Friday, September 28, 2012

What is Enlightenment?

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.


  1. It can take a lifetime to overcome the brainwashing we get from society's institutions. I think in a free society, we can be duped into going along with some craziness by our leaders, until it takes us somewhere we clearly don't want to go. Then we begin to wake up.

  2. You know I never looked at the Matrix that way, but you are definitely right.

  3. So, if I read Kant, I can be Neo? ;-)

  4. I agree with Jimmy Fungus. Most of us only lead the lives we are channeled into.
    I've now reached the age of 69 and I'm still not enlightened, but I'm getting there!

    1. good to hear that the fight is still in you.

  5. I think freeing ourselves from the constraints of the world around us is a great thing to think about and to consider. Enlightenment, hmmmmm :3

  6. It's chilling to consider that even to this day, humans struggle to break free from this prison of the mind, to realize their full potential.