Emanuel Kant in “What is Enlightenment?” gives his explanation of what Enlightenment is and who embodies it.
Kant defines Enlightenment as “a person’s emergence from their ‘self-incurred’ minority.” Essentially this means that you can only be enlightened if you have shed your natural tendency to allow others to direct and dictate your understanding – not because you don’t know how to understand something, but because you aren’t courageous enough to break away and think for yourself(18-19).
Kant also suggests that some people are more inclined to an enlightened life than others, and those who are enlightened often assume the duty of imposing their schools of thought on to the “unthinking masses (20).”
This made me think about the way we view people in politics today. It is such a common problem that we face now of people listening to everything a political pundit says on TV and treating it as fact. The comment about the unthinking masses is what drew me to this comparison. It is certainly much easier to only listen to commentators you agree with and believe everything they tell you, but the problem with the “unthinking masses” is they are allowing themselves to be taken advantage of.
I disagree with Kant in that I believe that people chose to be enlightened and that it is not a predetermined trait. There must be a choice, because people decide everyday to educate themselves on topics they don’t know much about. Contrary to Kant’s assertion, there is nothing that naturally makes a person more or less equipped to determine how the masses should think or behave. I believe that some people are born naturally better at being leaders, but that in no way entitles them to tell others how to think nor does it mean that people who weren’t natural-born leaders can’t become great leaders.
There isn’t a single person on the planet who is more equipped to decide what you think then you – not a politician, political pundit, leader of an organization, friend, or family member, only you.