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Today we're going to, let's talk about The Enlightenment.

I'm going to do so by looking at a German philosopher, Immanuel Kant, writing in the second half of the 1700s really when there was no Germany yet. I think that's important for everybody to remember. That German speaking Europe is a whole bunch of principalities with some strong big states like Prussia, Austria, Bavaria. But there's no unified Germany yet. And Kant is writing this text, which we've assigned for the course, WWhat is Enlightenment?," as his attempt to articulate why the progress, in education progress, in knowledge progress, in thinking is not only good for individuals, but will it have a salutary effect on society. Lots of the leaders of these societies were very worried about enlightenment because they thought as people became more educated, as people became more independent, they might actually not want to be subjects to kings anymore, or subjects to aristocrats. And so, Kant on the one hand is saying, enlightenment is really important. It's something we need to extenuate, emphasize to, to energize. On the other hand he wants to say, don't worry about it. [LAUGH] If you're, if you're member of the elite, you have nothing to fear from enlightenment because enlightenment in the end can be a powerful ingredient in the increase of power for the whole state, for the whole society. These two magically, powerful thinkers in the middle of the 1700s, late 1700s Rousseau and Kant. so, 17, 1784 is when Kant writes, writes the, What is Enlightenment? What happens, what's the big event in the 1780s? Alright. French, French Revolution. When is the French Revolution? 1789. 1789. Okay, there we go. That's a date that we all should know. Think, think, think. That's going to be very helpful to us, alright? This is a Euro, we're very kind of, Euro snobs in this class. so 1776, okay.

1789, that's really an important date for us. So, what we're doing is reading two texts here or three really, prior to the French Revolution, which changes the world of culture, dramatically, and politics, and economics. As does 1776, but that's a different course. So What is Enlightenment? is, as I said, a small text of Kant's. It's even a work of journalism. Today, we, we need to understand a little bit about the philosophical context that Kant operated in. In some ways, the intellectual context of the 18th century, to which he is responding. May be I should say a word about enlightenment from our perspective at least from, I should say, my perspective as your professor. There are lots of definitions of enlightenment. Here is one I think that you can find useful for the, for the duration of this course, and perhaps even beyond. And that is enlightenment is the project to make the world more of a home for human beings. Enlightenment is a project to make the world more of a home for human beings through the use of reason. Through the use of reason. That's really important because making the world more of a home for us, that is reducing its dangers, bringing out its potential through the use of reason, is going to demand science, is going to demand education, and is going to demand certain call for freedom that will allow people to transform the world to make it more hospitable for human beings. The enlightenment also though is a social movement. It is not just a bunch of big shot philosophers talking about big ideas, it's a whole range of writers who take Voltaire's injunction to ecrasez l'infame which really means, well it means, squash out infamy. But it, it, it means, get rid of all the nonsense. Get rid of all the bologna getting in the way of progress. And for many journalists, for many small time intellectuals, we could call them, this just means that showing that people who are already full of themselves, people who have power and prestige, and a certain kind of snob appeal, [LAUGH] that

those people are just nonsense and we have to get rid of them. We have to show that we can do better than that. So, the enlightenment is a philosophical side, and then there's this kind of journalistic, social movement side. Kant is responding to both of those things in this essay. What is enlightenment? Before we dig into the essay a little bit, I just want to say a little bit more about Kant's philosophical concerns and, and what drove those concerns. Kant describes himself, and you'll see this on, one of the, the slides we'll show you during the course of this video, as steering a middle course for philosophy. Steering a middle course for philosophy. What did that mean? It meant for Kant that he would defend reason, defend science, defend this new form of enlightenment. But also he said, he would make room for faith, make room for belief. He wanted to have his cake and eat it too, if we can use that expression. History of philosophy from Plato to Kant is consumed with the problem of how do you, how do you connect the ideal and the real? For Plato it was the ideal forms, the ideas, sometimes you call them, how are they related to the real. In Kant's time, that question took the form of a battle about skepticism. And I want to give you a little bit of background about that before we go into more into Kant proper. The mona pre, the battle skepticism can be framed beginning with Descartes. Rene Descartes, who wrote famously on the discourse on the method a sentence that everybody who study a little philosophy should remember. And that is, I think, therefore I am, this is Descartes. I think, therefore I am. What did her mean by that? He meant that, he could doubt everything around him. He could doubt that this was really a book case, he could doubt that he was really in the room now that I am talking to you. These are could doubt because maybe I am dreaming. But one thing I cannot doubt, Descartes said, is that I am doubting.

