Emmanuel Enlightenment was a philosophical and intellectual movement that

Emmanuel Kant’s
philosophy helped people become free thinkers, giving them the ability to make
decisions on their own. In turn, this transformed people from being immature,
to be mature and independent. He argues that once people are mature and able to
think for themselves, that’s when society starts to advance and become more
structured.

The Age of
Enlightenment was a philosophical and intellectual movement that was created in
Europe during the 18th century (“The Age of Enlightenment”). It included a
variety of different ideas, but reason was the main source of legitimacy and
authority. The Enlightenment period also greatly advanced society with liberty,
equality, fraternity, and the pursuit of happiness (Kant). It is the source of
everything that is progressive about the modern world.

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Kant describes
enlightenment as man’s emergence from his self-imposed immaturity (Kant). Kant’s
definition of immaturity is that you are unable to think on your own, or digest
other people’s opinions to make informed decisions (Kant). It is very immature
in Kant’s terms to not be able to use your personal judgment and understanding
of things or problems. People become immature because he or she constantly let
others make decisions for them (Kant). This leads to dependence on help from
others, so much so that it starts to become difficult to think on your own.
Kant uses an analogy of the influence of government on its own people. Animals
were bound to carts and trained not to cross a boundary without their carts, by
making the animals aware of the dangers that lie ahead (Kant). In turn, this
made the cattle afraid to check for themselves, and not question they had been
told. Just like the government provides its people with a certain set of
standard beliefs and ideas, an immature person would instinctively agree with
the government without personally thinking about these ideas. Not only is this
manipulative and dangerous, but it also aids in furthering immaturity (Kant).

Everybody wants to
reach maturity alone, but it is easier for multiple people to do it together.
This is because once a person starts to rely on someone for guidance, it
becomes increasingly more difficult to break out of the pattern of seeking
help. Taking responsibility for your own thinking will highlight what you are
doing wrong so it can be corrected while becoming more mature all in the same
process. There are many ways to become enlightened and mature according to
Kant. Public spheres are a hub of philosophical thinking and education, filled
with all types of different people. Cafes, bars, schools, and bookstores are
all places where people could publically converse and discuss philosophy or
anything they would like (Kant). This constant flow of knowledge and
information let people who are immature and unable to think for themselves to
be given the chance to think independently and form their own conclusions. This
led to more widespread philosophy, knowledge, and maturity. Salons were also a
very popular attraction for people during the Enlightenment era. Art exhibits
were a great way to broaden your horizons. Art means something different to
everybody, so a lot of people viewing the same piece of work might have had a
variety of different opinions about it. The sharing of these ideas and opinions
opens people’s minds to different ways of thinking, forcing people to think on
their own. Kant mentions in his essay that for someone to leave behind their
immaturity, they must be fearless and vigorous to reach their goals and become
an independent thinker (Kant).

Freedom is also a
major part of Kant’s argument. He believed that if society was given freedom
for itself, people would inevitably become enlightened (Kant). This seems
farfetched and almost impossible, but he believes that enlightenment can reach
everyone if it were to be introduced slowly and gently to the public sphere
(Kant). Public use of freedom is essential for enlightenment to happen. Once
people are able and willing to express themselves in a public space, it allows
for people with similar or different opinions to compare and debate on their
personal philosophies. Not only does this start to transform immature people
into mature people, but it spreads knowledge and information to others as well.
It was because of this wide range spread of information, that the Scientific
Revolution came shortly after the enlightenment era (Gay, pg. 12). Kant also
points out the difference between freedom at a public or private level. In
order to obtain enlightenment, you must use public freedom, but freedom at an
individual level is not useful at all. Public freedom lets knowledge and ideas
be spread among the public while being able to question and challenge other
people’s views and opinions. Enabling mature free individual thinking (Kant).

Kant
differentiates a lot between acting on one’s opinions and expressing one’s
opinions. A contemporary situation used here could be with the clergyman at the
church. The clergyman is appointed on the one condition that he teaches the
principles of the church to new worshippers or followers. However, the
clergyman is able to point out constructive criticism and pitch his own ideas
to be reviewed by seniors, and possibly added to the church’s code. Kant
exclaims that you cannot achieve enlightenment without following the rules and
laws, but he or she should also have the courage to criticize those rules and
laws to have them changed for the better (Kant). Kant makes it very clear that
any society that does not obey and respect laws, will never achieve
enlightenment (Kant).

While Kant was
alive during the 1700-1800s, he was under the rule of a monarchy. He didn’t
agree with a monarch leader, especially in a democratic environment. He
believed that revolutions were counterproductive to enlightenment, he believed
that new ideas are constantly imposed on the immature population, slowly making
them mature (Kant). The unique trait of democracy is freedom. Freedom only
occurs when people become mature and start thinking for themselves. When people
are able to think for themselves, things like democracy are great for deciding
things like current government, a new leader, or removing the old leader
(Munck).

Many philosophers
assume that everybody has the ability to be rational, but this is just not
true. Most people are unable to put their personalities aside to create
principles that apply to all (Kant). Kant assumed everyone could be rational
because the majority of Enlightenment thinkers were from Europe, an already
very developed and advanced nation. Since most Enlightenment thinkers were from
Europe, this led them to believe that their answers were rational, but they
were not. Kant also took time to reflect on these principles to see if they
reflected the culture that these ideas originated from (Kant). Kant’s theory
caused him to receive a lot of criticism and disagreements from other
philosophers, but what they could not devalue was the historical significance that
it held.

Hundreds of years
have passed, yet Kant’s theories continue to influence and guide people today.
The concept of freedom has stuck to society like glue. In today’s society,
almost everybody is a mature free thinker, and it is quite evident in our
society today. Democracy is essential to freedom, and freedom is essential for
democracy. This goes to show how important Immanuel Kant’s theories are to the
world, and how they helped us understand what Enlightenment and freedom truly
is.