Is it possible to Reach an Enlightened State?

In my opinion enlightenment is a personal thing that each individual holds. To fully reach an enlightened state each individual must look within themselves for guidance, and assurance. I believe the best method for enlightenment is self-reflection, and analyzing one’s experiences from the past to better their future.  I believe that human beings can achieve enlightenment during their lifetime.  My definition of Enlightenment is when an individual grows over a course of time intellectually and spiritually. Enlightenment would entail a person “Identifying with the Self” to find their true purpose in life, identifying their morals, and the realization that there is a greater being (God). My definition of Enlightenment is similar to that of Emmanuel Kant. Kant’s ideology is that, “Enlightenment is a man’s emergence from his self-imposed nonage… Nonage is the inability to use one’s own understanding without another’s guidance.”(Kant). Kant explains that as human beings we are influenced by others in all the decisions we make. We are told what to do, how to act, Etc. Kant and I’s definition of Enlightenment is similar because we highlight that Enlightenment is about the “self,” and not relying on others for guidance. Kant’s definition is a man believing in himself, and having the courage to guide himself without the help of others. My definition is similar to Kant’s because I believe it is the individual looking within his or her self for guidance rather than obeying the opinions of other people. Both definitions require the individual to identify their beliefs, thoughts, and who they are without the help of others.

I believe the method of achieving Enlightenment is an individual problem. Descartes believes Enlightenment can be achieved with reason. I am a little indifferent with Descartes methodology; but because Descartes has received recognition for his idea I must assume it is valuable. Lessig states in The Future of Ideas “Power runs with ideas that only the crazy would draw into doubt.” (Page 5). Therefore maybe Descartes has received such high regards by his fellow peers because he called into question doubt about the reality of situations and evidence for anything deemed legit. Descartes states, “So it seems reasonable to conclude that physics, astronomy, medicine, and all other sciences dealing with things that have complex structures are doubtful; while arithmetic, geometry and other studies of the simplest and most general things- whether they really exist in nature or not- contain something certain and indubitable.” (Page 2). Descartes’s excerpt here is why I believe the method is an individual problem. I must take issue with the fact that Descartes fails to recognize that geometry, and arithmetic could also be doubtful, who’s to say the way he figures out math problems and equations is correct? Math could totally be a non-existent thing. Math could be a thing that some individual created because he got bored, and there could be no real solution to their mathematics. I cannot say that I agree with Descartes’s reasoning. Descartes ideology is to doubt everything until there is solid proof, and evidence that supports that an object, person, or thing is real. In reality I think this would be too complex for some individuals to achieve, and furthermore I think Descartes makes the situation more complicated than need be. Kant’s and I idea of the method of Enlightenment differs from that of Descartes. Kant and I believe that the method to achieve Enlightenment comes from within, identifying what one can do to better himself, and to follow their own decisions in life. Descartes on the other hand believes that to achieve Enlightenment there is a philosophical analysis one must conduct to prove things as certain.

Descartes would probably disagree with Kant and I. Descartes could say there is no way that our way of Enlightenment can be achieved. Descartes would claim that there is no absolute way to prove that one has found their nonage. Descartes could argue that Enlightenment would never be obtained because no one has an original idea, thought, or concept. Therefore Descartes could inevitably argue that no individual can reach an enlightened state by Kant’s and my definition. La Meetrie would probably also refute my definition of enlightenment. La Mettrie states “The refusal to appeal to secondary causes as well as primary ones is sheer vanity.” (Page 3). La Mettrie believes in looking at all possible causes for a situation, he does not believe that one should simply believe in a concept because of one factor. La Mettrie argues that other aspects should be taken into consideration when identifying the cause of a situation. La Mettrie and Descartes are similar in their methodology; they both rely on reasoning to achieve enlightenment. La Mettrie could argue that my method of achieving Enlightenment by identifying with the self, and looking within to find values, and morals as illogical. La Mettrie could argue that my primary way of achieving Enlightenment needs a secondary way also. In other words La Mettrie could say it is absurd for me to believe that my method for Enlightenment is right, because there are many other ways to achieve an enlightened state. (via socio-politically, intellectual property, educational etc.)

Lastly, La Mettrie argues that the soul which is housed in the brain “exerts its control over all the rest of the body.” (page 24). La Mettrie views human beings as machines. From my interpretation of the readings he seems to believe that humans cannot reach an enlightened state because we are simply machines. I disagree with La Mettrie. Although the brain is the control center of the human body we still are able to think, rationalize, and conduct movement. I believe it is unorthodox to believe that humans cannot reach enlightenment because we are machines. La Mettrie suggests that human beings have absolutely no control over their mind, body, and soul. This is farfetched for me to believe. I believe that humans can achieve Enlightenment in many forms. However, I believe that self-reflection, and past experiences aid in the achievement of enlightenment.

-Ja’Nae Massey

http://www.earlymoderntexts.com/pdfbits/dm2.pdf

http://www.earlymoderntexts.com/pdf/mettmanm.pdf

http://www.columbia.edu/acis/ets/CCREAD/etscc/kant.html

https://engl382fall2013.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/lessig_foi.pdf

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2 thoughts on “Is it possible to Reach an Enlightened State?

  1. Yeah don’t worry about the late thing. This is a nice solid response in which you outline each argument and how your own personal belief’s clash and integrate with them as well. You said that you’re definition of enlightenment is similar to that of Kant’s, shedding nonage and guiding yourself to conclusions rather than relying on someone else: But then you also say:

    ” Enlightenment would entail a person “Identifying with the Self” to find their true purpose in life, identifying their morals, and the realization that there is a greater being (God).”

    Would this inhibit your view of enlightenment? Is identifying with an omnipotent and omnipresent being a nonage in itself, especially one that demands servitude through guidelines set out by him/her? Or is an omnipotent being free of these boundaries because it is the ultimate truth and thus all nonage inhibits the perfect vision of it? Is there such thing as a universal, objective truth to be attained? Descarte had a few interesting things to say on that matter, but you’re response is well thought out regardless. Just food for thought.

    S

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