On This Day In 1724: Immanuel Kant Born
On this day in 1724, Immanuel Kant, one of the most influential European philosophers was born. In addition to his complex and innovative theories in epistemology and ethics, that are still heatedly debated up to this day, he was a passionate advocate and believer in the cause of enlightenment and the ascendancy of human reason and independent critical thought over dogmas and unquestioned customs.
Kant believed that most humans have the ability to think independently and to use their reason, but not many of them do so. This, he thought, was because it is easier and requires less effort just to accept other people’s views without questioning them, than to do the intellectual work of coming up with one’s own opinions. As a result, the existing traditional doctrines and the established, or what we would call today the “mainstream” worldviews, have conditioned many into intellectual inertia. Kant believed that one requires a lot of courage and determination to start thinking for him or herself and to throw off the domination of the “guardians”, as he called the mainstream intellectual authorities.
He opened his famous essay “An Answer to the Question:What is Enlightenment?” with the following words:
“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! “Have courage to use your own understanding!”–that is the motto of enlightenment.”
Do you think today more people have courage to think for themselves than they did in Kant’s time? What about yourself, do you form your own opinions, or rely on ‘guardians’ for your thoughts and ideas?
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