An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment? – Emmanuel Kant

We’ll be reading Kant’s brief essay, answering the question “What is Enlightenment?”, and discussing his arguments in the context of the subsequent history, and considering the response to it by American philosopher Robert Ferguson.

From Ferguson: “…What is Enlightenment? When Kant asks the question in 1784 the European Enlightenment has spread across the century and its American counterpart, beginning later around 1750, has just reached obvious heights in the Treaty of Paris. Kant can justifiably think of his response as a full description of contemporary life. Perhaps in consequence, ‘An Answer to the Question: ‘What is Enlightenment?” mixes negative experience wit hope for change. ‘Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-incurred immaturity.’ It seeks to overcome ‘the inability to use one’s own understanding without the guidance of another.’ Commentators generally avoid the clumsiness of the constructions by leaping directly to Kant’s famous motto of Enlightenment (taken from Horace)- ‘Sapere aude! Have courage to use your own understanding!’ – but in so doing they lose sight of the philosopher’s essential point. The Enlightenment may trade in ringing affirmations, but its deepest meaning lie in the uncertain struggle of light against darkness…”

More details (and essay downloads) can be found on the Trello card here:


September 23


11:30 am - 01:00 pm

Click to Register:

London Analytic Philosophy Study Group



British Library, 96 Euston Rd Postcode: NW1 2DB

London, GB

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