Enlightenment implies a sense of knowing the truth; of being free from the shackles of illusion and falsity. Yet how can there be a single truth? How can any one person designate right from wrong and assume that everyone will comply? This leads me to believe that seeking widespread enlightenment is a waste of time, and instead each individual must achieve their own personal enlightenment. I believe that a person can reach enlightenment and it can be either very easy or very difficult. An individual must decide what they want to know – and it may not be a concrete decision, it may simply be a feeling or a drive – that determines how far their minds will take them in life. Reality is relevant to the beholder, as Descartes seems to support when he states: “Whatever I have accepted until now as most true has come to me through my senses” (Descartes 1), implying that everyone’s reception of ideas can differ according to their own unique mind and thinking process. In this way, I find Enlightenment to be more of a physical endeavor than a spiritual one. This is because we are all wired differently; our brains function in such a wide expanse of ways and each perception of every last detail in life differs from person to person.
Mettrie commands the individual to “Break the chains of your prejudices and arm yourself with the flaming torch of experience” (Mettrie 32), emphasizing the coordination between desire and motivation. If one does not desire to know more, then they will remain content with their current level of knowledge. In this case, they are satisfied by the information they deem true, which can be considered personal enlightenment. For others, a more expansive desire for knowledge drives further efforts to attain it and reach their own enlightenment. Although one may seem more fulfilling than the other, outside opinions are ultimately irrelevant to how the individual feels. Locke believes that the seemingly “lesser” forms of enlightenment can be avoided because he believes “carelessness is to be borne with in children, that carries not with it the marks of pride or ill nature; but those, whenever they appear in any action, are to be corrected immediately” (Locke). Locke seems to believe that carelessness denies one the access to enlightenment, but if they simply don’t care and are happy with knowing what they know, then I believe they have reached their own enlightenment.
My idea can be supported by Kant’s opening of his essay: “Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed nonage” (Kant). ‘Self-imposed’ being the key word, it is important to understand this as a more personal endeavor than a socially imposed requirement. It would be wrong for one to impose their own intellectual ideals on another who is satisfied by what they already know, because how can anyone be sure of what is right? We must let our senses guide us to enlightenment. What we learn clicks with us in different ways. Our opinions allow us to agree and disagree and self-confidence allows us to put faith in what we believe. If one has that internal lacking feeling, it is their job to utilize any determination to uncover that personal mystery to ultimately find enlightenment.
Whether it be figuring out what Kim Kardashian will name her baby or learning all about quantum mechanics, enlightenment is relevant to the individual mind and satisfies one’s unique set of senses.