Saturday, August 23, 2014

Sapere Aude!

In his 1784 essay, Answering the Question: What is Enlightenment?, Immanuel Kant wrote "Enlightenment is man's emergence from his self-incurred immaturity."  He argues that such self-inflicted immaturity is not from a lack of understanding, but from the lack of courage to use one's reason, intellect, and wisdom without the guidance of another. Kant claims that the motto of enlightenment should be Sapere aude! ("Dare to be wise!").

Kant considered dogmas and formulaic thinking to be the fetters of an everlasting immaturity, or nonage. Perhaps considering Nagasena's answer to King Milinda's question regarding faith, Kant notes that the man who casts off these fetters makes an uncertain leap over the narrowest ditch because he is not used to such free movement. 
"That is why there are only a few men who walk firmly, and who have emerged from nonage by cultivating their own minds. It is more nearly possible, however, for the public to enlighten itself; indeed, if it is only given freedom, enlightenment is almost inevitable. There will always be a few independent thinkers, even among the self-appointed guardians of the multitude. Once such men have thrown off the yoke of nonage, they will spread about them the spirit of a reasonable appreciation of man's value and of his duty to think for himself."

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