself. When independent thinkers spread word of their own enlightenment, others will be inspired to do the same. ¬†Enlightenment is achieved when man’s inclination for “playing it safe” is abandoned and when he has the courage to venture out into what is uncertain and unsafe.

Frederick II is further evidence that leadership and government influences the enlightenment of man. A proponent of absolutist enlightenment, Frederick II believed that a ruler should be familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of his own country, be strong, be hardworking, and be honest. He should avoid wasting the money of his people on debauchery and self-indulgent acts. According to Frederick II, a ruler shall reach enlightenment when he recognizes the needs of his people, and furthermore allow his citizens to achieve enlightenment.