Monday, October 25, 2010

We say Enlightenment, the Germans say Aufklärung

Although the Enlightenment is most commonly associated with Frenchmen like Voltaire and the other philosophes, and with Hume and the Scottish thinkers who followed him, the most famous description of the Enlightement came from the German philosopher, Immanuel Kant, who in 1784 wrote a celebrated essay, 'What is Enlightenment?' Here's a sample:
'Enlightenment (Aufklärung) is man's emergence from his self-imposed nonage. Nonage is the inability to use one's own understanding without another's guidance. This nonage is self-imposed if its cause lies not in lack of understanding but in indecision and lack of courage to use one's mind without another's guidance. Dare to know! ... "Have the courage to use our own understanding", is therefore the motto of the enlightenment.'
See what I mean, when I said that the Enlightenment was self-conscious?