In 1784, Immanuel Kant wrote The Answer to the Question “What is Enlightenment?” In this work, he presented his thoughts and ideas about the phenomenon of enlightenment, conditions in which enlightenment may exist and what factors hinder the development of this process. Kant begins his narration raising the issue of immaturity. According to the author, it is the core reason that slows down enlightenment. He also links enlightenment and freedom as two interdependent factors. Moreover, Kant provides examples of other issues that impact the pace of enlightenment, such as religion and political regime. He also notes that all these aspects are inseparably connected with enlightenment and explains which factors are the most powerful in obstructing the humanity to enter the era of enlightenment today or in the nearest future. Therefore, Kant’s work is dedicated to the discussion the phenomenon of enlightenment and those factors that have a direct or indirect impact on its development.
The introduction of Kant’s work provides a clear background on the main purpose of his analysis. A reader may easily follow the flow of thoughts that the philosopher presents. First, Kant states that immaturity is the main obstacle to reaching enlightenment and connects it with the lack of freedom in the society. He says that enlightenment is impossible without freedom, but, at the same time, freedom has a destructive effect on the society (Kant, 2009). Thus, the government exercises control over the population to provide peace and order. In case of lack of the needed regulations from the part of the authorities, people will break the law, avoid paying taxes and act inappropriately. In other words, absolute freedom will have an opposite effect than expected, and people will not be enlightened but corrupted. Hence, Kant says that it is the biggest paradox of enlightenment: people need freedom to enter the age of enlightenment, but this freedom may lead them a wrong way (Kant, 2009).
Thus, the first part of Kant’s arguments shows a problem and its causes, which make the entering into the enlightenment era impossible. The first section is smooth in transitions between the philosopher’s thoughts, and it is easy for a reader to see the connection between all factors that are presented in the work. The issue of freedom is indeed controversial; thus, when speaking about the need for freedom to make people more independent and enlightened, it should be noted that excessive freedom may have negative implications, as well. Kant pays particular attention to the destructive aspect of freedom.
After the introductory paragraph, a reader expects to receive more information about the connection between freedom, social processes and enlightenment and, finally, find out the philosopher’s suggestions regarding the possible solutions of the issues under discussion (Kant, 2009). However, Kant does not develop the ideas presented in the first part of his writing to end them with an argumentative conclusion. He continues by discussing one more aspect – religion- and connects it to enlightenment, analyzing the latter from the religious perspective. The author continues this topic in the following paragraphs without any further references and mentioning of immaturity and social freedom.
Indeed, the influence of religion on enlightenment cannot be underestimated. However, Kant forgets about other aspects and causes that he has mentioned at the beginning of his work. As a result, it makes a reader lose connection with the author’s previous ideas. Nevertheless, when Kant comes to a conclusion, he again raises the aspects of freedom, social order and their influence on enlightenment (Kant, 2009). Hence, Kant comes back to the ideas from the introductory part but does not develop them within the body of the text. A possible reason for such an approach may be the philosopher’s intention to embrace all the possible aspects, and thus, he does not continue to develop the ideas introduced in the beginning. However, it should be also noted that it breaks the logical flow of the work, making the reader lose connection between the author’s ideas. Therefore, there is no smooth transition between the introductory paragraph, body, and conclusion.
Also, Kant provides more theoretical than empirical evidence to prove his arguments. Mostly, he dwells on the aspects that are the universal truth and do not require additional examples. For instance, he says that freedom may corrupt people and explains why it is impossible to achieve enlightenment today (Kant, 2009). He builds his narration in a way that consists both of pros and cons, but, in the end, he does not make any final conclusion that can give an answer to the main issue in question. Kant provides a discussion of the topic, but a reader has to decide for himself/herself whether enlightenment is possible or not and what conditions are required to enter the era of enlightenment.
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To sum up, it can be said that the wok is argumentative and multidirectional; it embraces many aspects of the discussed issue. The philosopher does not set a goal to provide the reader with a clear answer; instead, he shows his opinion on various aspects and explains what effect they have on enlightenment. The drawback of his work, however, is the style of text organization, in which the author does not unite the subtopics nor uses the smooth transitions between them. Hence, the body paragraph does not contain any links to the information mentioned in the introduction and conclusion. Nevertheless, in the final paragraph, Kant brings together his arguments, summarizing them, and comes back to the ideas of freedom mentioned in the beginning, as well as their impact on enlightenment.