In my opinion, enlightenment is the process of gaining knowledge- and by knowledge I mean true, factual information- and having a firm enough grasp on that newly obtained knowledge to share it with someone else. In a nutshell, it is the journey from ignorance to experience. The first step to obtaining enlightenment is best said by Immanuel Kant. Kant defines enlightenment as being “man’s emergence from his self-imposed nonage”. By nonage, he means one’s inability to use his/her understanding without guidance from someone else. Kant also supports my definition of what enlightenment is because he also agrees that not only is gaining knowledge a big part of being enlightened, like me he believes that someone attempting to obtain enlightenment should “use their own understanding” not only understanding things for yourself, but being confident enough to share your own knowledge instead of taking on other people’s knowledge. (Kant, What is Enlightenment?)
Mettrie also refers to a sort of predisposition that one must escape in order to achieve enlightenment he says “Break the chains of your prejudices and arm yourself with the flaming torch of experience”. By sanding this he supports my notion of what enlightenment is. In addition to Mettrie agreeing with my basic definition of enlightenment he also agrees with my idea that enlightenment is about more than just obtaining knowledge, it’s about sharing it also. Mettrie says that it isn’t enough for one to simply study nature and truth one must also “be willing to proclaim it for the benefit of the few who are willing and able to think”
Descartes has a much more abstract, spiritual view on enlightenment in which he separates the soul and the body. He believes that the soul is what allows us to experience things and gain knowledge while the body is more of a vessel in which to achieve that knowledge. In Descartes’ meditations 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 statement stood out to me because it makes a clear point about enlightenment – it is an ongoing process. It is not about knowing everything there is to know and eventually reaching a dead end it’s about the ongoing spiritual journey towards truth and knowledge.
John Locke also offered his opinions on what enlightenment is and how to achieve it. He particularly believes that we achieve enlightenment through virtuous education. He says “Tis virtue then, direct virtue, which is the hard and valuable part to be aim’d at in education, and not a forward pertness, or any little arts of shifting. All other considerations and accomplishments should give way and be postpon’d to this.” I do believe that enlightenment can be gained through education to an extent. But I disagree with Locke also because I believe that enlightenment is a self-journey and although people can educate you and it can help you along the path to enlightenment one needs to lean and experience things for themselves in order to be truly enlightened.