Dare to be Wise

With pleasure today I unearthed an essay Kant wrote in answer to the question: “What is Enlightenment?” Kant’s response: “Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed immaturity.” This simple reply is expanded in the essay. This theme has been a personal refrain for over twenty years. It is satisfying to read Kant’s lucid examination of the same concept

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! “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 (naturaliter maiorennes), 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.

The journalist Michael Bywater wrote Big Babies, an amusing but banal book examining broadly similar themes. (His other book Lost Worlds is entertaining.)

2 thoughts on “Dare to be Wise

  1. >yeah this is the well known one. but much more interesting is kant’s elaboration on enlightenment and thinking and that it is actually not so easy to think or to get rid of the prejudices etc etc in the footnote of §40 of the critique of judgement. i like this §40 attitude better because it is fairer and more realistic.

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