What Is Enlightenment
Immanuel Kant managed to provide his account of numerous philosophic issues, but his vision of a concept of enlightenment is often paid a minor attention. As a matter of fact, his work “An Answer to The Question ‘What is Enlightenment'” reveals the most fundamental aspects of this idea. First of all, Immanuel Kant suggests that enlightenment is a process of becoming mature. This statement is a key argument of his conceptualization, which makes it worth a detailed discussion. Maturity is recognized not as presence of certain practical life knowledge and experience, but as the ability of an individual to use this expertise. Kant provides an example of a person, whose needs are satisfied by other people, and he/she does not make any effort to act independently. In such a way, immaturity creates specific boundaries, beyond which an individual does not dare to go, even though his/her guide eliminates the obstacles. This is the first fundamental statement, which is directly related to the most important aspect of the concept of enlightenment.
The second key argument is the observation that a mature person is still obliged to follow commonly accepted public rules such as, for example, taxes, laws, etiquette, use of money among others. Nonetheless, a mature individual is capable of voicing his/her personal view concerning these rules, which means making a certain judgement regardless the superior presence of these rules. Hence, a mature person may obey to tax laws but organize a protest against high taxation rates. That is why the main point of Immanuel Kant is to note that maturity is not possession of specific life skills but the ability to use them and make an independent judgement irrespective of the superior factors determined by society, government, and culture. In such a way, maturity is associated with enlightenment.
Since Kant argues that enlightenment is a process of becoming mature in the aforementioned sense, it is necessary to note that enlightenment is a strongly empirical concept. One becomes mature when he/she eliminates boundaries of someone else’s care for him/her. It is important to admit that an individual should do that voluntarily, as absence of guardians does not necessarily mean that this person is capable of a mature thought. Immanuel Kant tailors the concept of maturity to enlightenment owing to the fact that enlightenment means revealing some life-essence knowledge, and this knowledge gives one an ability to think critically and independently in an objective reality. However, the philosopher’s statement regarding the capability to judge superior constraints of society, law, and culture is a little biased though. Immanuel Kant suggests that an individual may be mature and still obey public rules, but have an independent opinion and voice in that regard. Conversely, it is possible to argue that a mature person does not need any reference to public rules, as he/she is mature enough to act appropriately, and the moment of comprehension of having this knowledge can be regarded as enlightenment.
On a large scale, Kant adequately links maturity to enlightenment, as he considers the former as an awareness of personal natural capabilities and their use in empirical environment. Hence, when one realizes his/her personal strengths and acts towards their employment in life, real enlightenment occurs, as an individual reveals his/her true function that is not determined with any public constraints or guardians who previously were responsible for making decisions instead of the person. For instance, a child, who dreams to become a rock musician, may be forced by parents to choose a different occupation, because a career of musician is considered to be unprofitable. In case a child manages to decide to opt for a career of musician and master this profession, it is possible to say that this person experienced enlightenment.
Kant mentions going beyond boundaries set by guards many times, but he does not explain how an individual can do that and whether it will ultimately result in enlightenment. First of all, it is expected that maturity as a process of enlightenment means understanding of personal natural capabilities regardless the constraints determined by society. The essay does not consider answering a question: What if public constraints somehow coincide with natural strengths of a certain individual or group of them? Does it mean that the entire humanity is enlightened? It is becoming increasingly apparent that enlightenment is originally a Buddhist concept, and it is associated with Buddha leaving his palace for seeking the true essence of his life. Therefore, it is quite important to know how the concept of maturity coincides with original Buddhist vision of enlightenment. Beyond a doubt, enlightenment came to Buddha after numerous challenges and change of his lifestyle, so that he became mature in a number of terms as well. Still, do these similarities match each other, or Immanuel Kant comes to his own conclusions based on an independent observation? These questions should be answered in the future.
However, Kant’s work itself is headed towards addressing a different question. The philosopher suggests that maturity of government can differ from the concept of maturity of average people, and a ruler may act with appreciation of the citizens’ dignity. Still, the essay leaves the following argument not discussed: The government can be congruent with civilians, maturity, but whose enlightenment is it? That is why this question can be answered in the future together with the aforementioned avenues that are assumed to relate to each other in multiple ways.