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Have courage to use your own reason July 19, 2011

Posted by Ezra Resnick in Philosophy, Reason.
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In his 1784 essay “What is Enlightenment?”, Immanuel Kant urges us to throw off the self-imposed servility that holds us back:

Laziness and cowardice are the reasons why so great a portion of mankind, after nature has long since discharged them from external direction, nevertheless remains under lifelong tutelage, and why it is so easy for others to set themselves up as their guardians. It is so easy not to be of age. If I have a book which understands for me, a pastor who has a conscience for me, a physician who decides my diet, and so forth, I need not trouble myself. I need not think, if I can only pay — others will easily undertake the irksome work for me.

What, then, is Enlightenment?

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. Self-incurred is this 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.

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