Enlightenment and Thinking (Kant)


Great stuff from Kant.

Originally posted on Time's Flow Stemmed:

This morning I reread Kant’s well-known What is Enlightenment? [PDF], an essay that I’ve reflected on many times over the years.

Much more interesting (a recent reading, thanks to a friend’s deeper knowledge of Kant) though is Kant’s lesser-known (to me anyway) development on enlightenment and thinking, which is perhaps more reasonable and realistic. I quote below from SS40 of The Critique of Judgement. This piece, with extended footnote, emphasises the difficulty of thinking, and of the removal of superstition/prejudice. Enlightenment, like anything of worth, does not come easily.

While the following maxims of common human understanding do not properly come in here as constituent parts of the critique of taste, they may still serve to elucidate its fundamental propositions. They are these: (I) to think for oneself; (2) to think from the standpoint of everyone else; (3) always to think consistently. The first is the maxim of…

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Cicero on Inconsistency with Yesterday

You appeal to my writings, and testify to what I may at some time have said or written. You may deal in this way with others, who in their discussions follow prescribed rules. We live for the passing day ; we say whatever strikes our minds as probable ; and so we alone are free.

Opening Speech: Socrates, A Tragedy in Five Acts (Francis Foster Barham)


ACT I. Scene I.— Athens.

Socrates solus, basking in the sunshine.

Philosophers have many a pleasure — known–
Felt — by themselves — which to the vulgar world
They rarely express : and when they do, how seldom
Do the hearts of men respond ! — Ay, at this moment
There is a rapture in this sunshine — spreading
Its hot o’erwhelming lustre over Athens,
Which they conceive not ; —
Unto me it is Symbolic of the incommunicable flame
Of Deity ! It seems to embrace me, like
The beatific vision of Olympus,
Transforming what it shines on, to its likeness ;
It enters into my very soul, and makes
A summer of my conscience! — I rejoice
To anticipate the eternity when I
Likewise shall be as a sunbeam.

Johnson, recall, complained of Milton’s great poem that no one ever wished it longer.  I doubt Johnson believed such a wish was rejected as early as the first few of Milton’s lines.  Here, however…

Socrates, the sunbeam!

Lewis Carroll’s Purification

Lewis Carroll’s private journal, 7 January 1856:

Am I a deep philosopher or a great genius? I think neither. What talents I have I desire to devote to His Service and may he purify me and take away my pride and selfishness. Oh that I might hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

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