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Kant as "the founder of the counter-Enlightenment" in the light of his essay "What is Enlightement"

Reader comment on item: Immanuel Kant vs. Israel
in response to reader comment: Kant's Revolution

Submitted by Ianus (Poland), Aug 19, 2010 at 16:16

Dear J Kourlas ,

You write : "Some go even further and argue that Kant is the founder of the counter-Enlightenment leading to Post-modernism (see Steven Hicks' "Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault") That's a more ambitious point and I recommend Hicks' book for the interested reader."

I am really amazed that anybody in his ambition could go so far as to call one of the founding fathers of German Enlightenment and one of the most outstanding European thinkers and author of three most fundamental works in the history of philosophy ( 'Critique of Pure Reason' , 'Critique of Practical Reason' and 'Critique of Judgement') the very opposite of what he has stood for , i.e. "the father of counter-Enlightement" !!!

Yet , I think Kant himself has the best answer to such absurd claims. In his 1784 essay : "What is Enlightement" he writes :

" Enlightenment is man's emergence from his self-imposed immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one's understanding without guidance from another. This immaturity is self-imposed when its cause lies not in lack of understanding, but in lack of resolve and courage to use it without guidance from another. Sapere Aude! [dare to know] "Have courage to use your own understanding!"--that is the motto of enlightenment.

Laziness and cowardice are the reasons why so great a proportion of men, long after nature has released them from alien guidance (...) , nonetheless gladly remain in lifelong immaturity, and why it is so easy for others to establish themselves as their guardians. It is so easy to be immature. If I have a book to serve as my understanding, a pastor to serve as my conscience , a physician to determine my diet for me, and so on, I need not exert myself at all. I need not think, if only I can pay : others will readily undertake the irksome work for me. The guardians who have so benevolently taken over the supervision of men have carefully seen to it that the far greatest part of them (including the entire fair sex) regard taking the step to maturity as very dangerous, not to mention difficult. Having first made their domestic livestock dumb, and having carefully made sure that these docile creatures will not take a single step without the go-cart to which they are harnessed, these guardians then show them the danger that threatens them, should they attempt to walk alone. "

Now if I can apply Kant's definition of Enlightenment , i.e. use my own brain , then I suspect somebody here is really spreading counter-Enlightement but I feel it is definitely not Immanuel Kant .

Submitting....

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