And doubting, for Descartes, is a form of thinking. So, this becomes the bedrock for Descartes. I think, therefore I am. So for Descartes, you can keep skepticism at bay. Keep skepticism at bay by the certainty of your own subjective thinking existence, doubting existence. And on the basis of that clear certainty of my, of one's own existence, you build up other clear and distinct ideas. This is what he called the kind of bedrock of thinking on which you can then build secure notions of science, of calculation. Especially of mathematics, of optics. And you can keep skepticism at bay because you are building on something secure. Clear and distinct rational ideas that must be true because they are part of the apparatus of our thinking, the logic of, of our minds. So, that's Descartes on one side. On the other side, you have Locke in the English Enlightenment, if I can use this shorthand. He didn't say I feel, therefore I am, but he should have said that I guess. In other words, Locke thought what we get knowledge not by closing our eyes and thinking really hard about what must be true. For Locke, we get our knowledge by, through experience. We want to know if this is real, we tap on it enough, we tap on it enough our hand starts hurting, gosh that's real. We want, we, we, we get our knowledge by more and more sensation, by more and more experience, by more and more experiments. And so for Locke, the way you keep skepticism at bay is by piling up experience. Experience leading to knowledge. Now David Hume came along and close to Kant's time. And argued that, well, experience didn't really give you knowledge. It really just gave you habit. It just gave you customs that you got used to. So, I get used to this being hard. And that's all it is. It's just a custom. It's just a habit.

It's not something with a foundation. And that's a new kind of almost we can call imperasist skepticism that really worried Kant. So when Kant was writing his major philosophical works, he was trying, he said, to steer a course between the rationalism of Descartes and the empiricism of Locke and Hume to, to actually make a place for clear and distinct ideas that you understand by really thinking hard, and also experience that you get from being out in the world and registering yours, these sensations. Kant said, I need to def, create boundaries around reason, to make room for faith. I need to steer a middle course. And Kant is an awfully complex thinker who write, who wrote Mammoth Works, the critique of pure reason, the critique of practical reason, the critique of judgment. These are his great major works, as well as a slew of other important essays, and so we can't go through them all here. And by any means, all I want to give you is one vehicle through which Kant steered this middle course. And that's what was his, really his two world theory. That is, for, for Kant, in order to have your cake and eat it, too, in order to have a belief in ideas as well as in experience, all you had to do was to understand that we have knowledge of one side of the world. He called it the phenomenal side. And we have belief in things in themselves, things that not just as they appear to us but things in themselves, that he called the Noumenon Side. So, the knowledge piece, the phenomenal piece for Kant was we, through, how we see the world, through what he called our categories of perception. I put my glasses on because for Kant, the world makes sense for us. We have knowledge of the world because our minds are, if you will, our glasses organize the world for us, in space-time categories, in other kinds of co, categories because the world makes sense to us because our minds construct the world as a sensible place. And then, we could actually understand the world and have rules about it because it's all organized for us, by our

space-time glasses if you will. By our minds. Knowledge for Kant comes from our construction of the world as a sensible place. And that means we can make predictions, we can build bridges that don't fall down. We can make clocks that keep the right time. All of this is about the phenomenal world. And then, some people come along and say, but is that the real world? Is that the deepest world? And Kant says, well, I can't actually get my glasses off. I can't get, I can't see the world without my mind. But, I know there must be something there when my mind isn't seeing the world. This is the noumenal world. The noumenal world. For Kant, that was the world of faith. The world where you believe in the immortality of the soul, your salvation, the love of God, the simple truth at peasants nose, Kant sometimes said. That's the noumenal world, the world of things in themselves. You can't disprove that with science. You can't prove it with science either. It is the world of faith. The noumenal world is the world of faith, and the phenomenal world is the world of science. They can coexist, Kant said. I, Kant, have steered a middle course between them. They both are valid. The enlightenment doesn't threaten faith because faith is about things in themselves. And nobody knows that for sure, but you can feel it as deeply as possible in your heart. And the phenomenal world is about things that we can test, things that we can calculate, things that we have organized through our minds, through our, if you will, space-time glasses. So in What is Enlightenment, Kant is writing having already done this philosophical groundwork, if you will. And having done that philosophical groundwork in the enlightenment kind of saying, we must liberate ourselves from immaturity. If you remember in the very beginning of what is enlightenment, Kant says,

enlightenment is man's release from his self incurred tutelage. And he says, dare to know, dare to know. Have the courage to use your own reason. That Kant says is the model of the enlightenment. And for Kant, that means the enlightenment provides you with maturity, autonomy, the ability simply to think for yourself. And that for Kant is a precious intellectual and moral ability, moral capacity. Kant says in, in paragraph nine of What is Enlightenment?, the touchstone of everything that can be concluded as a law for a people lies in the question of whether the people could have enclosed such a law on itself." We'll talk about that next time, and I look forward to it.