I have written an essay for my MOOC that is half the maximum length and that took no thought or deep reading. This is because I am not taking the MOOC terribly seriously, yet I want to experience it. I am working for a C. Therefore I should not be posting the piece, but I am because I have decided I like the sentences, despite the jejune content and the lack of explanation and argument. My new writing partner is a fan of the sentence, so it is also for her possible interest that I am posting this speed-written text. It is just over 400 words and I wrote it in less than one hour.
How did Kant define Enlightenment? Use Kant’s definition to discuss whether either Rousseau or Marx is an Enlightenment figure. In other words, choose one of the following comparisons to write about: Kant compared to Rousseau, OR Kant compared to Marx.
Kant defines Enlightenment as follows:
Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-incurred immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one’s own understanding without the guidance of another. This immaturity is self-incurred if its cause is not lack of understanding, but lack of resolution and courage to use it without the guidance of another. The motto of enlightenment is therefore: Sapere aude! Have courage to use your own understanding!
He goes on to say that freedom is required for enlightenment, and to suggest that enlightenment expands freedom; he is thus discussing society and government. “Freedom” does not mean disorder, but rational progress, growing from civil discussion and debate. He states:
A high degree of civil freedom seems advantageous to a people’s intellectual freedom, yet it also sets up insuperable barriers to it. Conversely, a lesser degree of civil freedom gives intellectual freedom enough room to expand to its fullest extent.
That, if I understand correctly, is to say that constraints on civil freedom have the paradoxical effect of requiring greater intellectual rigor. The relationship between knowledge and political authority as analyzed by Kant is something I would like to study further.
Before this course I thought of Rousseau as an Enlightenment figure because of his work on the idea of social contract and influence on the French Revolution; our readings, however, underscore his connections to Romanticism where he is important. It is as though he could take Enlightenment as a given, and look ahead to a reaction that will value imagination over reason. Nature, not reason, is Rousseau’s ideal teacher.
I am intrigued by the idea of Marx as an Enlightenment figure and were I to develop the present essay fully I would take this option. Since he working after the Enlightenment and criticized some of its limitations, one might want to classify him otherwise but he is working with the concepts of reason and freedom, and also science and progress, in dialogue with and following the Enlightenment. He and Kant could, in this way, be considered to be working on the same face of modernity, as it were. REVISE this phrase and insert two to three paragraphs on Marx.
I am interested in the relationship of modernity and coloniality (cf. Walter Mignolo, The Darker Side of Western Modernity, Durham: Duke UP, 2011) and in alternatives to Western modernity that do not depend wholly on the idea of the “postmodern.” Marx seems a modern thinker to me in part because of his commitment to centralized authority. The paradox I see in a thinker like him–and some other moderns–is that their interest in freedom is accompanied by an interest in order that has not in fact resulted in freedom for all.