What is enlightenment?

Enlightenment is the ability to think for yourself instead of being guided by a ruler. It takes courage to step out from complacence and into enlightenment. According to Kant, certain political ramifications are necessary to achieve this. Public use of reason must not be restricted while private use of reason must be restricted. Therefore the people should question why they do what they do, but not necessarily change it. In fact, if changing it would overthrow the government, that is not enlightenment. Overthrowing the current rule leads right back into the chaos of anarchy. However, by thinking for themselves, then suggesting changes in a civil manner, people can better themselves and society thus achieving enlightenment. Kant insists that the leader must say, “Argue as much as you will, and about what you will, but obey!” I believe there is a very fine line between having order and suppressing thought. As long as Kant only wishes to prevent riots, his belief that people must obey is justified. If to obey means to never question the monarch, that cannot be enlightenment. Frederick II ruled Prussia to his people’s and his own enlightenment by encouraging religious tolerance and open thought in general. He lead by example. His enlightenment allowed and even encouraged others to achieve the same. The enlightenment of the people is partly dependent on the on the government.

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