Professor Stephen Haller
12 March 2018
What does enlightenment mean to you? What is enlightenment? Everyone has their own take on enlightenment. That is basically what enlightenment stands for. To Alexander Broadie enlightenment was the change from darkness to lightness. To Immanuel Kant enlightenment was a man’s ability to think for themselves. In the handout given to us in class, titled What is Enlightenment? Immanuel Kant answers by stating “Enlightenment 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 the lack of understanding but in the indecision and lack of courage to use one’s own mind without another’s guidance.” He simply states that a man should know his own self-worth. He should be able to understand what is harmful and what is beneficial to themselves. He mentions that people should not entertain an idea simply because you are incapable to think for yourself. It isn’t the lack of understanding but the inability to lead. He also mentions that, “Laziness and cowardice are the reasons why such a large part of mankind gladly remain minors all their lives, long after nature has free them from external guidance.” He talks about how even after one becomes an adult and are now free to make one’s own decisions, its fear and ignorance which keeps them dependent.
The enlightenment period was also known as the age of reason, Enlightened many great minds. As a result of this we see a change take place in society. It inspired great scientists like Isaac Newton to apply reason to science. As mentioned in the article Enlightenment in Europe, Revolution in America under the subtitle Newton discovers law of gravity, it mentions “Isaac Newton may be called either the last and greatest figure of the Scientific Revolution or the first figure of the enlightenment. Newton recognized what he owed to such earlier thinkers as Galileo and Kepler when he said, “If I have seen farther than others, it is because I stood on the shoulders of giants.”” This quote by Newton is very moving. He is humble and shows credit where it is due, however it also shows me that even though he had other people who have come up with ideas he not only embraced them but he used those ideas for himself and backed his own thought process. Newton’s ideas inspired a group of thinkers known as philosophes. The article mentions this under the subtitle, The philosophes advoca...