To be enlightened in some way means to be free of doubt and uncertainty about some sort of idea or situation and to understand something in a different way. It is in my opinion that humans can achieve their own understanding of enlightenment and progress for their own well being. The very progression of human kind and civilization has proven that humans are capable of enlightenment. However, enlightenment is restricted for those who to dare dream and picture something beyond their own understanding, and apply it to the world that’s around them. They must be willing to have an open mind about the changing world around, as la Mettrie says ” The soul of this caterpillar is too limited to understand the changes of form that nature brings about. Even the cleverest of them could never have imagined that it was to become a butterfly! It’s the same with us. Do we know any more about our fate than about our origin?” Humans are not much different in this respect, trying to grasp a change that they cannot exactly wrap their minds around leaves most panicked and afraid, which steers many away from being enlightened. However, it is through enlightenment that we can advance and progress, which is what being enlightened is all about.
So the unknown of something should not prolong ignorance and doubt but rather it should be explored and examined so perhaps ones peers can gain a better understanding of the concept. Enlightenment not only comes from those willing to think outside of the box and express it to others, but it also comes from those who are willing to accept that new knowledge. To someone who accepts a concrete rational concept as opposed to someone who would deny such obvious truths is certainly the more enlightened party. Descartes makes a very interesting point about human enlightenment when he says “If I always saw clearly what was true and good, I should never have to spend time thinking about what to believe or do; and then I would be wholly free although I was never in a state of indifference.” This matter of the complete rationalization and understanding of our world is the core of enlightenment. The ability to explore into an unknown frontier is what separates us from those who would explore and find evidence of the truth and those who would shy away from it and deny it. For being enlightened is not just finding truth but accepting new truths as one progresses and matures throughout their lifetime, emerging from their own ignorance.
Finally, I would like to take a moment to explore Kant’s sort of idealizing of enlightenment. Kant says that “enlightenment is our ability to emerge from our nonage.” This I believe is the pinnacle of enlightenment, daring to think differently and using ones own understanding with free will to decipher that understanding. If someone cannot explore beyond the chains that their own mind has set forth for themselves such as prejudices and past fears than what room is their to explore? How can anyone grow or change if there is not some sort of modification towards one own identity? The answer is that there cannot be. Enlightenment, or those seeking to obtain it, must forever be vigilant and unbiased in their search and journey for the truth, or at least, their own version of the truth that they can apply to themselves and those around them.