In his essay entitled ‘Was ist Aufklarung?,' Immanuel Kant explores the concept of enlightenment as it exists as an attainable state for mankind in society. In response to his title, ‘What is Enlightenment?,' Kant defines the framework of comprehension within which his insight expands; “Enlightenment is man's release from his self-incurred tutelage. Tutelage is man's inability to make use of his understanding without direction from another.” (Kant, 29). Kant's argument thus follows that enlightenment manifests from the individual's free use of reason. It is where freedom and reason converge that becomes his focus, necessitating the distinction between appropriate and inappropriate outlets for one's thoughts, being public and private respectively. In comprehension with this dual responsibility of the thinking individual in society, Kant's essay draws attention to the consequential and similarly the distinctive presence of media and mediation simultaneously at work in that society, as well as the influential area in between which they effect.
Where Kant distinguishes such public officials as the “pastor,” “physician,” “officer,” and “tax collector,” as the upholders of tutelage, passively encouraging acceptance, blindly operating “statutes and formulas, those mechanical tools… the fetters of everlasting tutelage”; they are the mediation, the hindrance threatening that “step to competence” and independent thinking (29-31). This mediation is the citizen's private duty; deviation from these duties is the means for revolution, but “never a true reform in ways of thinking” (31). As Kant distinguishes, the citizen holds a public duty as well, that of the scholar.
[...] Once enlightenment has been proven possible by the first courageous free- thinking writers, the people have the obligation to fulfill the rights of mankind by continuing the proliferation and communication of insightful and provocative media. By doing so, and exercising those fundamental rights, they are not only maintained, but literally strengthened in numbers. The citizen in the active role of the scholar compensates for his personal sacrifices as the “artificial unanimity” in his private office, and ensures the limitation of the “certain mechanism” that enables such passivity (31). [...]
[...] The middle establishes peace while engendering progress, allowing the intermingling of private and public doctrines in the minds of thinking men, so that enlightenment comes to encompass more than escape from tutelage, but a constant democratic and intellectual momentum towards institutional reform. More importantly, the middle is the occupation of the public, the meeting of the working and intellectual classes, allowing for a broad diffusion of the “spirit of the rational appreciation of both their own worth and every man's vocation for thinking for himself.” (30). [...]
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