History Optional Paper-2 Solution – 2013: Q.5 (a)
Q.5 (a) For Kant, enlightenment is mankind’s final coming of age, the emancipation of the human consciousness from an immature state of ignorance and error. Critically examine.
About two hundred years ago, the German philosopher Immanuel Kant wrote an essay entitled ‘What is Enlightenment?’.
For Kant, Enlightenment was mankind’s final coming of age, the emancipation of the human consciousness from an immature state of ignorance and error.
According to Kant, an individual becomes enlightened when he has the courage to think and act without the guidance of another. And this is possible only when human consciousness is emancipitated so that he is restricted by thoughts of previous generations or thoughts of others. Only those people can make the best dutiful decision when faced with any choice.
Most of the people continue to conform with the society either due to ignorance or lack of courage to think themselves.
Kant felt that human beings were different than any other creature in the animal kingdom because they “possessed an interior moral sense that can be refined, a knowledge that could be translated into behavior. Kant believed that true enlightenment was only possible with the cultivation of one’s own mind. An individual has to step beyond one’s own boundaries and limitation that society has taught us, and that laziness, cowardice and contentment of letting others think for us was a dangerous handicap that did not allow the individual to tap into their own reason.
Kant argues that most individuals were never really allowed to tap into their own source of reason and that they relied too heavily on “guardians” such as pastors, doctors, and authority figures.
Kant says that to truly reach enlightenment, man must be able to question and criticize the institution that is already in place, whether it be government or religion. It is mans duty to obey the laws that govern him, but it is also his duty to be able to freely question those laws that govern him. Only the questioning of the things that are already in place can lead to new ideas and improvement on society as a whole.
Kant also believed that it would be ideal if rulers and monarchs to allow its citizens to engage in free thinking. He believed if a ruler was first enlightened with rational thoughts and ideals, they would be confident and courageous enough to allow the public to think for themselves. This would create an enlightened government and society.
Kant says that enlightenment is the final coming of age when mankind individually and collectively reached a situation when they begin to think for themselves.
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