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Kant Vs. Schopenhauer On Enlightenment Essay, Research Paper

In the age of enlightenment, new and radical expressions and ideas emerged at the forefront of philosophy. Amongst German philosophers, the question of what enlightenment truly encompassed, was a major focal point. Two specific philosophers of this age are Immanuel Kant (during) and Arthur Schopenhauer (late), both have separate views on the subject of gained wisdom and intellect, the perfectability of human nature that comes along with being enlightened. Kant feels that enlightenment is “man’s emergence from his self-indurred immaturity”. In other words, a detachment from any religious sect. Schopenhauer goes one step further too offer the idea that true enlightenment comes from knowledge of fate, brutality, and the sin that the human race is drown in. But in contrast, Schopenhauer feels that acceptance of these truths can still be possible under rule, and under religious guidance. It is Schopenhauer’s view of enlightenment that reaches closer to the truth.

Kant was a man who was raised during the Enlightenment. In his work entitled What is Enlightenment, he preaches like a mad Atheist, accusing any follower of religious faith of bing immature and lazy.”It is all too easy for others to set themselves up as their guardians.” It is this immaturity and susceptibility that he seeks to pull his people from. It is easy for them to be immature, keeping a mind set of, “I need not think so long as I can pay”. Pretty harsh words for his time when the threat of religious persecution was still an existent social norm. He feels man to be smarter than that. “For they would certainly learn to walk eventually after a few falls.” But, man cannot do this “because he was never allowed to make the attempt.”

Let man learn, Kant replies. Let him be free to speak. Let him be free to think on his own. “The public use of man’s reason must always be free, and it alone can bring about enlightenment”

This is his view, his vision. “Argue as much as you like and about whatever you like, but obey.” What oppression might he be referring to that man must be free from? Free from what? Free from religious misguiding. Wisdom, comes from freedom. Enlightenment comes solely from freedom of rules and the oppression that religion brings.

In this short piece, Kant finds ample room to degrade the politics of religious orderings of the time, accusing them of oppression and hypocracy. “One cannot put the next age in a position where it would be impossible for it to extend and correct it’s knowledge. This would be a crime against human nature, where original destiny lies precisely in such progress.” Here he refers to the guidance of the church. He feels the church allows no room for questioning and reworking of it’s contexts. Kant sees this as a closed door, a road block to human evolution and education. It’s human nature to question. It’s in our blood to look for answers. Kant’s stance is that we must, as individuals, be free to express those thoughts and ideas openly and freely in a public domain if we ever hope to advance ourselves as a race.

To Schoepenhauer, enlightenment is not just a freedom to speak, a freedom to express ones own opinions openly, but a freedom of the mind as well. That the mind must come to understand some of the harsh realities of life, no matter what doctrine you may follow. Man must accept the idea of pain and suffering. He must look to his own brutality to understand his superiority over the animal (brutes), and also be able to accept the concept of inevitable fate and death. Rather a gloomy outlook, but all truthfully providing wisdom and insight into ones life, time, and place in the world.

“Evil is just what is positive; it makes our own existence felt. Happiness and satisfaction only imply some state of pain brought to an end.” This is the first step to understanding human nature, to comprehend that pain is good; pain is needed to feel joy. “A certain amount of care or pain or trouble is necessary for every man at all times”. This pain, this suffrage is needed in life. “For if all wishes were fulfilled as soon as they arose, how would man occupy their lives? What would they do with their time?” A fine point indeed. Strife brings life, you could say.

Schopenhauer feels also, that we are both above, and below the animal kingdom with this perception. We have knowledge of pain and happiness far greater than any animal would, but this is this a good thing? Man seeks to deliver himself from boredom constantly, but in truth, he has only been searching for the simple necessities all along. “He has been struggling ultimately for the very same things as the brute has attained, and with an incomparably smaller expenditure of passion and pain.” Man spends much of his time striving for this or that, fretting over the past, fearful of the future, and it is here where we become inferior to the brutes. “Brutes show us real wisdom when compared with us I mean, their quiet, placid enjoyment of the present moment. The tranquillity of mind which this seems to give to them often puts us to shame for the many times we allow our thoughts and our cares to make us restless and discontented.” To see this fact, to understand our inability to just go with the moment is another step to enlightenment and understanding. He propose that this is the reason we have pets in our homes; to remind us of the now, to soothe us from our cares and worries, to teach us that this is now, and no other time. To know that worry and woe is only an appendage to the necessities of life, provides one with a greater attainment of our place here. Lastly, we must accept our inevitable fate of death to be able to enjoy life. It is human nature to fear death. Again, unlike the brutes who have no concept of such a thing, we see death staring us in the face each day, in the back of our minds, threatening us eternally, an ever known fate we must except. To account for this fate, man creates safety nets for himself; religious doctrines to make it official, that death is not the end, but a beginning of a new after-life. “The mental anticipation of a happy future, and the inspiriting play of phantasy, both of which we owe to our power of imagination.” We dream up things, to reassure ourselves of a purpose, or reason for existence. To understand these things inside us, is to be enlightened.

To see not just an after-life, but why we look for such a thing in the first place can tell you more about human nature than anything. To know why we need to find a way to cheat death, to believe that we will never truly die, is only a comfort variable, and no more. That is enlightenment.

Enlightenment, by definition is “an enlightening of the mind”. Schopenhauer’s stance of the concept of being enlightened falls much closer to this definition and is therefore the most accurate of the two. Kant’s philosophy may provide freedom of the soul from repression, but does not educate the mind on it’s own surroundings. Yes, you have the freedom to speak your mind, but do you have the knowledge of self to put conviction behind your words? Freedom from religious oppression is indeed a step toward enlightenment, I must disagree with Kant’s statement that it alone, is enlightenment itself. Man needs more. What can man do with a freedom if he does not understand why he has it; can not fathom where his opinions come from, why he feels the way he does, or understand what he sees before him.

This is where Schopenhauer’s theory comes in. What Schopenhauer offers as the keys to enlightenment define more closely, what it means to be enlightened. Education in understanding why we think the way we do, why we must suffer at times in order to see the good, why we feel so overwhelmed so often, for our heads are in two many different times at once, and why we must fined calm in the present moment. Schopenhauer was a romantic. He wrote of the needs of the body and soul, more so than of the mind. His views came later than Kant’s, and built on them in part. But what he offers are terrific guidelines for one to go by in his quest for true enlightened knowledge. A man cannot be enlightened in freedom, for he will still feel bored, still express worry and pain, sin and despair, without an understanding of how the bad he feels creates his good. A man needs to know this, in his freedom, to understand where, why and who he is, simple freedom from rule cannot provide this type of clarity.

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