The term “enlightened” has been questioned, re-questioned, and then questioned some more over the course of history. What does it mean to be truly enlightened? What is man’s definition of the “enlightenment”? Kant quotes that it’s “man’s emergence from his self-imposed nonage” that we are merely holding ourselves back and need to look past ourselves and “a man may postpone his own enlightenment, but only for a limited time”. Milton says that “God therefore left [man] free, set before him a provoking object, ever almost in his eyes herein consisted his merit, herein the right of his reward, the praise of his abstinence. Wherefore did he creat passions within us, pleasures round about us, but that these rightly temper’d are the very ingredients of vertu?” Milton takes more of the approach that we are free individuals and questions what we do with the freedom granted to us. Le Mettrie says that through “harmony between the inner life and the outer you will discover the material unity of man” and truly understand where this balance of what the human experience actually is by looking at soul and body (25). Descartes questions existence and the human mind by saying “from the mere fact that [he] exist[s] and have such an idea, [he] infer[s] that God and that every moment of [his] existence depends on him. This follows clearly; [he is] sure, indeed that the human intellect can’t know anything that is more evident or more certain” (18). All of these different philosophers look at so many different aspects of what the human experience and being enlightened is by evaluating so many different aspects of the life we live.
I think that to be enlightened really does mean to be able to think for one’s self, but is that actually original? We are oppressed by society and solely view the world around us in a way that is manipulated and warped into how media and society wants us to view the world. We look at others with scrutiny that derives from society itself. I think that truly being enlightened is almost impossible and I know this is where others might disagree with me. I think that someone might view themselves as enlightened but they only got that definition from what society wants them to think. And my view, though I think could be original and witty, is only what society wants me to think. I know that our discussion about being enlightened is a view that was put in place by society. I don’t think that anyone can truly be enlightened because honestly, their view of being this sort enlightened and original thinker is only what society wants them to believe. Where do original ideas come from? Can they even occur? We think we can reach this destination of being enlightened in today’s society and think we are thinking on a whole deeper level than before, but truthfully, we aren’t the first ones to think of those ideas. We can reach this point of thinking on a deeper level but what really comes after that? Where does the human mind go to really be “enlightened”? I don’t even think that Kant’s theory that the enlightenment is “man’s emergence from his self-imposed nonage” is really where this state of free thinking is. If someone would define themselves to be on an enlightened level, how did they get there? Aren’t they just living by society’s view of what this is and living behind a façade of who they really are intellectually?
So I don’t think that we can become enlightened because even what people would define as enlightened is only what society wants us to believe. We are stuck in an endless loop. We look at ourselves and think that we come up with these great philosophical ideas but in reality, they have already been thought of. This definitely sounds pessimistic, but just how I think society is. There is no way that the discussion we have about the enlightenment in class hasn’t happened before. These ideas may be new to our minds but not new to the world. Society is tricky and is always present in our thoughts whether we choose to accept it or not. It’s like someone who is “hipster”. They think they are against the man and everything main stream but being hipster is a form of society and isn’t actually original. That is how I compare being enlightened.