Many times throughout my life, I’ve heard about this age called Enlightenment, and how important it was for the development of Western Civilization. Whenever I hear the mentioning of that age, names like Descartes, Kant, Locke, Newton, Rousseau, and Voltaire jumble around my brain. It’s well known that these people contributed much to our western, modern, rationalist ways of understanding the world around us.
Kant, in particular, tried to describe the essence of Enlightenment in his essay “What is Enlightenment?” The first sentence of that essay goes right to the point. “Enlightenment is man’s release from his self-incurred tutelage.” With this, Kant says that Enlightenment has to do with the wherewithal and will of us, the people, to free ourselves from authoritative, institutionalized teachings that we allowed to dominate our thought processes throughout our lives. It’s a call for us to throw off the shackles of society, to break the prison of tradition, and to embrace our own mental capacities. This freeing of the mind isn’t something that will just spontaneously happen over time, it’s not something that’ll just be given to us. It’s something we have to actualize through intellectual strength. Reading Kant reminds me a lot of the Matrix movies because those stories show such a deep, existential struggle for freeing the mind, body, and spirit from the constraints of a computer generated world. Unplugging yourself from an artificial life is one of the main themes, and that seems to echo what Kant is trying to get across to us.