History Optional Paper 2: Solution – 2010: Q.5(a)
Q. Critically evaluate : “…he (Voltaire) was living in the Age of Enlightenment. The age itself was not enlightened.”-—E. Kant.
Kant’s idea of enlightenment
German philosopher Immanuel Kant put the idea of enlightenment best in his “What is enlightenment?” which was published in 1784 by saying:
(1) Enlightenment is man’s release from his self incurred tutelage. Tutelage is man’s inability to make use of his understanding without direction from another.
(2) Self incurred is the tutelage when its cause lies not in lack of reason but in lack of resolution and courage to use it without direction from another. ‘Have courage to use your own reason!’ that is the motto of enlightenment.”
Difference between ‘Age of Enlightenment’ and ‘Enlightened Age’
Kant wrote: If it is now asked, “Do we presently live in an enlightened age?” the answer is, “No, but we do live in an age of enlightenment.”
There was no ‘Enlightened Age’ because men are still not using their own reason without any external guidance.
But there was ‘Age of Enlightenment’ because the obstacles to general enlightenment (i.e. to release from self-incurred tutelage), are gradually diminishing.
Voltaire was living in the Age of Enlightenment. The age itself was not enlightened. That is why, he, including other enlightenment thinkers were hardly effective in achieving their goals of reforming society. Voltaire was dispirited when he died in 1778. Kant made noted six years later that, although “he (Voltaire) was living in the Age of Enlightenment…the age itself was not enlightened.”
Though Kant was right up to certain extent, achieving ‘Enlightened Age’ was always an ideal case where everyone are able to use their understanding without external guidance.